Posts

Withdraw

It’s early morning.

The sun is peaking up over the trees and you can still see the morning mist as the dragonflies dance their way through the air.

It’s quiet save for the birds calling back and forth to one another.

The earth almost feels like it’s stretching its arms out and rubbing its eyes with hope of a new fresh day. I am a spectator with my coffee cup in hand.

I’m not on vacation. I’m just in my backyard. Because a while ago, I had to make a choice to start my days differently.

Don’t get me wrong I love a great vacation getaway. There’s not much better than sitting on a beach in Mexico on the third straight day of doing absolutely nothing but reading and relaxing.

But we all know that isn’t a sustainable reality. It always turns out that life awaits us back at home.

If we pattern our lives to burn hot, run hard, sleep less, and work more until we get those three or four days of relief, we just won’t make it.

We must create space in the rhythm of our lives to slow down, because life won’t do it on its own.

I feel the gravity of all of the responsibilities that are coming my way afresh each morning.

I live and die by a to-do list that keeps me on track.

And if I don’t start my day off with some silence, it would be like heading out on a run as soon as I’ve finished lacing my shoes! I have to stretch first. I have to warm up my muscles.

To face each day, I have to warm up my heart, my mind, and my soul.

These intentional moments of quiet are a countercultural enigma that have lost their place in the rhythm of our culture.

I realized I needed it. But in the busyness of life – the necessary demands of being a husband, a full-time member of a church staff, and a father of seven kids — I didn’t set the bar too high. I just decided to leave myself the first moments of each day.

I wish my daily view was a white sand beach, but my regular place of solace and solitude is my backyard.

Even if you had the means you couldn’t fly to the mountains every morning, So you have to carve out a little space that’s readily available and easily accessible. My wife and I have spent meticulous time to create a space that just oozes peacefulness.

So, every day I start with a cup of coffee and without a phone. I allow myself a notebook in case I get a song idea, a prayer, or a story, but it’s intended to be a space to unplug. It definitely makes the parenting world more manageable before I take that deep breath and walk back inside.

As Christians we pattern our lives to be “like Christ,” and to do so we look at how he lived.

In Luke 5:15-16 we see this rhythm of solitude in Jesus’s life. At this point in Luke’s account, Jesus had been doing those things only he could do, and there was a growing buzz in the area about him. He could have easily run harder into his work, leading his disciples and new followers, but verse 16 says, “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”

Jesus could have kept healing and teaching, but he knew he needed the encouragement, the rest, and the renewal from the Father that happens in those quiet moments. And if we make time for them, we will see the same things.

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

— Luke 5:16

There have been songs that we sing at church that have taken root in those early morning moments of quiet.

One morning about a month ago, God brought to mind an old college friend of mine. I called him up and it so happened that he had just had to check his spouse into a facility because of suicidal thoughts. We spoke on the phone for about two hours, after we hadn’t spoken in 20 years. We laughed a little, we cried a lot, and we picked up where we’d left off.

God also uses these quiet times to show me my own blind spots. If I didn’t set that moment aside I would walk immediately into the white noise and static that fills my day, and never stop to think, or to talk to God about what was going on in my own heart and mind.

So maybe just take one step that way. It doesn’t need to be a yearlong vow of silence. Just lean in the direction of God and give him your first breaths.

See what he does in you.

I promise you won’t regret it.


 

Is Any Prayer Too Small?

A few years ago, at a church service, the pastor asked us to write down one thing we wanted prayer for over the next week on a small white card. After we wrote something down, we were asked to bring our papers to the front and lay them on the edge of the stage. Then, near the end of the service, he asked us to come forward again, but this time to take a random card and commit to pray for whatever was written on it over the next week.

After I picked mine and returned to my seat, I unfolded the paper, excited and also a bit nervous for what I might see.

“Pray for my arm.”

I almost chuckled as I read it.

Surely this is a kid or something, right? The handwriting was shaky and hard to read, and it seemed like such a small, insignificant thing to ask for prayer about.

I guess, honestly, I was expecting (and maybe hoping, a little) for something a bit more grandiose. I mean, I wasn’t wishing for anything bad to be happening to anyone, but the more dire the circumstance the more I thought I would feel a sense of urgency to do my part.

Knowing that people are dealing with cancer, miscarriages, divorce, leading nations, firing employees, exploring outer space, and sharing the Gospel to every corner of the world, did I really need to bother God with this? Should we let him in on this mysterious arm situation, when he clearly had bigger business to handle?

But, as I sat mulling over the words on that piece of paper, I started to think about the parent, friend, or caretaker of the person to whom this arm belonged. How would they feel about this situation?

