:::: MENU ::::
Posts tagged with: Trent Renner

20/20 Hind-sight about Jesus…

Isaiah 28:16 says,
“Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem,
a firm and tested stone.
It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.
Whoever believes need never be shaken.” (NLT)

The USA was created nearly 250 years ago.
The Book of Isaiah was written around 700 years before the birth of Jesus…totaling 2700 years ago.

Can you imagine if you were someone reading the book of Isaiah..let’s say…600 years before Jesus was born? You wouldn’t have known how much time would pass before the coming Messiah would actually arrive. Every day you would wonder if today was the day for the Messiah to be born. Some, maybe didn’t even know what this “Cornerstone” would actually be. I imagine there was great awe and wonder, maybe even fear being talked about, as the people prior to Jesus’s birth, studied and contemplated who or what this cornerstone was all about.

I’ll bet it was very frustrating for the people of that day. Wouldn’t you strive, with all your effort, to determine who or what this cornerstone was, so that if you believed in it, you would never be shaken, as the verse in Isaiah says? It would be all consuming. I would want that cornerstone more than anything. Not knowing what it was would have sent me on a wild game of hide and seek as I tried to discover what this “Cornerstone” was, so I could believe in it, so I would never be shaken!

Today…we are very fortunate…

We don’t have to be frustrated like the people who lived BC. We can look back with 20/20 hindsight and know WHO the cornerstone is. The Apostle Paul, who in the early part of his life hated Jesus and His followers, wrote the following Bible verse, “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.”

I wonder if Paul shook his head in awe and wonder as he wrote that sentence? One day He hated Jesus…the next He was admitting Jesus is the Cornerstone and Lord of all!

Paul met Jesus personally. Paul used to imprison and oversee the killing of people who dared say that Jesus was the cornerstone referred to in Isaiah. Now, Paul is the writer of more than 1/2 of the New Testament that professes that Jesus IS the cornerstone. It’s crazy what happens when someone meets Jesus personally!

You and I do not have to be frustrated wondering where hope is found. We do not have to be nervous wondering what we must do to have salvation. We do not have to argue about who is the Cornerstone that everything else is built on or stumbles on. We do not have to fight to prove that Jesus is the cornerstone. He IS the Cornerstone. He rose from the dead to prove how immovable that cornerstone…He…really is.

If you are reading this, you and I have such an advantage over the faithful followers of God that lived BC. We can look with 20/20 hindsight to know who Jesus is and what He has done. We have the new set of Scriptures called the New Testament to witness to who that Cornerstone is. We have the 39 books of the Old Testament to compare to the 27 books of the New Testament to do a full study of who the Messiah is and what we must do to make Him our Lord and Savior and King. You and I can have complete confidence in the fact that Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Life! He said so Himself.

That’s a good thing! That’s a good book! That’s Good News! That’s the Holy Scriptures, pointing us to a holy God and asking us to live Holy Lives. The Apostles and many others are so convinced that Jesus is the Cornerstone, that they were willing to have horrible things happen to them instead of denouncing Jesus. If you want to read about some of these people, read Hebrews chapter 11.

Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the Cornerstone. A sentence was written by the great Prophet Isaiah 2700 years ago, telling us that we can live unshaken lives if we build on the foundational cornerstone of Jesus Christ Himself! He is a firm and tested stone. He is immovable, steadfast, and undefeated! He is the THE Champion of the Faith. He is the Great Physician. He is the Comforter. He is the full payment for your sins. He is the Rock! He cannot be shaken! Anything that comes against Him will not succeed!

Knowing this….check out the following passage…written by King David approximately 2900 years before Jesus came. Talk about faith. Read the hope and strength that King David had in God nearly 3000 years before the birth of the Cornerstone. If David can have this kind of faith and strength prior to the birth of Jesus…not knowing with 20/20 hindsight where His confidence should be…not knowing who the Messiah would be, then how much more faith and strength can we have knowing…with 20/20 hindsight… that Jesus IS the cornerstone?

1 I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken. Psalms 62:1-2 (NLT)

Jesus is the Rock…
You are Solid as long as you stand on The Rock.
Rock on!

