Well, Christmas is upon us again! December 25th seems to roll around earlier and earlier each year. Are you ready?
Among all the holiday festivities, Christians everywhere are gearing up to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And they should since He is the Reason for the Season! Yes, long before Santa Claus stole the show, Jesus’ birth was (and for many of us still is) the centerpiece of the day.
But what does the Bible say about celebrating Jesus’ birth? Would it surprise you to know we are not commanded to commemorate it?
Other than the recorded account of Mary’s pregnancy and His birth (Luke 1-2), it doesn’t say anything about an established celebration. Now, that’s in stark contrast to the Lord’s Supper, which commemorates Jesus’ death and was given to us by Jesus Himself as a command to do regularly (Matt. 26:17-30, Luke 22:7-23, Mark 14:12-26).
Therefore, I ask, should we celebrate Christmas?
Absolutely!!! In fact, we need to celebrate everything about Jesus every day! In a world that is growing increasing dark, we need to shine the light that has been strategically placed in our hearts on every occasion. And since Christmas, one of the largest holiday celebrations of the year, draws people from all walks of life to the Church, we need to maximize that opportunity to share the love of our Savior with the world.
The fact of the matter is there is no Christmas without Christ. To overlook the sacrifice He made to leave Heaven and dwell among us is unfathomable. Therefore, we must continue to tell His story from beginning to forever!
In that vein, I would just like to pull a few truths out of the nativity story that are tucked behind the scenes and yet are so critical in telling Jesus’ story.
First, we so easily forget that Jesus’ existence didn’t start here on earth at His physical birth, but that He was One with the Father prior to that fateful day and that Their existence has never been constrained to what we know as time.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:1, 14 KJV
Second, His entire purpose in being born was to die for our sins and restore our relationship with the Father. (John 3:16-17)
Matthew Henry once said: “Come, and see the victories of the cross. Christ’s wounds are thy healings, His agonies thy repose, His conflicts thy conquests, His groans thy songs, His pains thine ease, His shame thy glory, His death thy life, His sufferings thy salvation.”
And lastly, there is no purpose in Christmas without the victory of Calvary, which is celebrated at Easter.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 15:55-57 ESV
I hope these truths speak to you and bring your Christmas celebration to an even deeper level. Oh, by all means, enjoy your family, the food, and the exchanging of gifts! But this Christmas, let His story draw you back in again and remind you of the true joy we celebrate. My Christmas wish for you is that your heart will overflow with the love of the Father and the sacrifice of the Son.
And don’t forget, tell His story!!!
Scripture References from:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
King James Version (KJV). Pubic domain.
As we celebrate Veterans Day this weekend, I can’t help but think of my father. He served in the Korean War as part of the 1st Cavalry Division. I am fascinated by the fact that he drove a tank! My dad was an average size man, very quiet, gentle in his approach. However, when he was displeased, you knew it! Even still, it is hard for me to imagine him pushing against the tide of North Koreans in a tank or wielding the type of guns they used, but he did.
As I grew up, he never talked about the war unless he was with someone else who had been there, and even then, the conversation was short-lived. That, I know, is pretty typical of most vets.
Today, I hope you will take a moment to honor a vet and thank them for their service. I also hope, as a Christian, you will go one step further and remember some spiritual veterans who paved the way for us to have a relationship with the Everlasting God.
Long ago, there was a little band of brothers called the 12 apostles who forged out in faith against the darkness in this world. Even though their commanding officer had returned to central command, they fought on. They followed their CO’s last directive with passion and persistence until pockets of believers could be found everywhere.
The directive went like this:
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Had they not bravely preached the gospel no matter what befell them, we would have no hope today. By carrying out their orders, under fire in most cases, they brought light to a dying world.
And what caused them to be so brave. Well, Paul probably said it best:
If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31
Today, let’s remember the brave men and women who fought for the United States, so that we can freely worship the One True King. But let’s also remember those that brought us the gospel and fought the good fight of faith!
Happy Veterans Day!!
Blessings to you and yours,
Scriptures taken from:
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Do you need a little wisdom today? Hear directly from God through the words of Solomon. Dive into the book of Proverbs for the next five days!!!
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30
I used to say: “When I get old, I’ll just age gracefully.” Now that I’m 45, I’m starting to feel the need to fight it for all it’s worth!! Funny how time changes the way we feel about some things. So, what really makes a woman praiseworthy? According to this Proverbs, it is a woman who “fears the Lord.”
