BE INTENTIONAL

“Three times a day, he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” Daniel 6:10.



Do you pray more today than you did a year ago? Do you have a specific set time in which you speak with God or do you pray on the fly? What causes you to pray? Do you feel a nudge from the Holy Spirit, or do you pray when something good or bad is happening around you? Do you feel prayer is intermingled with all other parts of your life or is it just another activity that may or may not happen during your day? Do you know the purpose and value of prayer?

Daniel was a bible hero noted for his obedience and loyalty to God. Despite the significant efforts of his Babylonian masters to change him, Daniel continued to rely on God, while a captive, in the same way he had in his youth. He had developed habits that were part of his heritage, and he chose to follow them even when thrown into a culture that had no time for his Lord. He prayed during the traditional hours of prayer (the third, sixth and ninth hours). These prayer times were not meaningless checkbox gestures because we know God spoke to him during these times. Daniel, like others of the Old Testament, were taught that several times during the day, they needed to stop doing whatever they were doing and connect with God. They were taught to acknowledge God’s importance in their life and give Him praise. They were taught to use prayer as a time of restoration with God so that they could survive their circumstances. Whether he was in a lion’s den or the King’s court, Daniel knew that prayer had to be an intentional act which put God first in his life.

Many Christian have opinions that promote the purpose and manner of prayer. Unfortunately, there are also many Christian opinions that downplay the value or necessity to have intentional prayer times. We know Jesus prayed and that his example was not just teaching moments for His followers. It was necessary for His ministry. Jesus was asked to teach His disciples to pray not because they did not know about prayer but because they had seen the effect of prayer on His ministry and wanted the same. They had possibly prayed during the set time more out of habit vice respect for God and wanted to know what Jesus was doing differently. Jesus’ example serves as a reminder of need to stop and set aside time during the day to connect with the Father.


Intentional prayer did not stop once Jesus ascended as we read in Acts that Peter and John went to the temple “at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon” (Acts 3:1). They took time to stop what they were doing and pray.


Prayer is meaningful for any hour of the day. It is an important part of the Christian life, and unfortunately many people have forgotten about the fact that talking to God can improve our life in so many ways. God wants us to talk with Him and even when we do not know what to say. He still wants us to stop and come before Him; He will read our heart. Continue to pray whenever you feel compelled but consider being more intentional about setting up time to stop what you are doing and acknowledge our Saviour.

Be a Peacemaker

” If you play the fool and exalt yourself, or if you plan evil, clap your hand over your mouth! For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife”.
Proverbs 30: 32-33



Have you watched the Wagah Border gate opening or closing ceremony? Each morning and evening Indian and Pakistani military perform an antagonistic ceremony while opening or closing the border between these two countries. The main objective of the ceremony is to maintain an atmosphere of mutual cooperation and harmony between the two countries. However, as their history is wrought with conflict, the ceremony appears to be a means for soldiers to let of a bit of steam while strutting their prowess.

There are spectator stands in each country’s side of the border and the crowds are whipped into a frenzy of yelling and cheering by individuals with microphones shouting patriotic slogans. It reaches a peak as when aggressive soldiers “goose” marches to the border gates and take up a posture abreast from their counterparts. While facing each other they initiate a show of strength similar to roosters staking their territory. There is foot slamming, chest strutting, and pruning of moustaches and beards.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXVMIOT-EFg 

This week the G7 summit takes place in Europe and we see strutting roosters trying to show their might almost provoking others to respond. Citizens are whipped into patriotic frenzies by protectionist speeches and the world is becoming more isolated than ever before. There is both anger and anxiety as we wonder whether it is arrogance that is causing leaders to act as they are or whether it is truly the best interest of their citizens they have at heart.

Scripture says stirring up anger leads to strife. We can imagine the concern of military leaders around the world as they wonder where their leader’s foot slamming will lead us to. The families of our serving military can’t help but wonder if another powered keg is getting lit somewhere in the world where they may lose their loved ones. Family, work colleagues and neighbours wonder whether personal disputes will destroy relationships or friendships.

Disharmony is not God’s intent for humanity. Whether it is on the world scene or in the workplace or in that family setting, we can witness strive caused by someone wanting to strut their stuff. Often, we find ourselves in the middle of these disputes acting as peacekeepers, but God wants us to be peacemakers. Peacekeepers stand in-between warring factions, keeping them apart to prevent further violence. Whereas, peacemakers seek to bring both sides together, in an attempt to defuse the situation, seek reconciliation, and bring back harmony.


