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Learn to Pray Like Jesus

Mar 10, 2020 |

“…Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).

Luke doesn’t identify the disciple who approached Jesus with this request. We can assume, however, that he was motivated by more than simply a desire to keep up with John the Baptist’s disciples. The unnamed disciple, like the other eleven, likely saw the power of prayer in Jesus’ life. He saw the priority Jesus placed on prayer. He saw how prayer energized and sustained Him. And he wanted that same source of power, energy, and sustenance in his own life.

The disciple’s bold request was met with an even bolder answer. Jesus taught His followers a blueprint for prayer that resonates as powerfully today as it did two thousand years ago. Let’s look at four parts of the prayer the Lord taught His disciples to discover how we can pray like Jesus.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus establishes His priorities immediately in His prayer. He wants to do God’s will. Period. He emphasizes that point in John 6:38: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Jesus sets the tone of His prayer early so that everything that follows will align with His primary purpose.

They’re not easy words to say and mean. Putting God’s will and His kingdom first means sacrificing our own wants and needs. In Jesus’ case, it eventually meant sacrificing something much more precious. Matthew 26:39 records another prayer of Jesus, this one in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before He’s arrested. Jesus knows that in a matter of hours, God will turn His full wrath on Him to punish Him for the sins of the world. He’s facing unimaginable agony.

In his prayer, Jesus asks God to remove His suffering—but only if it’s God’s will to do so. Jesus’ first priority is for God’s will to be done, even it means torture and death for Him. He doesn’t just pray the words; He lives them—and dies for them. If we make God’s will our first priority, we’ll discover what it means to be used in powerful ways by Him. We’ll also discover the enormous potential of prayer that Jesus tapped into.

Give us day by day our daily bread.

Jesus emphasizes the importance of daily dependence on God. He doesn’t ask for a week’s worth of blessings. He asks only for today, because He looks forward to tomorrow’s prayerful encounter with God. He craves daily interaction with His heavenly Father.

That’s how God prefers to work too. In Exodus 16, he sends a morning batch of manna for the Israelites to gather, prepare, and eat. The next morning, He sends another batch. God wants His people to rely on Him daily for our provisions. Not only does it keep us close to Him, but it helps us maintain a constant awareness of where our provisions come from.

Staying focused on the Lord’s blessings of today also keeps us from giving in to anxiety about the future. Jesus emphasizes this point in Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

This portion of the Lord’s Prayer is for our benefit. Jesus was sinless. He had nothing to ask forgiveness for. We, on the other hand, need forgiveness daily. So Jesus helps us understand that forgiveness is a two-part process. We receive forgiveness from God and offer forgiveness to others.

In that sense, it’s similar to the apostle John’s teaching in 1 John 4:11: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” We love others because God loved us first. He showed us the way. It would be hypocritical to hoard His love without sharing it with others. The same goes for His forgiveness. We forgive others because God has forgiven us. Forgiveness, then, becomes common ground between us and God. It brings us closer to Him.

And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

God always provides a means of delivery when His people face temptation. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Jesus was no stranger to temptation. Before He started His public ministry, He embarked on a forty-day fast in the wilderness. Seeing that Jesus was physically weakened, the devil appeared to Him and tempted Him three times. Three times Jesus countered Satan’s temptations by quoting Scripture. The Word of God was His means of delivery from temptation. Satan was no match for it and had to leave in defeat.

That same means of delivery is available to us today. So our prayer should be for God to remind us of His Word when we face temptation.

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8 Bible Verses to Ease Your Anxiety

Diagnoses of anxiety have risen sharply in recent years, but the problem is anything but a modern epidemic. In fact, anxiety is one of the very oldest of human afflictions. The first recorded cases can be traced to the moment Adam and Eve discovered that they were naked and exposed to God (see Genesis 3:10). Many of the best-known people in Scripture experienced bouts of anxiety. Perhaps that’s why God filled His Word with wisdom that speaks to our anxious spirits.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by circumstances or struggling with feelings of anxiety, spend some time in the following passages. You may find the comfort and assurance you need to ease your anxious spirit.