Interesting remark from a man that had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 King 11:3). That’s a lot of estrogen!!!
I imagine as King Solomon grew older, so did his needs. Fading with the beauty of his wives was his youthful lust for physical contact. Instead, in his maturity, he would now long for true companionship more than anything. Thus, as he interacted with the many women in his life, those who most likely stood out were the women who were virtuous, loyal, and feared God. These are the women that Solomon would find comfort in; and thus, his revelation about a person’s inner beauty became obvious.
Today, let’s remember at the core of a Proverbs 31 woman is her fear of the Lord and that for that she is worthy of praise!
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
Do you often find yourself trying to figure life out all by yourself? It’s easy to fall into this mindset. We often assume God must be terribly busy with something extremely important and that what we are facing is probably incredibly small in comparison. Surely, we can fix the problem. Sometimes the answer just seems to be dangling out there in front of us.
But this verse from Proverbs teaches that we must trust God and not rely only on our understanding of the problem. God uses all kinds of situations to bring about the display of His glory. He so delicately sets up the circumstances that we could never imagine in our wildest dreams how it all fits together in His overall plan.
And when we overstep and try to resolve the issue without Him, well, we all know it usually doesn’t turn out so well.
For today, let’s practice tying down that free spirit of ours and allow the One who sees how all the parts fit together to guide us.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
Ever heard the saying: “You need to use that head of yours for something other than a coat rack.” At our house, my husband has used that phrase over and over to emphasize to our son that he needs to use his brain (aka, good sense) when making decisions. Especially, important ones!
As a society, we focus a lot on the power of our brain, but in the Bible, the heart is discussed more often. Why? I think the Lord answers that question in Proverbs 4:23.
Our spiritual heart contains multiple spaces in which we store experiences, memories, and emotions. It is our brain that helps us interpret these things, but the heart is the source from which they come. The heart can at times greatly influence the decisions we make either good or bad. From it can come actions of generosity, unconditional love, empathy, and compassion. Yet, from this same heart comes bitterness, backbiting, and anger.
When we find ourselves in a frustrating, fearful, or unloving state of mind, we need to turn back to our heart to find out what has caused these emotions to bubble to the surface. Once we can identify the deeply rooted source of our emotions, we need to acknowledge it and ask God to do a little spiritual surgery.
Are you guarding your heart? What steps can you take to make sure that you are not allowing certain things to take root in your heart and cause sinful emotions to build up?
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10
Proverbs 9:10 is probably one of my favorite Proverbs. Having gone through a period where I rediscovered my faith on a deeper level, it is my life verse. It is a great verse to emphasize to those in Christianity that appear to be going through the motions why they need to develop their relationship with Jesus further.
In essence, this proverb is telling us that we can “know of” God and have a deep reverence for Him, but still not “know” Jesus. And since we know that Jesus is the truth, the way, and life (John 14:6), just knowing of God doesn’t bring us into the authentic relationship that is necessary to either be saved from our sins or live the life Jesus came to bring us.
By entering into a relationship with Jesus, we gain an understanding of God and His ways that we cannot come to any other way.
Today, meditate on this verse. Consider whether you or someone you care about has knowledge of the Holy One. Use this verse to help others understand the difference between “knowing of” and “knowing.”
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22
Coming from a nursing background, I can tell you this verse from Proverbs is TRUE. I cannot tell you how many patients I have cared for over the years that had a positive attitude and carried on through their diagnosis without issue, even when it ended in death. However, I have also witnessed numerous patients with a negative attitude tragically suffer through their illness day after day.
Even in the most dire of circumstances, Jesus can bring joy to our hearts. An infusion of joy makes life bearable. Joy is also considered one of the nine fruits of the Spirit. If we are allowing Jesus to rule in our life, we should have an abundance of joy to offset the times of grief and despair we all go through.
On the other hand, allowing a crushed spirit to remain within us only leads to a desperate existence.
But how do we get our joy back when we suffer some less than joyous moments in life? As tough as it is sometimes, there are some steps we can take to start turning the tide back to a life filled with joy:
Today I pray that if you are going through something depressing, disappointing, frustrating, or just plain chaotic, that you will reach for the One that can bring joy back to your heart! It’s the best medicine there is.
Blessings to you and yours!
I hope you are enjoying your summer break!! I took some time to refuel and refocus. Lots of great things have happened this summer! The biggest development is that Transforming Love Ministries will start a community-wide Bible study in Hampton Roads, VA this fall. It launches September 12th. More to come on that later.
