Posts Tagged “1 Corinthians”

Confess your sin to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
James 5:16 (NLT)

Does your prayer life prove that you believe that verse? Wow! That’s a great question! I’ve written the rest of this article and come back to focus on the introduction. I am challenged by the question the Holy Spirit communicated to my typing fingers. Because I surely didn’t ask the question! Does my prayer life reveal that I believe that verse or does it reveal a lack of faith (or obedience) to God’s Truth?

I desperately want it to be the former, but I know that I am not where I want to be. Despite my disciplined approach to prayer, I know that my prayer life doesn’t always get my focused, impassioned attention. Lord, help me be the woman You want me to be!

No condemnation here, folks, just challenge by the Holy Spirit to improve our prayer life. It’s time to up our game! I want my life to be characterized by effective prayer. For that to be the case, I need to be disciplined to develop a prayer life that is focused and passionate.

I find that a disciplined approach to prayer helps me regularly pray for the things that are most important to me. There are many ways to accomplish this and one is not necessarily better than another. What’s best is what works for you! I find, though, that many people approach prayer in a helter-skelter method, and while all prayer is good I want to be sure that I regularly pray for those things God has given me the responsibility to pray for.

Lists are My Friend

I add discipline into my prayer life by using lists. I begin most days at a computer – either the one on my office desk or on my laptop. I start by reading Scripture and praying. I use a spreadsheet to track my reading and prayers. The spreadsheet has one screen that mirrors our Treasure Seeking in God’s Word schedule of reading through the Bible in 2014. It includes another page that lists the things I want to pray for on a regular basis. There are too many of them to pray for each day, so I’ve broken them down into four groups:

Immediate Family – This first grouping represents things I want to pray for every day. It includes my husband, my mom, myself and various specific areas of my life – my business, Apprehending Grace Ministries, my husband’s job at a local hospital and the nursing homes we minister in. Next to each one is a phrase reminding me what I want to pray. For example, next to the hospital I’ve written “blessing those he touches.” This reminds me that I want to pray that Phil is a blessing – that God uses him in his position. The reminder keeps me from succumbing to the temptation to pray only for earth-bound things like better work schedules and policies. Next to Apprehending Grace I’ve written “Direction, blessing readers.” Again, the phrase is meant to focus and lift my prayers. I don’t want to pray “Lord, help me find time to write a blog today.” I want to pray “Lord, let my readers be blessed by what I’ve written. May the words on the screen help them to draw near to You.” Further, the word “direction” always keeps before me that I want Apprehending Grace Ministries to be more than just this blog. It’s easy to get bogged down in every day life and forget that God has more for all of us. I want to pray into the “more.”

Extended Family – This list includes my siblings, their spouses, my nieces and nephews and their spouses, and my great nieces and nephews. It also includes the employees of our business. There are nineteen people on this list. At this stage of my life, that’s too many for me to pray for each day, so I pray for two or three of them each day. That means I am individually and specifically praying for each person about once a week. As I pray for them, I write their name on the top of my To Do list for that day. That helps me to see their name repeatedly throughout the day and lift them up in prayer.

Weekly Bible Study Members – Phil and I lead a church service at two different nursing homes each month. At one of them, we also lead a weekly Bible study. It’s been going on for about two years and is such a rewarding experience. I’ve listed all those who periodically attend our study because I want to pray for them regularly. I want our studies to have impact. I want to see God change their lives. And I want to remember to praise Him when we see that change taking place. This list varies in size but there are currently fifteen names on it. I pray for one or two of them each day, so each person is getting specific, individual prayer about once a week.

Church Family & Friends – This list includes my pastors and their spouses along with other church and ministry leaders. It also includes friends who don’t appear any of the other lists. Currently there are about fifteen names on this list and I pray for one or two of them each day.

Other Current Needs – When I’ve promised to pray for someone or something for an extended period of time, I add it to this list.

Other lists you might have:

Leaders and Authorities – Your local, state and federal government leaders. For a period of time, we were involved in a local prayer group that prayed specifically for our community. During that time I had a list that included local officials by name and/or position as well as organizations like fire department, police department, library, local businesses, the mall, etc. (During that time, the crime rate fell tremendously in our community .)

Missionaries – If you are a strong supporter of missionaries, you might have a separate list for individual missionaries and missionary organizations.

Culture – Are you called to stand in the gap for our culture? If so, you would have a list that included various aspects of the entertainment industry, business culture, parenting in America, the Church and it’s influence, etc.