Psalm 139:13

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).

No one knows more about the inner workings of your mind and emotions than God does. Spending quiet time with Him on a daily basis will go a long way toward easing an anxious mind.

Matthew 6:25-27

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6:25–27).

The source of your anxiety, whatever it is, matters dearly to God. You can leave it to Him. If you need evidence of that, look up and around you. God cares for the birds of the air—the robins, the hummingbirds, even the vultures. Humans have greater value to Him than birds do, so how much more will He pay attention to your needs?

Joshua 1: 5-6

I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:5–6).

God doesn’t promise to shield us from situations that make us anxious. He doesn’t promise to make worrisome circumstances go away. Instead, He promises to accompany us through every anxiety-ridden situation we face. He gives us the courage, strength, and endurance we need to overcome our anxiety, one battle at a time.

Psalm 13:5

But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation” (Psalm 13:5).

After crying out to God in anguish, David acknowledges the Lord’s power and plan. Follow his example and place your trust in God, even when anxious thoughts and worries cause you to feel less than trusting.

Matthew 11:28

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Anxiety is a heavy burden to carry, so heavy that sometimes it takes all your emotional strength not to buckle under its weight. That can leave you weakened, unable to deal with other responsibilities. Instead of trying to shoulder the burden of anxiety alone, take up the Lord on His offer. Give Him everything that makes you apprehensive or worried. Exchange your heavy load for His rest and peace of mind.

Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7).

Prayer is the most effective weapon we have. No anxiety is too severe for God to handle. No worry is too insignificant for Him to care about. If something affects us or robs us of our joy, God wants us to share it with Him. He wants to counteract it with His peace.

1 Peter 5:7

“[Cast] all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Anxiety is baggage. The more we struggle with it, the heavier it becomes. Trying to carry it alone is exhausting. We may be able to handle it for a while. We may even be able to convince others that we’re not overly exerting ourselves. Eventually, though, the effort will wear us out. Instead of exhausting our own limited strength, why don’t we give our anxieties to someone who can handle them? Not only is Jesus glad to accept them, but He knows exactly what to do with them.

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).

When you see people struggling with anxiety, take time to walk alongside them and provide comfort and peace during their volatile moments. Show them how to give their anxiety to God. Talk about your own experiences with giving your burdens to Him. Let them know that they aren’t alone.

Likewise, when you struggle with anxiety, let someone else help you bear your burdens. Turn to other believers with your struggle. Be open and honest about what you’re experiencing. Don’t hesitate to ask others for assistance. After all, we’re all part of the same body.

 

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For more encouragement from the Word of God, learn more about the Lucado Encouraging Word Bible. The Lucado Encouraging Word Bible is designed to encourage believers along their journey with the Lord. Max Lucado’s warm, conversational style ensures that the marginal notes, short articles, and various study tools meet you where you are, providing encouragement and insight. This Bible will strengthen you as you follow the included reading plan and incorporate this Bible into your daily devotional life. The 30-day study guide will help you jumpstart this practice. This Bible will help you as a believer, and with Pastor Lucado’s gentle yet powerful notes, it’s a beautiful gift for your non-believing friends and family who could use some encouragement with Scripture. Shop now!

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Somewhere Between Yesterday’s Tragedy and Tomorrow’s Triumph

Your Encouraging Word fromMax Lucado’s Encouraging Word Bible, NIV

How far can we go with verses like this one: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)? Does “all things” include tumors and tests and tempers and terminations? John would answer yes. John would tell you that God can turn any tragedy into a triumph, if only you will wait and watch.