In the meantime, be on the look out for new blog posts by the end of August! Next week, I will be posting some photos of my trip to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. I leave this Friday, August 4th, and will be back in country within a week. Looking forward to partnering with Verbo Church and the orphanage there as we do each year. You can also follow along at: https://www.facebook.com/ElaineLankfordTLM
So get ready!!! Good things are coming your way!
Blessings to you and yours!
When my son was a small child, my husband used to tease with him most days. Their little banter back and forth has always been fun to watch. As my son has gotten older, the remarks have become sharper and wittier than ever. But what warms my heart the most is the relationship they have.
I giggle to think back to the time when my husband would quote this scripture to Nicholas:
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Colossians 3:20
Back then Nicholas was too young to make a highly sophisticated statement in return. But he was old enough to read!
So being the mother that I am, I thought it appropriate to help arm my child with the Word of God. That night I took Nicholas to his room and showed him a little scripture he could use. Although it was admittedly a way to tease my husband, I took a few minutes to teach Nicholas how important it is to know God’s Word and to be able to use it to defend ourselves as children of God.
The smile on Nicholas’ face was worth a million dollars! He was armed and ready!
The next time my husband referenced Colossians, Nicholas raced to his room, grabbed his Bible, flipped to where we had marked it, and proudly came back into the den and proclaimed:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
I thought the three of us would never stop laughing that night! Well played Nicholas, well played!
Have you ever stopped to think about your heavenly Father? I mean really meditated on the fact that those of us who belong to Christ get to call the creator of the universe “Abba, Father.” And on top of that, we have this great Savior who gave His life so we could be a part of the Kingdom of God. There has never been a father and son relationship like it, and there never will be again.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7
So intertwined is the relationship of the Father, the Son, and we shouldn’t forget the Holy Spirit, that one is not without the other. Though we long for our human relationships to be this close, I am certain that until we enter the Kingdom, we will never be able to imagine this closeness.
As Father’s Day approaches, take some time to reflect on the dynamic relationship of the Father and the Son!
I would love to hear your stories about fathers and sons. If you would like to share, leave a comment!
Blessings to you and yours!
PS: In honor of Father’s Day, here are two more posts I have done in the past concerning fathers. Enjoy!
All scripture taken from the:
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Most often when we hear the word furious we think of its meaning as being enraged, angry, or irate. But furious also means passionate, which lends itself to descriptions such as intense, fervent, and heartfelt.
Now during Mother’s Day, I took a little time just to breathe. (I hope you did too!) And while reflecting on Mother’s Day, I was reminded of the mother of all mothers. Not Eve, but Mary, the mother of Jesus. And that led me to thoughts on a mother’s love. So what does a mother’s love and the term furious have to do with each other? Not necessarily what you think!
Yep, our children can make us angry sometimes, but they also bring out some of our best emotions too! So let’s look at Mary, and learn how deep a mother’s love can go.
Although Mary was a human, and infallible as the rest of us, she was also a faith-filled woman who carried out God’s will no matter the cost to herself. Today, let’s give a little thought to what she did and reflect on her motherhood.
When most of us think of Mary, we think of a woman. But when God came to Mary, she was merely a child, most likely in her early teens. Can you see her, a young teenage Jewish girl in a long flowing dress that reached her ankles with even her hair covered by cloth? She had never held a man’s hand, let alone kissed one. And then, one day out of the blue, an angel came to tell her she was going to have a baby. And not just a baby, but the Son of the most high God!
In that moment, at that age, how would you have handled it? I know my immaturity would have come flying out, and like most teenage girls, the drama would have started! But not Mary! In the scriptures, she demonstrates maturity beyond her years. After asking what and how this is going to happen, she simply states:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 ESV)
Mary could not have known all that would unfold, yet she trusted in the Lord. Wow!
Months later, in the middle of the night, in the town of Bethlehem, this child bears a child in a stable filled with animals and smells we don’t even want to imagine –no nurses or doctors attending to her needs, no epidural to ease the pain of childbirth, no comforts of home. And once the process is completed, she lays her child wrapped in some strips of cloth in a manager (a feeding trough) full of straw.
Years would go by, and she would raise Him in the traditions of the Jewish people. Even though Mary had other children later in life, she knew this child was no ordinary child. Where could it all be leading?
Mary’s support of Him was unwavering. She was there when Jesus performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). And she would be there through it all. Watching His ministry grow, seeing the crowds that flocked to Him, hearing the things He did as He traveled the countryside.