Trent


What to do when you are getting rocked by life…

Sometimes I come across material that is so full of wisdom it just needs to be purposefully plagiarized and adapted to fit the shift that I want it to have. It’s been said that Shift Happens! Shift is good. So…I’m shifting Chuck’s article. I just want to give full credit to Chuck Swindoll for all the positive material in this post.

Any sarcastic material is my own doing. By the way, Chuck Swindoll is my favorite of all communicators…WARNING…Sarcasm follows…{If you do not like Sarcasm…please just jump down to the long line that begins the non-sarcastic content of this article} (Disclaimer…for the Church police who are opportunistically looking for people who they think need some behavioral modification… I know you think I should have said Jesus is my favorite communicator, instead of Chuck Swindoll…so, I want to say… Jesus is my supreme communicator, but not my favorite communicator…most of the stuff Jesus says cuts to my heart and convicts me in a hard way and I don’t always like it, so Jesus is not my favorite communicator, but He is my supreme communicator). Hopefully that disclaimer will prevent any members of the BMPD from WRITING ME a christian “ticket”. LOL (Sorry for the sarcasm folks…just gun shy from all the “BMPD” I have encountered in the past year) BMPD…you wonder?

Behavioral
Modification
Police
Department.

How do you know somebody is on the BMPD? You usually can identify the BMPD from the literal badges they wear on Sundays, when they wear their best for God. (If somebody believes you should wear your best for God…shouldn’t they wear their best 24/7 and not just on Sunday?) Some examples of the badges are posted to the right…I removed any church names to protect the reputations.
There are many forms of the BMPD badge…what the badge literally says is not what’s important, the motive behind the reason for even wearing a badge, is what is alarming…but the most dangerous BMPDs are the ones who are the Private Detectives who don’t wear a physical badge. These types have their badge hidden in their heart.

The Private Detectives of the BMPD, have nick names…sometimes fittingly called “Private-eyes” and some have been nicknamed “tricky-dicks”. These BMPDs are people who look just like a regular Christian, but are just undercover private eyes in the religious world. I think it “stinks” for the BMPD members that BM stands for something else other than behavioral modification. I’m not trying to be gross, I’m being literal about the ‘movement’ part. BMPDs cause great “exits” in their local churches and sadly it’s usually new people exiting and getting flushed “down” eternally…because they got treated like poop by someone with a badge at church. (I wanted to type the real word instead of poop, but I really don’t want a ticket from a BMPD).

Some churches are loaded with a higher number of BMPDs. The picture I have inserted to the right and below is a quadrant image I drew of 4 types of churches in the world. Every Church has some love and some challenge. However…the amount of love or challenge directly affects what kind of church it is. As you can see a BMPD loaded Church is a church that is High Challenge and Low Love. This type of church is equipped with quite a few pharisaical, aka BMPD people who really believe you should follow all the “rules” and if you don’t you will be corrected on the spot and sent home…even as a first time guest at church. A Church like Jesus is a church that is High Challenge and High Love. You can explore and study the quadrant to determine what kind of church you are in. Please don’t be a BMPD. Its a powerful thing, but it won’t land you in Heaven. Well…that’s what Jesus said.

This post is not about the BMPDs…its crazy how I let these types take up precious time of mine…and your reading time. Charles Swindoll didn’t reference these people even once in his blog that I’m adapting…He’s 80 something and much wiser and self-controlled than I am. I hope to be more like him someday. I’m working on it. Before I get on with the incredible message of this article, I must say one more thing about the BMPD. Jesus called them names. Oh, yes. He called them Sons of Vipers, White Washed Tombs, Hypocrites, Blind guides and Fools. He warned the Apostles about them often. One BIG example is Matthew 23:1-36. Jesus was brutal towards the BMPD. Well…enough of that stinky subject. If you persevered through that…the rest is really refreshing!
________________________________________________________________________________________

The big question is this…What do you do when you find yourself surrounded by the BMPD in your work/ministry/friendships/Church, etc?

The rest of this post you are about to read is a MODIFIED version of what Chuck Swindoll wrote. I accept full responsibility for all material above and below. To read his exact blog, just copy and paste the following link into your browser and you will see the differences in how I adapted his information. His post does not include anything about the BMPD. My jabs at them just came out of my gift of immaturity. If you are offended by my comments about you…I mean… about the BMPDs, please obey Jesus about what He says in Matthew 18:15 and I will respond accordingly.