John’s Tragedy

Could there have been a greater tragedy for John than a dead Jesus? Three years earlier John had turned his back on his career and cast his lot with this Nazarene carpenter. Earlier in the week John had enjoyed a tickertape parade as Jesus and the disciples entered Jerusalem. Oh, how quickly things had turned! The people who had called Him king on Sunday called for His death the following Friday. These linens were a tangible reminder that his friend and his future were wrapped in cloth and sealed behind a rock.

John didn’t know on that Friday what you and I now know. He didn’t know that Friday’s tragedy would be Sunday’s triumph. John would later confess that he “did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9).

That’s why what he did on Saturday is so important.

John Didn’t Leave

We don’t know anything about this day; we have no passage to read, no knowledge to share. All we know is this: When Sunday came, John was still present. When Mary Magdalene came looking for him, she found him.

Jesus was dead. The Master’s body was lifeless. John’s friend and future were buried. But John had not left. Why? Was he waiting for the resurrection? No. As far as he knew, the lips were forever silent and the hands forever still. He wasn’t expecting a Sunday surprise. Then why was he here?

You’d think he would have left. Who was to say that the men who crucified Christ wouldn’t come after him? The crowds were pleased with one crucifixion; the religious leaders might have called for more. Why didn’t John get out of town?

Perhaps the answer was pragmatic; perhaps he was taking care of Jesus’ mother. Or perhaps he didn’t have anywhere else to go. Could be he didn’t have any money or energy or direction . . . or all of the above.

Or maybe he lingered because he loved Jesus.

Jesus Was His Friend

To others, Jesus was a miracle worker. To others, Jesus was a master teacher. To others, Jesus was the hope of Israel. But to John, He was all of these and more. To John, Jesus was a friend.

You don’t abandon a friend—not even when that friend is dead. John stayed close to Jesus.

He had a habit of doing this. He was close to Jesus in the upper room. He was close to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was at the foot of the Cross at the crucifixion, and he was a quick walk from the tomb at the burial.

Did he understand Jesus? No.

Was he glad Jesus did what He did? No.

But did he leave Jesus? No.

What About You?

What about you? When you’re in John’s position, what do you do? When it’s Saturday in your life, how do you react? When you are somewhere between yesterday’s tragedy and tomorrow’s triumph, what do you do? Do you leave God—or do you linger near Him?

John chose to linger. And because he lingered on Saturday, he was around on Sunday to see the miracle. When life takes a negative turn, God can turn heartache (Ruth 1:21) into blessing (4:14–15).

Which takes us back to the question. Could God do something similar in your life? Could He take what today is a token of tragedy and turn it into a symbol of triumph?  Do you feel like God’s abandoned you? Don’t give up! Pray that He will give you the patience to see the situation through, and thank Him in advance for what He is going to do.

 

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Content in this post taken from The Lucado Encouraging Word Bible. The Lucado Encouraging Word Bible is designed to encourage believers along their journey with the Lord. Max Lucado’s warm, conversational style ensures that the marginal notes, short articles, and various study tools meet you where you are, providing encouragement and insight. This Bible will strengthen you as you follow the included reading plan and incorporate this Bible into your daily devotional life. The 30-day study guide will help you jumpstart this practice. This Bible will help you as a believer, and with Pastor Lucado’s gentle yet powerful notes, it’s a beautiful gift for your non-believing friends and family who could use some encouragement with Scripture.

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A Deeper Dive Into Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29:11—with its references to God’s plans, prosperity, protection from harm, peace, and a future filled with hope—is often offered as a spiritual “security blanket” to people who are struggling. The verse has inspired and comforted countless believers who interpret it to mean that if they endure their immediate circumstances, they will emerge victorious, triumphant, and celebrated in God’s ultimate plan of prosperity. They anticipate a moment when their suffering ends and their flourishing begins.

Israel in Exile

The context of the Old Testament passage, however, casts a different light on the verse. Here’s the situation. The people of Israel were in exile in Babylon. Their homeland had been conquered by the Babylonians, and they had been taken prisoners as punishment for their disobedience to God.