I imagine Mary had mixed emotions most of the time. Pride for a son that was able to do such great things in the name of God, and fear that all this attention Jesus was drawing might make some people angry. Yet, most likely, down deep in her heart, she knew this was God’s will. But that would never replace the protectiveness she felt as a mother.
Then, on what must have been the most gut-wrenching day of her life, she hears that Jesus has been arrested. How could this be? What could He have possibly done? I can see her frantic to get more information and desperate to know what is happening.
As those last days of Jesus’ life play out, I cannot imagine the pain and anguish she suffered. Here was her child, and she was helpless to help Him! She had held Him close in the stable the night of His birth, and watched Him sleep for hours. She had washed and bandaged the cuts and bruises he received as a boy of eight years old playing outside. She would have rejoiced at His thirteen birthday as per the Jewish custom. And during His early years of life, she would have watched Him turn into a mature young man who any mother would love to have – humble, gracious, generous, and kind.
But now, her child was being paraded in the streets, beaten and bleeding, carrying a cross on which He would be hung. But Mary would not turn away! In scripture, we find her close by as the nails are driven into His hands and feet. The tears would have been impossible to hold back as the cross is resurrected.
She would have been inconsolable after He took His last breath. As His body laid in a tomb, she would have mourned deep and hard, at times pushing away those who wanted to ease her pain.
Then after the third day, the impossible would happen. She would be told He is alive. Her mind would have raced at the thought of seeing Him again. Her arms longing to hug His neck. Could it be true?
And then suddenly, He was there! Standing in front of her –her child lives! What joy must have washed over her, and then amazement at the thought of what was happening. Peace would once again come to Mary’s heart.
Mary is a mother who loved furiously. Her faith in her God is the only explanation of how one woman could bear so much joy and pain in one lifetime. God has indeed created mothers with a capacity to love their children to depths beyond reason. But in order to do so, we must also love our God with all of our heart.
Not only as a mother, but as a woman, can you say to God – I am Your servant, let Your will be done?
And by the way, the inability to bear children does not discount your ability to be both a mother and a servant of God. We ourselves are adopted children of God, and therefore, those who adopt children into their life and love them as if they are their own are equally special to Him.
I know how I feel about my one and only son. I don’t know if I could have done what Mary did, but I am grateful that she allowed the Lord to use her. I do know, however, what it is to love a child furiously, and more importantly, I know that I have a Savior who loves me the same way!
What does Mary’s love of Jesus teach you? And what stories can you share about your own love for your children or that of your mother’s love for you?
Happy Mother’s Day!
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Have you ever pictured it? Pictured the empty tomb on that glorious Sunday morning? What wonder and awe it held. Inside, the body of Jesus had been laid to rest after His crucifixion. But on that joyous and triumphant morning, the stone that sealed the tomb, though heavy in nature, was rolled aside and a bare tomb revealed!
And yet, a few days earlier, it was just a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin who secretly believed in Jesus. After Jesus’ crucifixion, placing himself in danger of social and religious exclusion, Joseph requested the body of Jesus so he could properly bury Him.
Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth. Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance. Mark 15:46
What did the tomb look like? Well, in the days of Jesus, tombs were carved-out areas in the stony parts of the city or surrounding hillside. According to past records and historical analysis, the tomb where Jesus was laid is believed to have been in a garden previously owned by Joseph of Arimathea and is within the city of Jerusalem. Inside most tombs, multiple shelves on which to lay several family members were chiseled out. The tomb of Jesus contains two.
You can see the actual tomb that is believed to be the burial site of Jesus HERE.
When I think of the lavish ways in which we now bury our dead in cushioned coffins and fancy dress, the tomb of Jesus seems extremely cold and dark. His body was laid out in the openness of this miniature man-made cave. Only linen cloth would be wrapped around Him. There would be no funeral, as the lateness in the day would have required quick action to complete the initial work of preparing the body according to Jewish custom.
I can almost hear stone scraping against stone as Joseph would roll a rounded stone in front of the tomb entrance to close it off. And then there would be utter silence as night fell.
One night would pass, then two, and then three…
For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. Matthew 12:40
Unlike our traditional view that Jesus was buried on Friday and raised on Sunday, the scriptures tell a very different story. Jesus was very clear that he would be buried 3 days and 3 nights. To understand what day Jesus was crucified and buried on, you must account for Jewish tradition. The events in scripture, when reviewed carefully and in the order they occurred, revealed that Jesus was buried on Wednesday, lying in the grave Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night. He arose on Saturday! Remember, Saturday is considered a Sabbath day in Jewish tradition, and it ends at sunset. In other words, the start of Sunday is in the evening.
