Food for Thought
I can’t help but wonder if I’ve allowed myself to be influenced by a culture that increasingly caters to a short attention span because recently I’ve noticed that I’m easily distracted in my prayers. I always start out my prayer time with good intentions but before I realize it I’ve created a prayer sandwich with a distracted filling that looks something like this:
My unfocused prayer sessions were bugging me so much that one night I even brought it up to my wife as a prayer request. The next day as I was about start my prayer time I tried something different. Instead of softly mumbling my prayers to God, I made them loud. Not only did I make them loud, I actually stirred myself up to speak them as if they were actually really important, as if they were urgent, and as if they really mattered! Not surprising, my prayer time not only lasted longer but it was more focused.
In Hebrews 5:7 the author talks about the way that Jesus prayed:
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.
In several places the Gospels record Jesus retreating to solitary places to pray but most likely his prayer times weren’t quiet. In the passage from Hebrews the Greek word behind the translation for ‘loud’ is ischuros and can mean strong, powerful, mighty or robust. In other words, Jesus wasn’t praying some monotone quiet prayers, he was praying with loud passion.
If you can relate with being easily distracted in your prayer times than try some *ischuros prayers. If you’re not used to praying loud prayers you may need to drink some coffee or walk around on your first attempt but you may also be surprised at how easy it comes. And just as Jesus did, remember that your prayers are to him who is able to save you from death. Amen!
What are some out of the box things you do in your prayer and devotional times? Share them in the comment section below.
*I recommend the first loud prayers not be when you’re tucking your kids into bed at night but feel free to try it on your commute to work. Other drivers will just think you’re listening to some intense music.
At the end of 1998 I traveled with a small group of people into a country closed to the Gospel. We each brought a few paperback Bibles and we also brought the Bible on audio cassette. We knew that in one area we would traveling to that bringing a printed Bible wouldn’t be enough because many couldn’t read. Not only that but they didn’t have access to current technology (at the time CD’s were current technology!) which is why we brought audio cassettes.
15 years later and it’s now estimated that more people have access to a smartphone than decent sanitation. What does this mean for missionaries and the advancement of the Gospel? It means that we live in a time where the Gospel can be transmitted like never before!
As the picture above demonstrates, we can now store over 1,600 Bibles on a Micro SD card that is smaller than a penny. If you’ve ever picked up a box of books, you know how significant the idea of being able to store an entire library’s worth of books on a memory card is. That one cassette box I hid in the bottom of my bag years ago could hold enough Micro SD cards to resource thousands of pastors.
We live in a unique time and it will be exciting to see how technology continues to be utilized in the spread of the Gospel!
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Tragedy, no matter what it looks like, always stirs up a wide range of emotions. In tough circumstances, grief, confusion, and anger swirl about and as believers in Jesus it’s in these times that our foundation is revealed. When there are more questions than answers and it’s hard to see through the dense mist of pain, what lens will we choose to see the present circumstances through?
Whether it’s the events of 9/11 or yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, there becomes a swirling commentary in the media that causes our perspective to shift quickly from emotion to emotion. It’s in these moments that we need the ‘anchor for our soul’ that Hebrews 6:19 talks about.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a follower of Jesus in North Korea or the United States, the message of the Cross of Jesus Christ is at odds with the message of the culture and the result is often hardship. In John 16:33, Jesus knew hardship would soon be reality for his disciples and so he says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus was preparing his disciples for the reality of hardship but also promising them that if they remained in him they would not only have peace but they would also have victory!
This morning I was drawn to read Psalm 17 which is entitled, In The Shadow of Your Wings, a prayer of David. I encourage you to read the whole thing yourself but here are the opening two verses:
Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!
Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
From your presence let my vindication come!
Let your eyes behold the right!
As the psalmist continues his lament over hardship he stays firmly anchored to what he knows of the character of God. He knows these things because he has heard the stories of God’s working in the past and has experienced them in the present. And so in verse 6 he can confidently say, “I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;” His understanding of God’s character, God’s very nature is his anchor during the present times of hardship as he anticipates the faithfulness of God in the future.
As we process the reality of what happened yesterday in Boston and encounter new trials and hardships in the future, it’s important that we remember that God always hears and answers our prayers. So let’s pray through our pain and confusion knowing that God hears us and will answer. Let’s pray also for justice and righteousness knowing that God hears us and will answer. Through prayer our perspective for seeing and reacting to our present circumstance becomes anchored in our God who is faithful.
Our God who has always heard us and who always answers.
For additional scriptures check out:
One of the signs of burnout is when you stop caring about the things you really should care about. You know you should take better care of your body, but you eat another bowl of ice cream instead. You know you shouldn’t watch so much TV, but you veg-out on mind numbing idiocy for hours anyhow (there’s a reason some call it the idiot box). You know you should spend more quality time with your family, but you choose to hibernate in the garage alone. You know you should drag your butt out of bed and go to church, but you roll over and think, “I’ll go next week” (and you’re the pastor!).