Salvations – There have been times in my life when I had a specific list of people I was praying for to come to know Christ. It’s a great list to have, and a “must have” for those with a heart for souls.

The Nations – Some are called to pray for every nation or for specific continents. Creating a list for them ensures you don’t forget any.

You can use any logical grouping to make separate lists so that each person, topic, organization or situation that God lays on your heart is prayed for on a regular basis. The key is to keep the lists small enough so that you work through them on a regular basis, given the amount of time you have to spend in prayer each day.

There’s Plenty of Room for the Spirit

Some people take exception to such an organized approach to prayer. They say I should just be led by the Spirit. I would say that am led by the Spirit – in at least three ways.

First, as I pray for each person, I am led by the Spirit to pray for that person’s needs. I am sometimes surprised at what I’ve prayed for someone, but assume that there is something going on in their life (that God knows about but I don’t) and the Spirit was leading me to pray into that situation.

Secondly, I am not bound by my list. When someone or something comes to mind I pause to pray for them. Additionally, I am not bound by the order of the names in the list. While I track who I have prayed for to ensure each person gets covered, each morning I scan each list to see who or what catches my eye. If they haven’t been prayed for in the current rotation, I pray for them. (And if they have been prayed for but I feel an urging to do so, I pray for them again.)

Thirdly, I add and remove lists as I am led to do so. I’ve changed the organization of my list as my life and ministry have changed. I change the names and topics on each list periodically. (See “Taking Someone/Something Off the List” below.)

The truth is that without my lists, the things and people that I tend to think about the most would receive the most prayer. Conversely, the people and things I think about the least would receive the least amount of prayer – and in many cases, they’re they very things and people who need the most prayer. Yet I believe my prayer can change their lives – even if I rarely see them or talk with them. So I discipline myself by organizing my prayer life using lists.

Having the lists helps me be consistent with praying for all people and things that are important to me. Additionally, the things on the lists are things that God has given me some degree of responsibility for and authority in the spiritual realm for. If He has laid something or someone on your heart, He has given you the responsibility to pray for them and in giving you that responsibility He has given you a degree of authority in the spiritual realm. Don’t neglect your responsibility or the authority God has given you.

Other Methods

I use a computer spreadsheet because it fits my lifestyle. In the past I’ve used notebooks, index cards or old business cards. Use whatever works for you. I liked business cards because they were small and allowed me to put only 1 name on each card. That helped me focus on each name. You could use small pieces of color coded construction paper. (I am actually like that idea – maybe it’s time for a switch for me.)

I have a shorter version of my spreadsheet lists on my iPhone so that on those days when my routine is scrambled, I at least pray for the people and things on my daily list.

The important thing is to match your method to your lifestyle. When your lifestyle changes, don’t hesitate to change your method of adding discipline to your prayer life. I walk our dog about about once a day and have been wondering if I should transition my prayer time into the time I spend walking the dog or if I should just keep that as a time of enjoying the walk. So far, I find that I’m too distracted during our walks to pray effectively, but if that changes, my method for tracking my prayers will change.

Keeping it Passionate

For prayer to be effective, it must have that element of passion or earnestness. I’ll admit that having a list brings the temptation to simply look at the list, think a few sentence prayers and consider it done. That kind of prayer doesn’t honor God or the person I’m praying for. And it doesn’t demonstrate that I believe God’s Word. There are a number of things I do to keep my prayers focused and passionate.

Tracking – Since I use a spreadsheet, I color code each cell after I have prayed for the person. Somehow, the action of changing the color of the cell provides a check in my spirit asking “have you really prayed for that person?” So not only does tracking help me remember each person or situation, it helps me pray earnestly for them.

Combining Scripture reading with prayer – Often I try to incorporate whatever I’ve read that morning with my prayer that day. For example, yesterday I read about how God told Joshua to divide up the land among the Israelites – and He told him to do this before they had actually conquered the land! I don’t know that I had ever noticed that before. God was treating the land they would eventually conquer as if it was already theirs! As believers, that’s how we’re to live – apprehending the promises in God’s Word and living as if we already have the fulfillment of them. So for each person on my list yesterday, I prayed that they would live in awareness of all that God has done for them and given them and that they would grab hold of life – the life He has for them – with joy and confidence. Now my list yesterday included an infant, a young adult, a couple of middle-paged adults and two rather confused elderly people. Yet the prayer is appropriate for all of them. I am praying into the infant’s future and for the adults’ present. Even the confused elderly people can experience joy and confidence in the Lord.