In exile, the Israelites were desperate for hope. And a false prophet named Hananiah was only too happy to take advantage of their desperation. Hananiah proclaimed that God would free the Israelites from captivity and return them to their homeland within two years, which was a lie. So the task fell to Jeremiah, the true prophet of God, to set matters straight.

God’s True Plan

Jeremiah exposes Hananiah’s lie, and in Jeremiah 29:11 he quotes God’s actual promise. The Lord did, in fact, have a plan for the Israelites—one that offered hope and a prospering future. But it wasn’t the plan that the Israelites envisioned. In fact, God’s plan was approximately 180 degrees from what the Israelites envisioned.

The details of God’s plan are tied to a set of instructions found four verses earlier. “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7). God linked the Israelites’ hope and future prosperity to the success and prosperity of Babylon.

Hope in Captivity

In order to realize the blessings of God’s promise, the Israelites had to pray for and work toward the prosperity of their enemies, the very people who had made them slaves! The hope and future God had in store for them did not include an immediate return to their homeland or the restoration of their freedom—the two things the Israelites wanted most. In fact, in verse 10, God announces that the Babylonian captivity would last for “seventy years.” The generation of Israelites to whom Jeremiah prophesied had no hope of ever seeing their homeland again.

What they had instead was hope in the midst of captivity—the unexpected hope that is revealed through spiritual growth, the hard-earned spiritual growth that occurs only through perseverance, the perseverance that is learned from enduring difficult circumstances with God’s help.

What is Our Hope?

So what do we take away from Jeremiah 29:11? First, if we put our trust in Christ, we can anticipate an ultimately glorious future—one spent in God’s presence for eternity. Second, God’s plans for His people in this world rarely involve helping us escape from our trials completely. He doesn’t make our suffering disappear. Instead, He helps us persevere through them. He helps us grow and mature in ways we wouldn’t otherwise grow and mature apart from tough times. He helps us find joy in the unlikeliest of circumstances. It’s the kind of joy that affects not just our lives but the lives of others as well. He prospers us in ways that expand our understanding of prosperity.

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Hear more encouragement in The Lucado Encouraging Word Bible, available now!

Lucado Encouraging Word Bible is designed to encourage believers along their journey with the Lord. Max Lucado’s warm, conversational style ensures that the marginal notes, short articles, and various study tools meet you where you are, providing encouragement and insight. This Bible will strengthen you as you follow the included reading plan and incorporate this Bible into your daily devotional life.

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4 Passages to Spark Your Spiritual Growth

Arrested development isn’t an option for followers of Christ. We have a sacred responsibility to mature continuously in our faith, to become more Christlike, to grow more attuned to God’s will. Maintaining a spiritual status quo does no one any good. The Lord urges us to dive deeply into Scripture so that we can become the disciples He intends us to be.

Here are four passages that will inspire you to grow in Christ or give you an accurate assessment of your spiritual maturity.

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Chronological age has little to do with spiritual maturity. Paul urges his young protégé Timothy to embrace the role of leadership that had presented itself. Instead of looking to others for guidance, Paul encourages Timothy to blaze his own spiritual trail, using what he had learned from the godly examples of his mother and grandmother, from the mentoring he received from Paul, from his understanding of Scripture, and from the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

That same opportunity is available to you, regardless of your age. The more you understand about what it means to be a disciple and live for Christ, the more powerfully you can influence other people’s lives. You can serve as an example to other believers in the things you say and don’t say, the way you conduct your personal and public business, the love you show to friends and enemies alike, the spirit of joy you allow to shine through you regardless of circumstances, the strength of your faith in Christ, and the priority you place on purity.

 “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

One of the best ways to gauge your spiritual growth is to look at yourself from the perspective of people who dislike you. Can they see Christ in you? Can they spot the difference He’s made in your life? Can they get a sense of God’s love from the way you treat them? If the answer is no, it’s time to reassess your discipleship and figure out what is preventing the love of Christ from flowing freely through you to others.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3–4).