Pray God gives you the wisdom and courage to be a peacemaker so that you can pursue harmony wherever you are. Also pray for our world leaders so they will put aside their pride and work for the betterment of humanity.

Simple Conversations

Have you ever wondered where James (the gospel writer and brother of Jesus) was during Jesus’ earthly ministry?  Was he one of the brothers mentioned in Matthew 12:47 where we read “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” Was he one of the family who comes to take Him away because they had thought “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21b). Did James hear Jesus say, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” and know that he pointed to His disciples and say “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (from Matthew 12:48-50). Did he hear those words and take them as a rebuke and then shut himself off from Jesus and the truths?

In the books of Acts, we read James is a leader in the church and not just a leader but apparently the leader of the church in Jerusalem. What affected James such that when we read about the first gathering to address church matters, James is the one who responds with direction and authority? Paul offers the hint in 1 Corinthians 15:3–7 where he records that after Jesus’ resurrection, He visits James? There is no record of what was said between them, but that encounter appears to have changed James forever. What wonderful act of reconciliation took place during that meeting for James to recognize, that all what Jesus spoke about was truth!

There is power in the name of Jesus and even the most seemingly insignificant encounter can be life-changing.  Once someone meets Jesus and recognizes what He offers, their lives will change. Once someone chooses to follow Him, Jesus awakens them to a different perspective of the world and guides them to His kingdom. Jesus did not promise that His followers would have a life of ease and luxury but shared that we will have an encourager with us as we go through life. He said that He would be with us during difficult times, when life seems to be going poorly. But more importantly, Jesus said He will be with us so that we could live life fully and so, we could become loving and compassionate and see the world around us and change it; especially for those in need.

When we have simple encounters with our family, our neighbours and our colleagues, we should pray that our lives are noticeable to them, that they ask us “what is different about you?” We may get to talk about Jesus, or we may not, but we can pray that encounter sparks interest in Jesus. We know that Jesus can initiate a life-changing transformation in them. We should pray that they have a simple conversation with Jesus so that he can speak truth into their life. We should also pray that we can be part of this simple conversation so we also can continue to be changed.

Choices

During my time in the military, I served with the Army as a Logistics officer and was required to take an advanced tactics course. It was six weeks long and mine took place in February/March.  We had a great instructor, a combat engineer, and at the start of the course he gave each of us a small playing card with a JOKER image on it. He told us that one day during the course, for whatever reason we will not have an assignment done, we could play that card. He suggested he would give us a do-over at a later time.

In week five, while on a field exercise, the instructor called upon a student to offer his tactical assessment of the area. This individual had been sick for a week but had refused to go to the MIR for treatment. His thinking was a little clouded and because of this, he decided this was the time to play his joker card. As the individual held his card in front of his face, the instructor calmly walked over to him, pulled a playing card from his binder that was four times larger than ours. On it was a figure with a black robe and a sickle; the symbol for death.



He looked at my classmate, slammed his card onto the ground and shouted – “there are no DO-OVERS in war – only death”.



No one had used their card up to this point as most expected it was a test about making the correct choices so that we would not put ourselves in a predicament so as to regret our actions later. The classmate was taken off the course that morning and had to wait two years to be course loaded again. In hindsight, this individual was probably thinking he should have gone to the MIR and got treated. He should have also realized we were on a senior tactics course in which excuses don’t allow us to make poor decisions.

Have you ever thought about your past and found yourself thinking “I wish I could DO OVER some choices I made?  Have you thought, if I could do something over again, I would do this or that?

Our choices and behaviour can impact our lives, our families and even our communities. Most importantly it can affect our eternity. We can, however, choose to DO-OVER our choices and seek to do what is pleasing to God and those around us.

Paul speaks in the book of Romans about changing – addressing do-over when it comes to our actions and behaviours. He is telling us to think about our actions.  “Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

End your day today reflecting on what you did and ask yourself is there anything I would like to DO-OVER.Then speak with your Father in heaven asking Him to forgive you and guide you to making better choices.

Pray for me

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8



What is your response to such a request? Most respond “I will” however what has been our next steps? Do we stop what we are doing and go to our Father or do we make a mental or even recorded note to pray later? Is our response different when asked face-to-face vice when the request is shared via email or by a 3rd party? Do we say we will pray for someone and never do because we forget or because we never intended to and were just being polite?


Surely God doesn’t stop whatever He is doing to grant our prayer requests.