Writing or typing out your prayers – This takes a bit longer, but it ensures that you are truly focusing on each person or item on your list. It’s not necessary to write complete sentences; sometimes simply writing phrases helps you focus.

Refocusing as you move from one list to the next – Think of moving from one list to another as shifting gears in a car with a manual transmission. Shifting requires a specific action as you move to the next gear and it’s important to do it when the time is right.

As you move from list to list, don’t rush or delay it. Linger in prayer if you feel so led, or be comfortable moving on when you’ve prayed sufficiently. Don’t be time bound – sometimes my prayers are thirty seconds and sometimes several minutes. Move to the next list when the time is right.

Let your specific action be praising God – if you get into the practice of praising God as you move from list to list, you will build up your faith as you pray and bless God. And your prayer time will be more enjoyable. This is an important step. Sometimes praying for a specific person drains our faith. Perhaps their situation seems so hopeless or we’ve been praying for them for so long that we are tempted to doubt that God will ever change them. Our praise will allows us to focus on the next list with faith instead of defeat.0

Carrying the day’s list with you –Rewriting the name or items from your list onto another sheet of paper that you carry in your pocket or put on your refrigerator or monitor helps you remember the requests throughout the day.

Taking Someone Off the List

OK, taking someone off the list can be a bit traumatic. For example, when my dad died, I had to physically delete his name from my prayer list. Ouch! I couldn’t do it immediately. So I kept him on my daily list and used it as an opportunity to thank God for my dad and praise Him for saving my dad and one day allowing us to see one another again. What started out as painful became very healing until I was OK with removing dad’s name from my prayer list. Still, it was hard to hit the delete key, but God had made it possible – I could do it without breaking into little pieces.

There are times when you feel led to remove a name or situation from your list that hasn’t yet been resolved. I’m all for perseverance in prayer, but there have also been times when I sense from God that it is OK to drop an issue from my regular prayer life. There are a number of reasons this may be the case. Perhaps it is an issue you can’t pray for effectively because your emotions are too impacted. I’m not suggesting you drop something from your prayer list simply because it’s hard to pray for it – got may be using it to train you. For example, you may have great conflict with a family member and become angry every time you see their name on your prayer list. It’s generally not a good thing to be praying through your list when you’re angry, so their presence on your list is disruptive. It might be so tempting to drop them. It’s more likely that God wants to teach you about forgiveness. Don’t drop a name easily. But when you can remove yourself from the emotion and hear clearly from God that their name should be dropped, do so without guilt.

Remember, when you are following the Lord’s leading, there is no guilt. Don’t allow satan to throw that on you. Actually, he’ll try. You have to be diligent not to catch it.

Sometimes dropping an item from your list is an act of faith. You’ve become so confident through your praying that God has worked the situation out that you simply do not feel the need to pray with laser guided prayer. So you move the item to a list where it will be prayed for less frequently or you drop it from the list all together, knowing you’ll still remember it in prayer occasionally. What a freeing thing this is! God has done it! Remember to celebrate as you remove the thing from your list.

Regardless of the reason, when you feel the Lord leading you away from praying for a specific person or situation, don’t feel guilty about dropping them from your list. Take a bit of time to ensure that it’s God and not simply your own boredom or frustration. If it’s God, trust that He’s put that person or situation on someone else’s list and walk in freedom and faith.

I Want to Impact Lives through My Prayers – I Want My Prayers to be Effective

Wanting doesn’t make it so. Praying makes it so. Praying specifically for people and things makes it so. Praying with passion makes it so. Praying consistent with Scripture makes it so.

None of that comes naturally to me. The apostle Paul wrote that he disciplined his body “like an athlete, training it to do what it should.” (1 Corinthians 9:27, NLT) My prayer lists are my way of disciplining my mind and spirit to pray for the people and things God has given me responsibility to pray for.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NIV)

Being in Christ – saying “yes” to God’s Lordship – gives us new roles and responsibilities. One of those roles is that of reconciler. God reconciled us to Himself and has now given us the ministry reconciliation. Our message is to be the same as Paul’s – a heartfelt “Be reconciled to God.”

The word “reconcile” means “to restore to friendship or harmony; to settle or resolve” (www.merriam-webster.com). That is our job – to be one who brings reconciliation.