Spiritual growth sharpens your vision. It allows you to see the opportunities that are hidden in the tribulations, challenges, and suffering you face. Without that sharpened vision, you may be tempted to feel discouraged, frustrated, or even defeated by trying circumstances. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul reveals the positive impact that tribulations can have if you approach them with the right spirit.

Every time you endure a tribulation by turning to God and His Word, not only do you grow spiritually, but you also build a deeper understanding of perseverance. Perseverance gives you confidence when facing your next tribulation. It also builds character within you. You start to think of yourself as someone who can withstand tribulation with God’s help. Once you establish a godly character, you can carry a sense of hope into any situation.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9–10).

You’re not the only person who has a vested interest in your spiritual growth. Think of the person (or persons) who led you to Christ. Think of your family members and friends who pray for you every day, as Paul prayed for the Colossian believers. Think of the people in your church—your fellow members in the body of Christ—who need you to pull your weight as you accomplish God’s work together.

These people aren’t just rooting for your spiritual growth; they’re also drawing strength from it. They’re eyewitnesses to the Lord’s maturing work in you. They’re finding new reasons to praise and glorify God because of you. Those who are struggling may take hope and inspiration from your spiritual growth. The final takeaway, then, is that your spiritual growth is important for reasons that extend far beyond yourself.

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7 Scriptures Explaining Our True Identity in Christ

Sep 25, 2019 |

What is our true identity in Christ? A significant portion of the New Testament is devoted to answering that question. In order to fully embrace our identity, we need to understand the extraordinary privileges and responsibilities associated with it. These seven key passages offer clear insight.

1. John 1:12 – You Are a Child of God

Receiving Jesus as Lord changes our relationship status with God. We become His children. He welcomes us into His presence as all loving parents welcome their children. He delights in us. He knows what’s ultimately best for us and steers us toward it. Knowing that we can approach Him as a child approaches his or her father gives us peace of mind, confidence, and hope.

2. John 15:5 – You Are Given Everything You Need

The fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—grows in our lives as apples grow on the branches of an apple tree. As appendages of the tree (or “vine”), we’re nourished by something greater than ourselves. Jesus’ work within us produces qualities and characteristics that draw people to us—and to Him.

3. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – You Are Uniquely Gifted

One of God’s most precious gifts to His children is His Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul explains it, when we choose to follow Christ, our bodies become temples in which the Holy Spirit dwells. From within, He performs His vital work of guiding us, convicting us of sin, helping us understand and apply God’s Word, and communicating our prayers to our Heavenly Father. We have the opportunity to bring glory to God in the way we care for our bodies—or temples. By taking care of ourselves, we glorify Him.

4. 1 Corinthians 12:27 – You Are Part of Something Important

Every follower of Christ is a part of His body. Together we accomplish His work in the world. Individually, each member of Christ’s body plays a key role in its effectiveness. If one body part fails to do its job, the entire body suffers. Our identity in Christ gives us extra incentive to complete the work He’s given us, using the talents and abilities He’s given us.

5. 2 Corinthians 5:17 – You Are a New Person

When we assume our identity in Christ, we don’t become improved versions of our old selves. We become something else entirely: a new creation. That means we’re no longer tied to the mistakes of our past. We no longer have to carry the guilt and shame of past offenses. We’re no longer slaves to old desires and habits. In God’s eyes, we’re pure and spotless.

6. Galatians 2:20 – You Are All In

Our identity in Christ results from our being all-in. We no longer have the freedom to take back the reins when it suits us. Our lives are His—not for better or worse, but for better and best.

7. Colossians 3:12 – You Are Jesus’ Representative

As members of God’s family, we’re understandably (and rightfully) held to a higher standard in the way we interact with others. We have an opportunity to give others a glimpse of Christ’s mercy, patience, and kindness. If we humbly point to Christ as the One who makes those qualities possible in our lives, we may help others find their own identity in Him.

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