Swindoll’s unchanged article link…
http://www.insight.org/resources/devotionals/the-truth-perspective.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DailyDevo+%28Chuck+Swindoll%27s+Daily+Devotional%29&utm_content=FaceBook

The passage that inspired Charles to write what he did in his post is Psalm 119:98–100 (NIV) I typed it below.

“98Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. 99I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. 100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.”

So imagine you have recently got a job that has proven to be less than you expected. You prayed for the job, then lo and behold, it opened up. God “spoke!” 🙂 You were grateful. After a few weeks, however, you found that the working conditions…usually caused by people who actually hired you…leave much to be desired. In fact they might even be nightmarish. Furthermore these people might be self titled and self proclaimed christians. Your first and natural response would be disappointment, perhaps even disillusionment and at its worst, Shock and Awe. This would lead to daily irritations and possible arguments. Your life could soon become consumed with negativity, pessimism, and verbal assault. Exit motivation. Enter low enthusiasm and possibly into a dead end. You want to quit, but the world tells us that quitters are losers. (I’m not sure that last statement is a fact…people who finally QUIT picking their nose are not losers…people who QUIT wetting the bed are not losers and…I love the movie line in American Gangster where Denzel Washington is told by a wise old man that “Quitting while you are on top is not the same as quitting!) By on top…I mean…in this instance…before you become the walking mat where BMPDs wipe their feet on you frequently. In my instance, I had a few special circumstances that allowed me to walk from the dead end…but not all have that luxury and can’t quit. So…if you do not quit, because circumstances just won’t allow it…your dead end…puts you into a serious predicament.

I have personally experienced this very situation in the past year. This explains why Chuck Swindoll’s original article resonated with me so much. As I write about my recent experience of a dead end, I don’t write about it with any bitterness and I have forgiven the people and circumstances. I write only from my personal experience in hopes you can glean some earned wisdom from my bad experience that might help you.

So..if you are in a dead end and you “can’t” quit…then instead of getting sarcastic like I tend to do or just quitting like I was, thankfully able to do…

How about trying this…

How much better to apply some basic, biblical principles! Let’s say, instead of wallowing in sorrow or swimming in the cesspool of bad attitudes, you dug deeply into God’s Word, absorbing wisdom, cultivating insight, gaining understanding. You discover from Romans 8:28 that God uses all things for your good, even unpleasant experiences. You also discover from Romans 5:3–5 that God uses difficult times to help us grow mature in faith.

And not only this, but we also choose to thank God in our trials and dead ends, knowing that trials bring about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. We choose to celebrate that “we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. We confirm through our devotion to God 1 Corinthians 10:13 that says God won’t let us go through more than we can actually handle…with the help of Him and others, of course.

This truth gives you a different perspective. You are the Lord’s personal “project.” Its not a fun project, but a very beneficial one. His plan is to develop you into a mature, stable person. He really does have your very best in mind! Nothing is coincidental in the Christian life; all things (even your miserable job because of miserable people!) are tools in God’s hands, and He is lovingly shaping your character. You learn to accept that your job, with all its limitations and irritations and BMPDs, is a perfect place for God to mature you and make you more like His Son. Rather than resist or look for the first escape, you resolve to greet each day as another opportunity to grow in grace toward others and submission to Him. Wisdom helps you look at your situation from His viewpoint.

Then, those who work around you don’t bother you as much because God’s Word has taught you how to see through their surface problems. Or, they may bother you just as much, but it’s like water off a duck’s back! You now see that their verbal assaults are indicative of a deeper problem of inner unrest in themselves. You see how they continue to hurt, but compassion grows in you because you recognize that they have been hurt…thus “hurt people, hurt people. You also learn that you need not take their abuse personally, for it really isn’t directed at you personally. It’s their release, their panic, their insecurity. Soon, your insight has cushioned you from an ugly, irritating, retaliatory spirit. Instead of arguing with them, you find ways to help your coworkers. You actually pray for them and be like Jesus to them. (Be careful in these relationships…for these very people whom Jesus loved and prayed for and served…killed Him) (To the BMPD…I know Jesus laid His own life down…that’s not my point)

In this new focus, you have now begun to respond to your once-irritating occupation with a positive attitude. Time spent in the Letter of James, for example, has taught you to be very careful about what you say and how you behave before those who don’t know Christ personally. (Q: But, Chuck Swindoll, what if they are Christians and treating you poorly? A:I think Chuck would say, “read 1 Corinthians 5”) Furthermore, in your doing a diligent job regardless of the circumstances, you have gleaned understanding. And to your own great surprise, you have actually begun to enjoy and accept the challenge of your situation because you know it is exactly where the Lord wants you. It is an ideal place for making Christ known through your words and deeds.