He goes about doing whatever He desires (His will) with or without us. So, what does it matter if we pray? It matters because God wants us to pray. During prayer we connect with Him and He with us. It matters because when we pray, we can start to understand and connect to His plan. During prayer He can engage us in a way we may not have expected. For example, we know it is God’s desire that all mankind be saved. When we pray for the salvation of someone that we know, we are telling God that we have the same desire as He does; we are actually lining up with His will. When we pray and God sees that we want to be in His will, He may invite us to participate in whatever it is He has planned. As the Holy Spirit goes about revealing God to mankind, He could ask us to be the means by which our unsaved friend hears about Jesus. He may use us to be His earthly voice. When we pray and connect to God’s will, God brings us into partnership with Him.

Be aware that when we are approached with a prayer request Satan is nearby waiting to interfere and cause distraction and doubt? He does not want us to speak with God nor does he want others to see the impact of prayer. If he can stop us from praying, he will try. If he can get us to put it off until a later time, he will be pleased but he will not stop at that little victory. He will place busyness or some other distraction in our path to make us forget and thereby not pray later. When we are working in harmony with God, Satan is not happy and so he will try to stop, delay and prevent our prayer.

When we pray to God, we will have His full attention. He does not make a mental note to listen later; we have His attention then and there. He does not hold off listening to our prayers and so we should not delay offering them to Him. The next time we are asked “Pray for me”, let the next words out of our mouth be “I will” followed by words similar to “Heavenly Father I come before you …

HELPING OTHERS

“Pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up”
Ecclesiastes 4:10b

The world is in a rough state. Daily we hear about people like us who have fallen and can’t seem to get up. Life is going well and then something happens that knocks them down and they start to lose hope. A marriage seems OK and then it is over and one spouse is left to play father and mother, work, pay the bills and basically survive alone. High school girls get caught up in the message of seeking pleasure regardless of consequences resulting in an anxious search for someone to buy them a pregnancy testing kit. If they become pregnant, the world offers them abortion when there is no one around to suggest options that protect their life and the life of their baby. Teens are roaming the streets, ready to fall, because there is no caring parent at home to give them a sense of worth.

It has been suggested that many of the social problems facing young people today, if left unaddressed, will lead to further issues in adulthood. Have you ever wondered if some of life’s problems could be prevented if someone just took the time to be honest and wise with their friend or child and push them to get on the right path? Would pointing a friend to a marriage counsellor serve a better purpose as opposed to a pity party that bashes the other partner?


Jesus, whenever He encountered a sinner that needed help, reached out and helped but also gave them the advice to sin no more.


To help someone move forward we need to be truthful so we can properly focus on the solution.

It is a difficult choice to help someone but, that is part of the calling to Christ-followers. People don’t help because they are uncertain as to what is right or wrong. TV bombards us daily with choices that seem right but “anything goes” is not a moral direction. The bible is the moral compass and the Holy Spirit is the guide. If you want to help someone else get back on track, you should be connected to God so that at least your path is clear. We are not called to judge a friend because their marriage failed or condemn the youth caught up in drugs and violence. We are to help them get up so they can get their hope back.


Lao Tzu, a Chinese thinker is quoted as saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”


This proverb suggests that band-aide solutions are temporary and if you want to help someone get back on their feet, you need to be willing to invest more time and effort. The world, our friends, our family, our children need help. Can you help? Can you be a hand that helps others get up?

INTERCESSORY PRAYER

Intercessory prayer invites us into God’s care and concern for us, our families and friends, and the entire world. No concern is too trivial for God to receive with loving attention. However, intercession is not a means of manipulating heaven into doing our will. Rather it is a way we become aware of God’s desires for others.


SCRIPTURE:

“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Romans 8:27)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  (Philippians 4:6)

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”  (Ephesians 6:18)


INTERCESSORY PRACTICES INCLUDES: 

  • Participating in prayer meetings.
  • Contributing to prayer lists, prayer chains.
  • Praying for the world, for peace, for God’s kingdom to come.
  • Praying for personal concerns, tasks, transactions and relationships of friends and neighbours.

‘HOW TO” TIPS

  • Treat intercessory prayer as intentional effort and set aside time to pray.
  • Pay attention when people come to mind as it may happen for a reason and talk with God about them.
  • Use a newspaper or a new website to pray for the world.
  • Create weekly prayer lists of people or activities and let God lead you in prayer.
  • Create a neighbourhood prayer chart to help you visualize your neighbours who share your immediate community.
  • Identify serving or retired military personnel to pray for.
  • Make a journal of people close to you and include their photo and some details and commit to pray for them. Enter your prayers under their name in your journal.  