And it’s pretty hard to do that job wholeheartedly when I am harboring an offense against someone. No matter how hard I try to suppress or hide it, I’m not successful. I’m just not that good an actor. And hopefully you aren’t either! Because being a good actor in this case, simply means being good at deception. We don’t want to be deceivers, we want to be people of love. People who have worked through anything we might be tempted to have against a person.

One of the marks of Christian maturity is not being easily offended. Francis Frangipane refers to this as having an unoffendable heart. Of all the heart conditions we’ve studied so far this year, I think this one takes the most work. This one requires that I choose to turn my back on intentional and unintentional attempts to offend me. It means that I choose not to take offense. It means that I choose to forgive even before there is a need to forgive. It’s so much easier (in the natural) to take offense and hold onto a grudge!

I can’t choose to have an unoffendable heart without the love of Christ in me and without making a decision to let His love rule my heart. His love overlooks offenses. It is patient, kind, not prideful or rude or self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) The person who is easily offended isn’t characterized by those things. They are not patient with others. They do not respond kindly when they are offended, and their pride makes them easily offended. In not letting go of an offense, they are keeping a record of wrongs against them. Which, of course, makes them more easily offended with each interaction.

The disciples asked Jesus “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3, NIV) His answer included the following:

10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another… 12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
Matthew 24:10, 12 (KJV)

As the world turns away from Christ, people take offense more easily. That leads to betrayal and hatred. Satan is on the prowl, seeking whom he may devour – one of his tools is to bring you to the point of taking offense. Yes, you!

It can happen so easily – unmet expectations, frustrated progress, or a bad night’s sleep can all lead to slipping in our practice of love.

We can’t develop an unoffendable heart on our own, but Christ has made us a new creature. God has kept His promise from Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)

Need help with this one? (I do.) Ask for it.

Lord, help me to develop an unoffendable heart. Remove from me my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. Put the love of Christ within me – filling my heart so there is no room to hold an offense.

 

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There are many illustrations in the Bible about how we are soldiers for the Lord, a part of His army. And while it’s true that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against powers of darkness, there are lessons we can learn from earthly battlefields. A friend recently pointed me toward a Facebook page for the military unit her son is a part of.

The world is a different place these days. I didn’t know that military units have their own Facebook pages! I was quite surprised to learn that, but in today’s world, Facebook is the way the world communicates and it can be a wonderful tool for staying in touch. In a recent post, the captain of the unit included as part of his update information about what’s called an “After Action Report” or AAR. “If done properly,” the Captain wrote, “the After Action Reports are not for the thin-skinned, but it is a big part of how we get better, and why our Army is so strong.” He then shared some of the points from a recent evaluation. As I read the update, I was struck at the value the process and his advice has for us as Christians seeking to serve our King. Hence, our lessons from the battlefield.

Let me say here that I am NOT in any way meaning to devalue what the men and women in our military are doing. Their battlefield is much more stressful and much more dangerous than any I’m in. Rather, it’s my desire to honor them as I take from their lessons and seek to learn from them.

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve

Our first lesson comes from the activity itself – we can’t improve what we don’t evaluate. In the Facebook post, the Captain wrote this: “days seem to be endless, yet gone in a flash….It’s been a slow blur.”

Well, I’m not on the battlefield, but I know sometimes – lots of times, actually – my life feels like that. Will this day never end? And then “How can it possibly be Friday again?” Days seem endless, yet they’re gone in a flash.

If we don’t purposefully step back and evaluate our lives, we’ll find that more and more days have gone by without making steps toward improvement, steps toward growth, steps toward becoming the person God wants us to be.

One of the times we do that is during communion. Paul wrote this about communion:

27Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.
1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (NIV)

God wants us to examine ourselves, to watch our behavior, to not take what Jesus did for us lightly.

King David knew that it’s not only self-examination that’s needed. We too easily deceive ourselves. King David asked the Lord to examine him:

23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

If we’re to become more like Christ, we must examine ourselves and ask God to examine us.

Lesson 2: Stay Sharp

The Captain wrote this in his After Action Report: “How do we keep Soldiers and Leaders focused? How do we keep them from becoming complacent? Although we haven’t been doing this a long time, Soldiers get tired.  How do we prevent the “Groundhog Day” mentality from setting in, where every day or mission looks like the one before?  Or the dangerous mindset that occurs prior to a mission when Soldiers think that nothing has happened, so therefore nothing will happen.  This is when I worry about Soldiers taking shortcuts and being complacent.  Complacency kills, bottom line.”