Don’t misunderstand. I can’t guarantee that through regular interaction with Scripture you can transform your environment. Some circumstances are beyond help. Believe me, as a pastor, I never rule out the possibility of miraculous, divine intervention, but I have become wise enough to recognize my own limitations of not actually being Jesus…Only Jesus can truly change people. So, I don’t want to create the impression that you can change the world by gaining spiritual understanding. I guarantee, however, that YOU will be transformed. And through your spiritual growth, the Lord may improve your environment a great deal. Regardless, you will be changed. Your attitude will change. Enthusiasm will fill the void created by helplessness and hopelessness.

God’s Word is for you, my friend…I repeat… it’s for you! There is no situation that you cannot face if you are really serious about spending time on a regular basis in the Book of books! And a great place to start is Psalm 119, especially if the grind of low enthusiasm, BMPDs, and dead ends have begun to take their toll.

Tomorrow is a new day and I hope the beginning of new you. You and I choose to behave the way we do. I believe we become what we are becoming right now. I’m encouraged that we are reading this together! I pray that we begin to become what this is all about.
What a challenge!


If I were an Old Man…

I was up early this morning to spend time with the Lord, abiding in Him and allowing Him to teach, lead, comfort and direct me. God is so good. He always does what is best for us…and that, sometimes, doesn’t feel good. I mentioned in a previous post about how crazy-fast this past year has gone. In fact, time seems to fly like never before. On this day there are only 188 days until Christmas. I’m not trying to be morbid, but If I do the “math of average” and I live to be the average age of a person who dies in the U.S. 87.7 years…then that means I have 45 Christmas’s left before I join the Lord. At first that seems like a lot, but when I begin to think about my kids and grandkids and how many of those future Christmas’s I might or might not spend with them…45 doesn’t seem like very many. I would think that I would be sad about this…I’m not sad, but it does cause me to mourn. God never intended for life to be like it is today. Life can be so very harsh. There is a lot of anger in people. There is a lot of craziness going on in the world. There seems to be a great panic in our culture for something we can’t fully describe or attain. A fight for being on the right team. A fight for the “top.” A fight for self gratification. I don’t want to be all bad news. My goodness, there is a lot of good going on right now too. So many people serving others, opening doors, standing for good, sacrificing so others may be blessed. We live in a world of polar opposites. Good versus evil. It’s all simply called life.

I read a verse this morning in my time with God. The verse is found in the Bible at 1 Kings 20:11. I have read the Bible many times and yet I do not ever remember reading this verse in those past journey’s through the Bible. The verse reads, “A warrior putting on his sword for battle should not boast like a warrior who has already won.”

This verse caused me to contemplate many things. The ancient wisdom in that verse is deep and wide. Reading the verse made me feel very young. Then, the creative side of my brain made me think of myself as an old man sitting with a young lad, telling him about how to live his life. I imagined myself sitting and talking about my life’s experience. I imagined myself hoping this young man would listen to what I was saying and hopefully take some of my personal experience and learn from it. The good and the bad. Here are some things I think I would tell him.

Young man…(obviously, ladies, you will have to read this as if it were speaking to you in the feminine.) What I’m about to tell you is what I’ve learned over my life…It’s not everything I’ve learned in life, but what I’m about to share is deeply important. I hope you will listen to it and learn from it. I hope we can meet regularly and that you will allow me to speak with you often about other things I’ve learned that I’m not going to remember today. What I tell you is my experience…it may not be the same for you. The road I paved is not the same road you will travel. But, learn from this old man and then pave your own road.

I heard a really good man say, “Heaven is real, the Bible is true and God loves you more than you’ll ever know.” I love that phrase and it is as true as truth gets. Build your whole life around that phrase.

I know you are hoping that life is going to serve you well, fill you up, and give you great success. It might, but I have found that life won’t think about you, only God can fill you to full, and success must be earned and is never guaranteed.