If a kid, or anyone else, was willing to write these four words on a card when they could literally have asked for prayer for anything else, anonymously, without the possibility of being judged or found out, then maybe this was serious. Maybe it was a miserable condition to be in. Or maybe it was something they never thought would heal. Or maybe it was simply the only thing bothering this otherwise carefree child.

Regardless, someone who loved this kid would care a great deal about it. I know that when I was a kid, whenever I scraped my knee or bruised some part of me, my parents cared a lot.

Even if it wasn’t serious (and it never was), my parents sympathized with the fact that it bothered me.

Psalm 147:3 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars; he gives to all of them their names.”

God, the all-seeing, all-knowing, creator and upholder of the universe, cares about the big stuff. He knows all about politics, racial tension, COVID-19, hurricanes, and all the rest. But he is also the dad who stoops down to pick up his crying daughter and hugs her tight.

He is the God who parted the sea and delivered an entire nation out of slavery, and he’s also the God who wept with his hurting friends whose brother had died.

The same God who crafted the cosmos is the one who carves broken lives into masterpieces.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars; he gives to all of them their names.”

Psalm 147:3

“Pray for my arm.”

God, you already know all about this don’t you?

This was his kid after all; his creation.

Even when I didn’t understand, God cared.

And from Creation to the Cross to the promise that he’s coming again, the Bible lets us know that God has always cared.

But sometimes that’s not enough.

“Why am I still hurt if he cares so much about me?” we might say. Or “does God not hear my prayers?”

It’s easy to feel like God’s silence on these matters means he doesn’t care or isn’t listening, but that’s not the case.

God knows exactly what we have gone, are going, and will someday go through. He knows our thoughts, all of our decisions and their reasoning, our struggles, our failures, and our triumphs. He knows when we “sit down and when [we] rise up,” as Psalm 139 says it. He knows what we need even before we do. And he’s always answering our prayers, even if it’s not in the way we are hoping he does.

We don’t pray to tell God things he doesn’t already know. We pray to express our hearts to him – to lay our worries, our brokenness, our trust, and our gratitude at his feet. We pray to realign our hearts and minds with his perspective. We pray to let him in.

So, I don’t know what happened to the kid’s arm. And I don’t know where today finds you. I don’t know what challenges you have staring you in the face, or what prayers you’ve whispered in desperation.

But God does.

And he cares.

Your problems, your worries, your delights, and your dreams might seem like trivial matters to the rest of the universe, but God sees them.

So, let him in.


 

One Thing You Can Do Every Day to Improve Your Marriage

I wish I could take credit for what I’m about to tell you. It is the best marriage advice I know to give. It is simple and profound and, if you do it, will improve your marriage in ways nothing else can. This advice is so elementary that you’ll be tempted to dismiss this article altogether. Here it is…

Pray for your spouse every day.

I am embarrassed to admit that I was married for ten years before I stumbled into this advice. For as long as I’ve been part of the church and following Jesus, it seems I should have known to do this. Actually, I knew I should pray for Donya every day, but up to that point I hadn’t made it a priority. Then, in 2013 I saw an article called “Ten Ways to Pray for Your Wife” that prompted me to take daily prayer for her seriously. It’s the best thing I’ve done for our marriage, and I’ve shared this with every married guy I’ve been in small group with for the past seven years.

Here are three reasons why.

 

When you pray for your spouse every day, you’re spending time with God every day.

There is nothing better for your life than to be with the Father. A thousand things compete for our attention every day, exerting their influence on our hearts and minds, shaping us as husbands and wives. Time with the Father shapes us into the image of the Son, preparing us for our greatest responsibility as husbands and wives, reflecting Jesus to our spouse (Ephesians 5:22-33).

Praying for your spouse every day can be part of an intentional rhythm of being with God through Scripture reading and contemplation. Your spouse needs you to be with God, to hear his voice and be shaped by it.

 

When you pray for your spouse every day, you will begin to see them as God does.

Marriage has its ebbs and flows. Spouses see the best and worst of each other. When you primarily view your husband or wife through your daily experiences with them, it can be easy to let frustration or contempt set in.

As weird as it sounds, in a Christian marriage, your spouse is also your brother or sister. Like your other brothers and sisters in Christ, they need your grace. If you find it easier to give grace to others than to your spouse, praying for them can help.

Something will happen in your heart when you pray for the person you’re married to. You’ll be reminded of their humanity. You’ll be reminded of their need for God. You’ll be reminded that experiencing God’s grace is the best thing for them.

Asking God to lavish his grace on your spouse will motivate you to join in with him. You’ll grow as an agent of grace, learning to look for opportunities to shape your husband or wife through grace.

 

When you pray for your spouse every day, God will work in your marriage.

Some TV preachers advertise God like a Sham-Wow infomercial. They promise that for an amazingly small price, God will make all your dreams come true and life will have never been better.