It’s not so different in our spiritual life. No matter how long we’ve been a Christian, we can still fall. Scripture warns us:

8Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

We’re to stay alert. Satan prowls around looking for who is most vulnerable, easiest to attack and kill. Even Jesus wasn’t immune to attacks by Satan. In the desert, satan tempted Him three times. Jesus successfully defeated satan each time, and then Scripture says this:

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:13 (NIV)

Satan is looking for an opportune time to attack us. Our responsibility is to stay sharp.

Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander

Our military isn’t focused on just doing their job. They’re focused on exceeding the expectations of their commanding officers.

Do we have the same commitment to our Commanding Officer? Do we have the same commitment to our King?

Paul encouraged the Ephesians:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ephesians 4:1

And to the Philippians he wrote:

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. 
Philippians 1:27

Is our focus on living a life worthy of the One who gave His life for us? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who created the universe? Is our focus on living a life that is worthy of the One who lives us so, the One who is jealous for us and whose love is fierce and strong?

Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Numbering our days aright means first remembering each morning that our time belongs to God. To squander it is to squander God’s resources. At breakfast last week my husband said “everything we have is stewardship” Are we using what we have in the way God wants us to use it? Phil was talking about cars and money. It also applies to time. Time, money, cars, talent, our home and food – they’re all included as part of the resources we’re to allocate properly. Lord, help us get better at it!

Four Lessons from the battlefield:

Lesson 1: Evaluate to Improve
Lesson 2: Stay Sharp
Lesson 3: Exceed the Expectations of Your Commander
Lesson 4: Allocate Resources Properly

They’re lessons meant to keep our troops sharp, focused, the best. They’re lessons we would do well to implement in our lives and our walk with the Lord.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartWhen our hearts are full of faith, one of the things that is at the forefront of our minds is how very much God has done for us. We know the price Jesus paid to bring us near to God. We know how much God loves us to have sent His Son to die in our place. A faith-filled heart stays near the foot of the cross where we find mercy and grace. It’s also where we find – experience is perhaps a better word – the tremendous, unimaginable, indescribable love of God. I love what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

OK, Paul is the master of the run-on sentence. I’ve been so blessed by a study we’re doing on the book of Ephesians that I’m preparing a series of blogs that will publish in July. For now I only want to deal with one point from this powerful prayer. Paul is praying that being strengthened in their faith, and rooted and established in love, the Ephesians would have the power to understand – to grasp, to apprehend – how wide, long, high and deep the love of Christ is. A faith-filled heart becomes a heart that is overwhelmed with an understanding God’s love.

The love of God is not dependent on my performance. The love of God is compassionate. The love of God is uplifting. The love of God forgives. The love of God chooses not to remember my sins once they are under the blood of Christ.

Faith-filled heart stays near the foot of the cross where God’s love was and is poured out. That love isn’t poured upon and into our hearts only so that we can feel good about ourselves. It is so that our hearts can be filled with the same love to show to others. A faith-filled heart becomes a loving heart.

A loving heart looks outward. A loving heart demonstrates God’s love to others. It reflects God’s nature to others. That means we learn to love others with a love that is not dependent on their performance. That means we are compassionate, uplifting, forgiving, choosing not to remember the sins of others. You know the passage I have to go to here:

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

That’s a picture of a loving heart. We can only do that through the power of the Spirit at work in us. We can only do that when we’ve experienced how wide and long, deep and high God’s love is. Knowing that comes from knowing Him. And we find Him at the foot of the cross.

How’s your loving heart doing? Does it need a refill of God’s love? Join me at the foot of the cross. Where Christ died so that we might receive mercy and find grace.

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4Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (NLT)

Sometimes it can be so difficult to be patient! Sometimes it can be so difficult to be kind! And sometimes it can be so difficult not to be rude! But love is all those things. And much more. Love is a sacrifice of our own wants and desires to the needs, wants and desires of the ones we love. It’s being patient when we feel impatient. It’s being kind when we want to be rude.

I recently learned of a study by a University of Washington psychologist, John Gottman. His findings allow him to successfully predict whether or not a couple will divorce within 15 years! 95% of the time his predictions are correct! That’s pretty amazing.