If you do earn success, it can be gone tomorrow. Don’t count on it to make you happy.

Happiness, by the way, is something you are never entitled to or deserve.

Finding the right woman to marry will make you or break you. When you find her and marry her, her whole family is included in the marriage. Your whole family too.

Sex is great, have it only with your wife.

Every year you live, it will go by faster.

Stuff will never make you happy, but you will be tempted your whole life to think so.

You will never be free from temptation, so don’t pray for protection from it more than you pray for strength to resist it.

Most people in your life will betray/hurt you in some form or another. Be very grateful for the few who do not. And no matter what happens, don’t let bitterness and un-forgiveness reside very long in your heart.

Live your life working very hard to not hurt or betray the people in your life. You will not be perfect in this endeavor.

Resist taking anything for granted. Your family, your church, your job, your success, your money…anything. There is no guarantee that it will be there for you tomorrow. The only person/thing that is guaranteed to be there for you is Jesus Christ.

Do not let fear hold you back from anything.

Every job situation will look great from the interview…you will know the truth once you accept the job and get into the job’s reality.

When you swim in a cesspool long enough you will get used to the smell. So…if you ever notice you are in a cesspool, get out immediately.

There is a lot to think about in the wisdom line I just shared above.

Do not let concern for what people think influence your decisions.

God will ask you to do things that will make no sense at all…do them anyway.

Do not believe for one second that God is interested in your comfort more than your character. God uses pain to refine character. If you don’t like that fact, it won’t do you any good to get mad at God about it.

You are going to hurt people. Do not do it on purpose, ever. When you do hurt people, say you are sorry and mean it.

The phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Is true and it’s a choice. They really are just words.

Hurt people….hurt people. So…when someone hurts you, think about what has hurt them that causes them to now hurt you. It will help you forgive them.

If you promote the progress and purpose of others, you will look back over your life grateful and fulfilled and spent.

When you promote the progress and purpose of someone else, don’t expect them to do the same for you.

The size of the dream you have in life and whether or not you accomplish it, is directly correlated to how much pain and suffering you are willing to endure.

A majority of people will never win the lottery, or have even 15 minutes of fame. Don’t live for that hack dream. Remember, that anything worth having will never comes easy.

If something is worth doing, it is worth doing…even poorly.

If you are not good at something you really should do, keep practicing. You’ll get better. Someday you’ll be an expert at it.

If you have children, they will bring great joy into your heart.
If you have children, they will squeeze your heart with worry and fear.
If you have children, do everything in your power to make them successful. They will be here long after you are gone.
Try to have children. If you cannot, then adopt or foster.

Travel to a 3rd world country as soon as you can and spend no less than 4 days serving those who live there.

Never forget the people who live every day in 3rd world countries where you only visited.

If you become successful, do not let other people write what you should say.
If you become successful, do not purposefully have a public relations spokesman speak on your behalf.
If you become successful, do not prevent all bad news from getting to you…If you only let good news reach you, you will live a life starved of the truth about yourself.

Your wife knows you better than everybody except God. Listen to her unless she tells you different than God.
Do not keep news from your wife. You and your wife are one. You will not be really protecting her when you leave her in the dark about anything.

Do not keep secrets of any kind.
Live your life in such a way that you are not even tempted to keep secrets.

Speak the truth even if it makes your voice shake.

You can raise your voice and get angry without sinning.

Don’t forget the side of love that is loud, hard to give, and delivers pain.

Freedom is always living for and with others. When you only live for yourself, you are not actually free…you are slave to self.

You will never feel like forgiving, but forgive anyway and often if necessary.

Forgiveness does not mean the offender doesn’t face consequences.

You should love everybody. That does not mean you will like everybody.

How you live your life on this earth is your choice to enter Heaven or Hell. Choose wisely because God will honor your choice.

Read the Bible as often as possible. Do what it says, no matter the consequences.

Jesus is the truth and the only way to Heaven. Don’t ever let your doubt about that fact, convince you otherwise.

No matter how unpopular it makes you, never ever disagree in word or action with what Jesus of Nazareth says.

Try to have a sense of humor about yourself. It will be harder on some days than others.

The more you laugh at yourself, the lighter life will be.

You can’t control anything. That’s God’s job.

Who you are is more important than what you do or what you have.