THERE IS HOPE

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
   Psalm 46:1


Does anyone feel troubled by what is happening in the world? Do others feel that the world seems to be slipping faster into chaos? When we went to bed last night it was very possible that our thoughts were on something senseless that happened near us or to someone in the world.  Violence, which already rules our TV and movies, is filling the hearts and minds of more and more people who respond to any perceived offense with an extreme brutal response. Sadly, there was much cruelty to reflect on before our heads hit the pillow last evening and it may have been difficult to fall asleep without being concerned for our communities.

Trouble followed us out of the Garden and Cain’s hostile response to his brother’s worship is a reaction that has played out time and time again throughout history. As society continues to use the media to trample on individual beliefs. Fanatical components of our communities who, out of misplaced loyalty to a faith, bring suffering to those who allegedly offend them. God’s message to seek Him for strength during times of trouble is the solution to the worries caused by watching the world live. Only He can protect us from the troubling evil that wants to consume us.

It is very difficult to ignore what is happening around us but there is a need to block it out for a few minutes, spend some time before God. There is a need to speak with Him at this moment and be reminded that He offers hope. There is a requirement to bring an unbeliever known to us before God and ask that His saving grace reigns in that person so that they are not overtaken by the evil that is all around us. It is also the time to pray for our circle of believing friends asking God to remind them that He is their refuge and hope.

TOE TAPPER

“And David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, with song and lyres and harps and tambourines and cymbals and trumpets”  1 Chronicles 13:8


When I was young, school dances were popular, yet I never went to one. It was not as if I was not allowed to go, I was afraid. I had danced with my sisters and mother but I’m certain they were not playing waltz’s or even Ukrainian tunes at a school dance. Even if they played those tunes, I still would not have gone because I was afraid; afraid of what people might say. I did not have the courage to commit myself to truly enjoying the music. I liked music and even played several instruments and whenever I heard a tune I liked, I’d tap my toes and sometimes drummed the beat on my lap with my hands. But, I never got up and danced, I never allowed myself to feel the music with my whole being.


Are you, as a declared believer a toe-tapper and not fully engaged in your experience with Jesus?   


Some believers are willing to sit back and watch what others are doing, and even join in a little, but if truth be known, they are afraid to let Jesus fill their being. They are afraid to jump up with raised hands and declare Jesus is their Lord because of what friends, or colleagues or neighbours might think. They are afraid to examine the call of a disciple, the call to be a follower of Christ and take their faith outside their front door and show it to a world eager to dance for Jesus.

With the help of my then girlfriend – now wife, I overcame my fear of dancing. When I have danced, friends have joked they thought they were going to have to come to my aide because they believed I was having seizures when in fact I was experiencing the joy of music. With the help of the Holy Spirit I have found, we don’t need to be bystanders watching others enjoy an experience with God, but we can, like David, let ourselves feel the joy of the Lord.

Are you willing to ask yourself “am I holding back from experiencing God with my whole heart, my soul and my mind?” Would you ask God to release your will, so it can be in tune with His? Will you choose to dance in celebration for the Lord?

DEVELOPING PRAYER LISTS.

Prayer lists are very helpful when seeking to intentionally spend time with God.  They can be developed over the day or the week.  When developing a prayer list, it is helpful to think of our three main prayer focuses.

IntimacyFocuses on giving your love and devotion to God.

  • This type of prayer includes worship, meditation on the Word (pray-reading it), and fellowship with the Spirit.

PetitionAsks for God’s blessing on your personal life and ministry.

  • Pray for a breakthrough in our inner man (heart), circumstances (physical, financial, relational), and ministry, that God’s power would be released through our hands, words, and deeds. 

IntercessionAsks for God’s power or justice. for others: (people, places, strategic issues).

  • Prayer for people and places: Individuals in ministries, marketplace, and government, and for the destiny of ministries, cities, or nations.
  • Prayer for Strategic issues in society: Government (elections), oppression (human trafficking, abortion), natural disasters (hurricanes, droughts), diseases, etc.


When developing a prayer list, it is helpful to understand that there are three main prayer themes.

We ask for the gifts, fruit, and wisdom of the Spirit to be released in each prayer focus:

  • Gifts of the Spirit: God’s power and favour being released.
  • Fruit of the Spirit:  God’s character formed in us or others.
  • Wisdom of the Spirit: God’s mind or the spirit of revelation imparted.