Burnout isn’t pretty. It isn’t fun. And it’s never anyone’s plan. You didn’t wake up one day and say, “Hmmm, wonder what I can do this week to end up in a pile of drool and in a fetal position, numb to everything?”
Typically, the path to becoming emotional toast happens slowly and unintentionally. You said, “Yes!” when you should have said “No!” to another commitment outside of your gift mix. You said, “Just this one time…” when you should have said, “Thank you, I’ll pass.” You did something out of obligation or to keep somebody happy because you still wrestle with being a people-pleaser. Or maybe you suffer from a “Messiah” complex and actually believe that the world might stop spinning if you stop spinning all the plates you’ve got up in the air.
Whatever the reason, the honest truth is, we are responsible for our choices, and all too often we choose poorly.
Okay, so that’s the problem. What’s the solution?
1. Own it and confess it. Living in denial about burnout is foolish. The path to health starts with acknowledging you need to change, and you want help.
2. Develop a trusting relationship with someone who will encourage and support you. This guy or gal shouldn’t be the “margin police” in your life, but they should be able to ask you the hard questions in love.
3. Intentionally carve out time in your calendar for rest and recuperation. I make appointments in my day-timer for me to be with me. If someone asks, “Are you available tomorrow at 8am for coffee?” and I’ve made an appointment to be with a cup of coffee and a good book, I say, “Sorry, no, I already have an appointment at that time.” And for heaven’s sake (and yours), don’t feel guilty about it!
4. Learn to practice the power of no! Where did we get the crazy idea “no” is a bad word? If you are going to survive for the long haul, you better figure out that always saying “yes” will kill ya!
5. Make a firm commitment to run, walk, bike, or Zumba at least three times a week for at least thirty minutes. How many times do we have to be told about the benefit of physical exercise? Seriously, this is a no brainer. By the way, go back and read #3 and then schedule several weekly appointments with the treadmill.
6. Rather than zone out, zoom out. Practice the lost art of reflection. Stop at least once a week, if not once a day, and zoom out to see the big picture. One of the easiest ways to suffer burnout is to lose sight of what truly does and doesn’t matter. I hate procrastination. I generally operate with the idea of not putting off until tomorrow what can be done today. But I’m learning to ask this simple and powerful question, “If I don’t do this, will it really matter in a week, a month, or a year from now?” Guess what? I’m not as critical to the world’s survival as I thought I was.
Burnout is a serious issue. You can’t be the man or woman of God you are destined to become if you lack the passion and energy needed to accomplish what He has called you to do. We need to have the long view and learn to live wisely.
By Olive Tree Staff: David Mikucki
Jesus’ followers were convinced that He was the coming King—the Messiah of Israel who would rule the nations with a rod of iron. All His disciples were severely disappointed when the unthinkable happened. Jesus was crucified. The coming conquering King had come and didn’t seem to have conquered. Maybe Jesus wasn’t the Messiah? If He wasn’t, then… now what?
That’s the backdrop for Luke 24. With Jesus dead, His followers were distraught. They were on a seven mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus, talking about everything that had just happened, trying to sort through it all—still unaware that Jesus had been raised. Jesus met them on this road, but He kept them from recognizing Him (Luke 24:17). To them He was a stranger passing on the road. They told this ‘stranger’ that they thought Jesus was the one who was going to redeem Israel and that some of their friends were telling what they thought were just fairytales about Him rising from the dead.
At this point, Jesus says something that shocks everyone! He tells his followers that the prophets said all of this was going to happen: the Messiah would suffer and then enter into His glory. No one expected the Messiah to suffer! Who expects a King to suffer? Jesus says the prophets expected it. Then in Luke 24:27, He explains the things concerning Himself from Moses and all the prophets. Jesus went to each book of the Bible and explained all the things about Himself (see also Luke 24:44).
People these days have a lot of different ideas concerning what the Bible is about. Jesus has His own idea. The Bible isn’t about all the good things we have to do in order to go to heaven (John 5:39). It’s not just a bunch of do’s and don’t’s. It’s not just a bunch of fun stories. Jesus said the Bible is about Himself. Humanity’s biggest problem is that we sin our whole lives and then we die. The Bible teaches us all we need to know about our Savior—the King who suffered and died in our place and rose from the dead three days later to make us right before God and give us a new life like His.
One of the last things Jesus did before He ascended into heaven was to tell us that the Bible is about Him! Jesus is our Savior—the only Savior—and He says that all of Scripture points us to Him: the One we really need. When we study the Bible, let’s remember that it’s all about Jesus.
Olive Tree’s got some great resources that explain Jesus in parts of the Bible we might not have expected to find Him in. Here are some of my favorites…
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Free!)
- Christ in the Old Testament by Charles Spurgeon
- Christ in the Passover by Rose Publishing
- Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament edited by D.A. Carson and G.K. Beale