Don’t ever forget how much God loves you.

Life is short. Live in faith, but take risks.

Do not mistake risk with faith. They are very different. Faith is confident assurance. Risk is not.

Always be a learner. The best teachers are those who are always trying to learn something.
The best way to learn is to ask questions and listen.
The next best way to learn is simply by experience.
Learning by experience can be very painful.
The most painful learning experiences may be expensive, but they are still a great education.

When an old man sits and shares with you, it’s always a good idea to have a pen and paper. That’s why I wrote these down for you. Next time, bring your own paper and pen.

When I die…I will be waiting for you in Heaven. Make sure you get there. I’d like to sit with you and have more of these chats.

The next time we sit and chat…I’d like to listen to you tell me about what your life experience has taught you.

See you soon.

Trent


WHAT IS FAITH?

I am reading a book by a man I met the other day named Mike Breen. The book is titled, “Building a Discipling Cuture.” There is a section where Mike writes about Faith. I’m not quoting him exactly here, so you’ll have to purchase his book to get the perfect version of what he said. Breen writes about how people seem to mistakenly think that Faith is “spelled” RISK. But he writes about how that notion is wrong. He says that Faith is “spelled” SURE. In my opinion his writing is right! Hebrews 11:1 backs this idea up. That passage says this, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” The author of Hebrews doesn’t mention the word risk in this famous passage, but the author does mention surety and confidence. Thus the image below of me with a three year old alligator. I had total faith that this alligator would not bite me. It was not risky for one second to hold this alligator. How did I know? I had faith because I was sure and confident that the black tape around its mouth would hold it shut! I checked this gator out completely. I was able to feel and inspect this alligator’s feet, tail, belly, nostrils, teeth, and eyes. It was cool. Again…I had faith/confidence/surety that I would not be harmed. And I wasn’t.

In our relationship with God, faith isn’t about risk. Faith is about confidence. I think it’s fair for me to say that God only has great intentions for your life. To listen to God, to obey God…isn’t risky…unless you idolize this life and the stuff you have. If you are faithful to God and lose your life, lose your head, get tortured, lose your material goods, etc., in the big picture of eternity did you really lose anything? Or in that ‘loss’ did you really gain everything?

If you are afraid to do what God says because you are afraid you will be embarrassed, or afraid that you will lose your life, or afraid that you will lose your material goods…then what you should really be afraid of is the fact that your god is your reputation/life/material goods, etc. Having anything other than the Lord as your God is the greatest risk of ‘faith’ you could have.

If you have faith in God and do what He says you should do…you are living the ultimate secure life. For even if you lose everything you have, including your very life…you actually gained everything for eternity. That should give us all confidence and surety and hope. That should prod us on into the future with our heads held high and our focus on the finish line of the faith in Jesus Christ. This life is short and leaves us wanting.

Jesus fulfills. Only Jesus makes us full. There are no risks in Jesus as long as you don’t love this world and everything in it too much. When we have that kind of faith, then there is only confident assurance of our eternal status. There is no greater life than living for Jesus. Have faith. Be faith. Reek of faith!

What is God asking of you?
What are you doing about it?
Have faith!


HYDRATE — WINNING FROM THE INSIDE 25 (Mt. 6:5-8) “Prayer Motives”


5 “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. 7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!
Matthew 6:5-8 (NLT)

DRINK IT IN:
There is no doubt that Jesus brings about a stronger judgement and accountability upon Spiritual leaders. When Jesus was teaching this subject material, the religious leaders must have been present. He called them Hypocrites. The previous post, Hydrate 24, talks about the same motive. This motive of doing anything for recognition. What motivates you to pray? What motivates you to give? Do you pray differently when you are in a private setting than you do when you pray publicly? Why? Jesus may hold spiritual leaders to a higher accountability, but he holds everybody accountable.