He found that the single greatest predictor pointing to divorce is one of the partners in a marriage holding the other in contempt. In a Christianity Today article, author Carolyn Arends discusses Gottman’s study and defines contempt like this:

Contempt is a mixture of anger and disgust, expressed from a position of superiority. It denigrates, devalues, and dismisses. It’s not hard to understand why even subtle levels of contempt are damaging—not only in marriages but in all human interaction.
Carolyn Arends in article titled The Trouble with Cussing Christians

Contempt is “often shown through body language: tone of voice, facial expressions, and body movement. Just a roll of the eyes can signal that someone considers themselves above you.” (Randi Kreger reporting on Gottman’s study in her blog Stop Walking on Eggshells)

I see a lot of impatience, unkindness and rudeness in contempt. I see irritability that has gone beyond simple annoyance or frustration, working its way toward contempt – toward assigning blame for some (or every) current situation on the person’s inability to act responsibly (however the accuser defines responsible).

At the crux of impatience is the attitude that your time is more important than the other person’s time, or your way of doing something is better than the other person’s way of doing something. According to Gottman, it’s that hierarchical attitude that makes contempt so harmful. It’s that attitude by one of the partners that they are superior to their spouse.

The Apostle Paul wrote that we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought (Romans 12:3). And Jesus said this:

21“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV)

The word “raca” was an Aramaic term of contempt. It is derived from a word meaning “to spit.” Jesus reminded the crowd that those who use the term were subject to the judgment of the Sanhedrin (the local Jewish religious council). Then he took it a step further. He said that saying “you fool!” – which is clearly showing contempt toward someone – puts one in danger of the fire of hell.

Love is patient and kind. It is not rude. Growing in love means choosing – choosing – to be more patient, more kind, and less rude. It means stopping ourselves when we’re tempted to roll our eyes or say “whatever” in that dismissive tone of derision. (That, by the way – using the word “whatever” dismissively or derisively – is something I’m currently working to remove from my personal dictionary of expressions. I don’t always get it right, but I’m working on it.)

Love is patient and kind. And love is important.

1If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing… 13Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13 (NLT)

If you want to live a life full of things that last forever – a legacy that will go long beyond your years – live a life of love.

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013

Get to know God better by reading through the Bible a little bit every day. Pray, ask God to reveal Himself to you, then read. Our Resting at the River’s Edge schedules help you stay on track…but if you fall behind, don’t worry. Just keep reading. God will meet you and you will be blessed.

Resting at the River’s Edge schedules provide two reading plans. The main readings schedule readings that allow you to read through the entire Bible over a two-year period. During those two years we read through the New Testament twice and the Old Testament once. The “Additional Readings” in the schedule put you on a one-year reading plan. If you read through both the scheduled and additional readings, you will read through the entire Bible in 2013.

I hope you’ll join us! Reading through the Bible each year is one of my favorite things to do. I know that God will speak to you and your needs as you read. He always does. Since God usually speaks to me as I am reading His Word, you’ll find that many of the blogs I write relate directly to the Resting at the River’s Edge readings for that week (or sometimes from the previous week because I fall behind in the readings sometimes, too).

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the May/June bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the May/June 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

Join us as we read, then email me, leave a message on our Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog. What has God spoken into your heart today?

Blessings, Friends!
Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for May is below.

Resting at the River's Edge May 2013 Reading Schedule

 

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2013Reading God’s Word is the best way to get to know God. We learn who He is and how He works. It is His love letter to us, His instruction manual written for us, and it breathes His Spirit upon us as we read.

You’ll find our April reading schedule in the March/April bookmark and in the table below.

Click on one of the following buttons to open a PDF file of the March-April bookmark or all bookmarks. After the file has opened, you can print it or save it to your hard drive from your browser’s file menu.

Click here for the March/April 2013 recommended reading bookmark. Click here to download all bookmarks for 2013.

What treasures have you found while reading this week? Share them with the rest of us. You can email me, leave a message on the Apprehending Grace Facebook page, or post a comment at the end of any blog.

Blessings, Friends!
Enjoy God! Enjoy life!

Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for April is below.

Resting at the River's Edge April 2014 Reading Schedule

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Looking toward 2013 – Fear isn’t Part of God’s Plan, Don’t Make it Part of Yours

24Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, “Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.”
Matthew 25:24-25 (NLT)

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:11-27), the third servant did not use the talent given to him because he was afraid (Matthew 25:25, Luke 19:21). I wonder how often we let fear cripple or hinder us? Or how often is it an excuse for laziness? The master responded to the servant by calling him lazy (Matthew 25:26, Luke 19:22).