I’m not trying to sell you that deal. Sometimes life stinks. Marriage is hard. People sin. Wounds hurt. I’m not promising that if you pray for your spouse every day things will be instantly better and always improving. That’s not what the Bible teaches about life, prayer, or God.

Jesus did teach, however, that we should ask God for good things, and that God will give us good things!

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7:7-11

There is mystery here, for sure. Prayer is not a token to a cosmic vending machine. Prayer is a conversation with our Father. He uses it to shape us and to work in our lives.

 

Your spouse is worth praying for.

Every day.

When will you start?


 

A Prayer of Lament

In week 2 of the Good Grief message series, I talked about the essential elements of lament:

  1. Turn to God
  2. Tell him how you feel
  3. Ask him for help
  4. Declare your trust in him

As I’ve been processing and trusting in God in this season, I wrote this prayer of lament about the loss of fruitfulness as a church. In it, I express with honesty how I feel and not necessarily what is true. We can be encouraged that God meets us in our honesty.

If you are experiencing a season of sadness or lament, try writing your own prayer of lament to God expressing how you feel.

Dear God,

You sent us on a mission and now you have distracted us. You have sequestered us and made us wait. Just before the harvest, the storm has taken our crops. You have given us work to do and taken away our tools.

Help us, O God. Open the doors to your truth that we can’t personally walk through. Show us how to love people without being with them, to be your hands and feet while staying at home. And heal us, Lord. Kill this invisible enemy.

I know you have not forsaken us, O Lord. The cross of Jesus was dark, Jesus died and the disciples were scattered. But up from the grave he arose. You turned the darkness to light, the death to life, the dread to hope.

 


Praying For Global Missions

PRAY FOR OPEN DOORS

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word… — Colossians 4:2–3a (ESV)

Open doors can’t be taken for granted. Many missionaries work in countries that are difficult to access or in areas that are resistant to the gospel. But open doors include more than just access to nations and people groups. Individuals’ hearts also need to be open and receptive to God’s truth.

   Pray …

  • That God will open doors of ministry, blessing partnerships and friendships.
  • That those who serve will be led by the Holy Spirit and recognize open-door opportunities.
  • That God will lead his people past barriers to hearts ready to receive his Word.

PRAY FOR BOLDNESS

[Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel… — Ephesians 6:19 (ESV)

Missionaries are regular people who fear pain and rejection as much as anyone else. When faced with opposition, they need God’s strength to help them stand firm.

   Pray …

  • That the Holy Spirit will provide missionaries with words that communicate effectively in other cultures and languages.
  • That they will have boldness to overcome the fear of embarrassment or failure.
  • Against evil forces that would seek to hinder the spread of the gospel.

PRAY THAT GOD’S WORD WILL SPREAD

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you… — 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (ESV)

Obstacles must be removed to allow God’s Word to spread rapidly and freely, and missionaries need the strength to continue on in the face of opposition or difficulties. Just as Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ arms in the battle against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:12), you can strengthen the arms of missionaries by supporting them through your prayers.

   Pray …

  • For strength and stamina as missionaries encounter antagonistic spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:10–18).
  • That people will resist Satan’s plans to obstruct the spread of the gospel (James 4:7).
  • That God’s Word will indeed spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes.

PRAY FOR PROTECTION

[Pray] that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. — 2 Thessalonians 3:2 (ESV)

In some countries, missionaries may be exposed to the possibility of danger and personal harm. Opposition to the gospel may include hatred and violence.

   Pray …

  • That God will keep missionaries safe.
  • That God will change the hearts of those who are resistant to his Word.

*This excerpt from https://www.wycliffe.org/prayer/how-to-pray-for-missionaries


Additional Resources:

Go Global – Clear Creek Community Church

Podcasts

102: Why We Pray

While over half of Americans report praying, in our post-Christian society the concept and practice of prayer can be confusing and even intimidating. Why do we pray? Does prayer really work? What should we pray about? On this episode, Rachel Chester talks with Aaron Lutz, E96 campus pastor, Rachel Fisher, Small Groups Associate, and one of our Clear Creek worship leaders, Tanner Smith, about the power of prayer in our own hearts and for the kingdom of God.

Resources:

Clear Creek Community Church Prayer Grid

Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?

 

Videos

Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayers?

Have you ever reached out to God with a prayer, but God didn’t answer it and it leaves you asking the question “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?”

To learn more about Clear Creek Community Church, visit clearcreek.org

Follow us on social media:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org​
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https://www.twitter.com/_cccc/

The Importance of Prayer in Bible Study

To learn more about our church, visit www.clearcreek.org.

Follow us on social media:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/clearcreek.org
Instagram – www.instagram.com/clearcreekcommunitychurch
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Should We Pray the Lord’s Prayer?

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Instagram – www.instagram.com/clearcreekcommunitychurch
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Fasting and Prayer