As I write this in 2012, I have now been in ministry for the past 20 of my 41 years of life. From my perspective, I have noticed changes amongst pastors over these past two decades. Good changes. I remember when I was in my mid twenties and attending my first pastors conference and we had a breakout prayer session where we gathered into groups of about six to eight for some time of prayer. We were instructed to go around the table and everybody take turns praying. I remember being so uncomfortable as each pastor seemed to want to out-pray the previous pastor. As each pastor prayed, to be followed by another pastor taking his turn, the words became more eloquent and more complicated and more “spiritual” sounding. This prayer time seemed to start a competition of who could outwit, outsmart and outplay their prayer predecessor. It was Prayer Survivor, except there was no prize for the champion. It saddened me. It made me question whether or not I wanted to remain for the rest of the retreat. I did remain, and the rest of the retreat went pretty well. I share this story, because I have attended many more of these retreats in the following years and I have seen more authenticity and less competition when it comes to our corporate prayer time at these retreats. Times are changing. I can only speak for myself, but it seems to me that Christians and Christian Pastors are beginning to be more and more real and vulnerable publicly when it comes to communication and prayer and leadership, and I believe it is a very good thing for the cause of the Kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth. I am convinced that the greatest success for the church is yet to come, and will only come if the churches leaders can be vulnerable and transparent and their greatest motivator be to honor Jesus.

I think that this is what Jesus is saying when it comes to this teaching on prayer. It seems, from this teaching, that Jesus is opposed to praying out loud in public. But, It is obvious from other sections of Scripture that Jesus is okay with group prayers and people praying out loud in a public setting. How do I know this, because Jesus prayed publicly, and sometimes the prayer was said extra loud so that the people around Him could hear what He was praying. The Apostles prayed publicly in the book of Acts. Jesus is not so focused on where we pray, but why we pray.

I think Jesus, for clarification, would add something like this, “if you pray because you like the attention it gets you in public, then you’d be better to not pray than do it for wrong motives.” He might also say something like this, “if the temptation is too great for you to get attention in your prayer time publicly, then retreat to your private closet and pray to the Father secretly, then you will be blessed and God will be honored.” I hope you agree with me in thinking that Jesus would say these things.

Motive matters to Jesus. Motive is an outflow of the condition of our heart. If you are whole in Jesus Christ, if you define who you are based off what Jesus believes about you, and by what Jesus did for you, then you will have no reason to seek approval or grab attention when in public. Motives matter. Motives become very evident when we pray.

Before Jesus actually gives a perfect example of how to pray, He injects one more point into His teaching. In verse seven, He says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.”

I grew up in the Catholic religion. I am thankful for some of my Catholic roots. As I am now in the Restoration Movement of the faith of Christianity, I am a better Christian because of my old Catholic roots. When I was younger and in the Catholic religion, I had never read the Bible for myself, and I remember wondering, when I was taught to pray the Hail Mary prayer, why we repeated the same phrases over and over. (I don’t have time in this section to cover what I was thinking about being taught to pray to Mary.) Today, I just refer to the redundancy of prayer. This redundancy is a part of why I quit being committed to Catholicism. I knew God was all powerful and I knew that God knew my very thoughts before I even thought them. I was so confused as to why we had to repeat the same lines, while praying, over and over. As a young kid I remember wondering if my Catholic teachers thought God was hard of hearing and so the more we repeated the prayer, the more likely God would be able to decipher what I was praying. Before, I lose all my Catholic friends, I want to acknowledge that I have been personally guilty of using the same phrases habitually in my private and public prayers. I have seen this repetition and false conversation with God happen in all different faiths, denominations and churches. This is a people problem, not a specific religion’s problem.

Instead of being taught the Hail Mary prayer when I was Catholic, I wish I had been taught this teaching of Jesus. The religious recitation of prayer goes against what the Lord of Lords commands. I think the repetition of prayers insults God. Let me put this in a practical setting. Imagine if I called up my earthly dad on the phone and in my talking with him, I would say to him, “Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

But I don’t stop there.

Next week, I get him on the phone again and I say to him, “Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

But, hold on, to make sure my dad got my point, I call him the very next day and I say to him.”Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. Hello dad, I hope you are doing well. I was hoping you were were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. I was hoping you were coming for a visit this next week. You are a great dad. You are a great dad. You are a great dad.” Good bye.

Now imagine I repeat this over and over for the rest of my life. I would not be surprised, for one minute, if my dad never came to visit me. I would think he would be completely irritated with me. If this is how I pray to God, then I’m just not a very good conversationalist. Do I make my point? Please don’t be insulted in what I am writing here, see the error, if you are doing such a thing, and turn your prayers into personal conversations with our relational Father in Heaven.