As we look toward 2013, I don’t want us to lose out on God’s tremendous plans for our lives because we are afraid. Afraid of success, afraid of failure or afraid of plain old hard work. I want to approach the new year with an attitude that says “Yes!” to whatever God has in mind. I suspect that will mean looking fear square in the face sometimes…

If that’s the case, perhaps it will help to remind myself what else Scripture has to say about fear. Here are a couple of verses:

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

For the Spirit that God has given us does not make you a slave and cause you to be afraid; instead, the Spirit makes you God=s sons and by the Spirit=s power we cry to God, “Father! My Father!”
Romans 8:15 (TEV) (or “Abba! Father!”)

What a picture of God’s love! Think of the small child who is frightened – he runs to his papa, throws his arms up and cries “Father! Father! Protect me!”

And He will! We’re also told in John 16:33 “These things I [Jesus] have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

There are 2 parts to this verse:

Part 1: Jesus promises us peace
Philippians 4:7 says that His peace, which passes all understanding, keeps our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. When will this happen? Philippians 4:6 says it will happen when we reach up to Jesus, crying “Father, Father! Protect me!”

Part 2: Jesus tells us to take courage – He has overcome the world.
1 John 5:4 says “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” (See Romans 8:14, 1 John 5:6 for more.)

If fear is not of God, what is its source. Its source is satan. Satan has a very poor substitute for everything God has – his substitute for faith is fear! Fear is really faith that satan will win instead of God! But God tells us that the victory that has overcome the world is our faith – our faith in Jesus Christ and God the Father to do what He promises to do:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
1 John 4:4

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

In light of all this:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58

Whew! Lots of Scripture in this blog! Meditate on them if you feel yourself being pulled toward fear. Don’t go there and don’t let satan take you there!

Friends, let’s look toward 2013 with a “yes” in our heart to the things of God. Don’t let fear cause you to lose the tremendous blessings He has for you.

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I have a dear aunt who is dying. [Footnote: My aunt has died since I wrote this. Thank you for your prayers for her family.]

Death is such an affront to us. It’s a slap in the face even when it is expected. When unexpected it’s a punch in the gut. Actually, it’s a punch in the gut even when it’s expected.

God didn’t intend it to be this way. And He makes it possible for death to be only a temporary separation from our loved ones. For those who accept Christ as their Savior, death is simply an entry way into the full presence of God and His eternal Kingdom.

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

When faced with death I am reminded that God uses all things – even death – for His purposes. Several things become clear to me when I meditate on the end of someone’s life.

Life and death are in the hands of the Lord. That is sometimes a harsh reality, but it is a reality. We are often tempted to ask God why a loved one is taken from us. Often too young. Always too soon. I can’t answer those questions, but I am convinced that life and death are in His hands (Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Corinthians 3:22). He determines the times and places we are to live (Acts 17:26) and He has our days numbered before we are born (Job 14:5).

God is present at every death. Whenever it occurs – or perhaps I should say each and every time it occurs – each and every time someone dies, God is there. I don’t have lots of answers but I know my God and I know His compassion and I know that the One who values life so much that He knows the number of hairs on each person’s head (Matthew 10:30) and the One who loved each one of us so much that He willingly died for us (Galatians 1:4, Titus 2:6, 1 John 3:16) – that God is present at the point of death. He grieves over sin if the death is untimely, but He is there for the dying. He is even there for the dying one who has spent a lifetime denying His existence. He gives them one last chance to recognize the reality of the One True God and submit their life into His hands.

There is a spiritual realm. That might seem like a strange statement to follow the first two, but my experience and the experience of others who have lost loved ones attest to the reality of a spiritual realm. I wrote about it this way in a blog a few months after my dad died:

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is some kind of spiritual connection among the living and when someone dies that connection is broken. When Phil’s mom died, he came up with this analogy: when a computer network is turned on, the system is always sending out impulses to other computers, checking to see if they are still connected. This is called “pinging” and it’s a continuous process. Without us being aware of it, it seems that our spirits “ping” for the spirits of those we love constantly and we receive an unconscious knowing that they are there. When someone dies, that ping goes out from us but is not returned. At an unconscious level there is a brokenness, a void, a missing connection that pushes itself into our consciousness and alerts our brain that “something is very wrong here.” Our brain then transmits that information to our emotions.

Birth and death are “holy-days” in a very true sense – days to set aside for reflecting on their purposes. Of course the fact that God is present makes them holy-days, but there is more:

  • The wonder of a newborn. The awesome creative power of God given to humans enabling us to create life. The instant and intense love that binds the newborn to his parents.
  • The crash of death. Reminding us that life has its limits that we cannot outwit, outlast or outplay. Reminding us that life is for the living and we ought not to waste time on petty, insignificant differences – or even the big ones. Life is for loving and bring glory to God. That’s the earthly side. There is a heavenly side for believers making it the most holy of holy days. It is the day in which we meet our Savior face to face. It is the day in which we worship as we’ve never worshiped before. It is the day of our true and final birth.