Now, what about this last sentence that Jesus teaches. In verse 8 Jesus says, ” Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”

I have often wondered why God, if He knows exactly what I need before I even ask Him, or as another Bible passage says, knows my thoughts before I think them, then why do I even have to pray at all? And then I had kids. The more my four children age, and I grow in my experience and relationship with them as their father, the more I recognize my Father/Child relationship with my Heavenly Father. I know my four kids very well. Many times my wife and I laugh as we know what our kids are going to say before they even say it. For instance, when we are in the grocery store with our kids, and we arrive at the checkout station to see the lineup of tempting candy and magazines, at the conveyor belt area, we know exactly what our kids are going to ask of us. When I pick up my children from School and then venture home, I know exactly what they are going say as we drive by the local Sonic Restaurant. When one of my kids is on their cell phone with a friend and its a Friday night, I know exactly what that child is going to ask when He gets off the phone. You get the point?

I still want my kids to ask me. I know what my kids need. I know what is good and bad for my kids. I want to bless my children and give them the desires of their heart, and I want them to talk to me about it all. I am a relational dad. I know what my kids dreams are, but I want them to talk to me about these dreams. When I watch my kids compete in their sports games, I watched as they scored and I watched as they made mistakes in the game. I know they are excited about their win or upset about the loss, but I want them to talk to me about it all. I want to hear it from their view point. I want them to sit with me and tell me about it all. I cherish that when it happens. Have you ever been in your car privately with one of your children when they naturally open up and talk to you, and ask you questions, and actually listen to your answers? Its magical. Its healing. Its thrilling. Its relational. As a father I want that from my children. God made us to be like Him. He desires these things as well.

Even when I know what my kids are going to talk to me about. I still want them to talk to me.
I love conversation with the people I love.
Conversation and prayer are the same thing.

Now, go into a private place and converse with your Heavenly Father.
He is anxious to hear what you have to say, even though He already knows what you are going to say.
Tell Him what’s on your heart and mind. Tell Him your hopes and dreams. Tell Him what you are afraid of. Ask Him for things that you desire.
He will enjoy your time and your words immensely.

SWEAT IT OUT:
The next time you pray, do so with an ear to hear what you are actually praying. Do you repeat the same phrases every time you pray? If you do, catch yourself and make a change in your words. Please don’t let your prayer time be just habit and discipline. Can you imagine your child coming up to you on a daily basis and saying, “Hey, my calendar just told me Its time for me to talk with you…I have to talk with you now.” That would be the same as a husband bringing to his wife a dozen red roses on their anniversary day and handing the roses to his wife while saying, “today is our anniversary, I am obligated to get you these roses.” Roses have thorns, they would hurt as they would be thrown in your face for making such a comment, and performing such a dutiful deed. Get it?

If you struggle with being relational in your prayer time with God, then I want to challenge you to try some things outside of your comfort zone. Next time you pray, go to a private place where you will not be interrupted and bring with you an extra chair. Set this chair up and invite God to sit in it, and as you pray imagine Him physically sitting in the chair listening to you. If you have a hard time staying focused in your prayer time, remove your shoes as you pray, and it will help you stay focused as you recognize that your time with God in that moment makes the place a holy place, as you spend time with the creator of the sun, moon and stars.

If you are stuck in a repetitive cycle of praying the same way, the same time, the same words, each day, then practice praying while you are driving by yourself. As you drive, just talk to God as if He were sitting in the seat next to you. People who pull up next to you at the stop light will think you are weird, but who cares! Go for it anyway. If it happens to be somebody you know, and they ask you about it later, don’t lie by telling them you were conversing with someone via speaker phone, tell them straight up, you were praying! This driving practice will help you break ritual habits and make your conversation with God more real-time and relational.

If you have a hard time knowing if you are just repeating phrases or praying in a weird way of any kind, then use the recording device on your cell phone, and when you are praying just record it all, and listen to it later. As you listen to the playback, you will hear things and notice things that will help you be more relational in your prayer time with your heavenly Father.

We all practice things we want to be good at. Practice your praying. You know you want to be good at praying. Practice it.

God wants you to spend time with Him. He is waiting. God never moves far from you. There isn’t anything that will ever make God stop loving you. Knowing that, spend time telling Him how much your appreciate Him. Talk to Him.
Be self aware of your motives.
Pray.