Lord, death is hard. Help me to introduce others to you so that they may experience not only a second birth (John 3:3-7), but a final birth into Your heavenly kingdom.

LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered — how fleeting my life is.
Psalm 39:4 (NLT)

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Cracked Foundation of Brick Wallsby guest blogger Pastor Dan Caudill

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.’
Isaiah 28:16, NIV

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
I Corinthians 3:11, NIV

Some time ago our church offered to the congregation a “Foundations” Bible study series, a sort of “Christianity 101,” revisiting the basics of the Christian faith. We were hoping that it would be a valuable tool for those in our body that were “young” in the faith. Our desire was to give them that firm foundation upon which they could build their walk with Christ for generations to come.

The strange thing is that many of our “seasoned veterans” of the faith looked forward to plugging in as well. I guess you could say they wanted to “check the foundation” for cracks or leaks. After all, we do that for our physical homes don’t we? You don’t have to be a contractor to know that if the foundation crumbles, the rest of the house is sure to follow. The same is true spiritually. If our foundation is weak or has gaps, chances are at some point in time, when tested by the storms of life, our faith will crumble. If our hope is in anything but Christ Jesus, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12 NIV, “I know whom I have believed, an am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” That’s the kind of faith and foundation I want. How about you?

Let’s take a quick look at five things we are easily tempted to build our foundation and faith upon other than Christ. Of course, none of these will stand up to the storms of life, so if our foundation is in one of these, it’s not a matter of if, but when, our lives will crumble around us.

Self
You’ve heard the old saying, “We have found the enemy, and it is us!” I don’t know about you, but I’ve sure found that to be true. The only thing that can really keep me from an intimate walk with God is ME! Satan can tempt all he wants, but he has no authority to make me do anything. This flesh, along with my feelings and emotions, just can’t be trusted. Besides, the best “game” I’ve got can’t hold a candle to the awesome power and wisdom of the most High God. I need Jesus’ resurrection power in my life. Truly Lord, “I Need Thee Every Hour.”

Money
I don’t know where you do your banking, but mine’s got a hole in it! My money leaks out as fast (or faster) than I can put it in. And in case you haven’t been watching the news or reading the papers in the last year or so, fortunes have been lost because of economic downturns and uncertainties. The world economy has more ups and downs than a roller coaster. At best, money is a gamble. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. It can’t be trusted for the long haul. Easy come, easy go.

Religion
The Scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were poster boys for what empty, powerless religion looks like. If you are like me and have tasted some of the same, you know it not only leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it certainly leaves you unfulfilled and wanting something more. Only Jesus satisfies, and a close, intimate relationship with Him will bring that deep abundant life that religion cannot deliver. Instead of just believing in something, I’d rather walk with Someone who has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.

Church Tradition
Just because we’ve “always done it that way” doesn’t automatically make it the way God would have us do it. We need to check everything we do to make sure it is founded upon Scripture and is Holy Spirit led and divinely appointed. God isn’t looking for good Methodists or Baptists or Catholics or Lutherans or any other denomination. He is looking for warriors, soldiers in the army of God, servants and followers who will seek His will, put on His armor, and rush headlong into battle against the enemy, at His command.

Popular Opinion
Sin is still sin even if everyone is doing it, and right is still right even if no one is doing it. God has never conducted an opinion poll. He, and He alone, is the Sovereign God. He gets to decide what is right and what is wrong. He doesn’t cut deals, or do favors, or just sweep things under the rug on the back porch. The Lord is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV). In the end, we will give an account to Him. God will not have to submit to the vote or opinion of the masses. Opinions ARE like belly buttons, everyone has got one, but in the end, God’s is the only one that counts – and the only one that can be counted on. Lead us, O Lord, in paths of righteousness.

I guess this leaves each of us with a question that begs an answer. How is my foundation? On what or who have I built? Is my life staked upon The Rock, who is Jesus, or am I trusting in one or more of the false pillars mentioned above? Those pillars will crumble and let us down.

Hang onto the Lord, friends. He is our solid foundation. Tomorrow we’ll look more closely at pillars that build that firm foundation in Christ. For today, I proclaim the words of the hymn by Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury:

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
Proverbs 18:10, NIV

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