Mary and the other women went back to Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning around sunrise, having purchased spices the evening prior after sunset (start of Sunday) to complete their burial ritual, but Jesus had already been raised from the dead the day before! Here are two sets of scriptures that support the events as described above:
Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. Mark 16:1-4
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. John 20:1
To see all the evidence that backs up this timeline, read this ARTICLE.
However, what is most important about the story is the fact that the tomb was found EMPTY! (Well, except for an angel that is!)
When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Mark 16:5-6
And that, my friend, is the basis of our belief! HE IS RISEN!!!
Our Savior lives! There was no body to find. He has defeated death, He sits at the right hand of God, and He is coming back again!!!
I hope you enjoy this Easter Sunday with your family. I hope it is filled with joy and laughter. But most of all, among the food and the consumerism of the day, I hope you take some time to contemplate the emptiness of the tomb and all that it means!! Easter is about our wonderful, amazing, powerful, holy, and LIVING Savior!!!
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Are you someone who is always looking for a great Bible study to complete? Do you get excited when one of your favorite authors comes out with a great book that you can use for small group? If so, plan now to attend the 2017 Bible Study Expo! It’s free, it’s online, and it’s coming Friday, March 31, 2017 from 12-3 PT, 1-4 MT, 2-5 CT, 3-6 ET.
If you’re like me, I love the Bible, and I love a good book. So, when I can find a great book that explores the Bible, I am all over it!
The 2017 Bible Study Expo will introduce you to 12 of the latest books out by authors who have God in mind! The best part of the Expo is you get to hear from the authors themselves. Each author will spend about 15-20 minutes discussing what their book is about, what inspired them to write it, and what message God has laid on their hearts to tell.
Here is a list of this year’s authors and their newly published books:
I can tell you from personally meeting both Suzanne Eller and Liz Curtis Higgs that they are true women of God who delight in His word. Suzanne Eller is both an author in her own right as well as a member of the Proverbs 31 team, which produces a variety of devotional materials. Liz Curtis Higgs is the author of over 30 books and adored but her fans for her quick wit and extraordinary storytelling ability. Those two interviews alone are worth attending!
I hope you find the Expo both entertaining and insightful, but most of all, I hope you find Jesus waiting to teach you another great lesson through some very talented folks!!! You can find the 2017 Bible Study Expo at www.BibleStudyExpo.com. Be sure to register to win a FREE book from one of the authors!
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV
I’ll see you at the Expo!
There I was sincere, genuine, Jesus-loving me going into a full-blown meltdown! And it was getting ugly! I wanted to blame everything – my household responsibilities, my husband, being an entrepreneur, and most especially my hormones! Yet I knew, underneath it all, I was letting my thoughts get out of control. That’s what mindshifting is – letting your train of thought take you from logical to illogical thinking OR vice versa.
Unfortunately, our thought life always seems to be hanging in the balance, ready to come unraveled at any time. It takes practice to learn how to control those thoughts and images that come into our minds. Since they are so tightly connected to our emotions, if our emotions are yo-yoing, chances are our thought life is as well.
So how do Christians finally break this cycle?
First, we must remember that God has given us control over our thought life. Through the power of Jesus, we need to use our authority in this area daily. In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul states: “We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ.” (AMP)
Paul had learned that it not only takes effort, but warring against negativity, to control the thoughts that entered his mind. Though there will be some trial and error, we must not give in to a nature that tries to convince us we cannot win in this area.
Next, we must allow God’s Word to come in and replace those thoughts that are trying to distract and destroy us. Paul instructs us in Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (NKJV)
Third, in Ephesians, Paul gives us a picture of the armor of God, which every Christian should use to defend themselves from the enemy. To assist us in controlling our thoughts, Paul states “put on salvation as your helmet” (Ephesians 6:17 NLT). By knowing who we are in Christ – the saved and redeemed – we can proudly turn away any thoughts that try to convince us that we are still trapped by our past.
Lastly, we need to replace bad thoughts with good thoughts. Again, Paul gives sound advice in Philippians 4:8 when he states: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)
How did Paul get so smart about mindshifting? Well, he had some serious challenges to work through.
We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 (NLT)
Can you imagine being in even one of those scenarios? Yet, Paul suffered them all. Was Paul some kind of Biblical superhero? No, he was just a man who had placed his faith squarely in his Savior and after enduring one trial after another had also learned to control his thoughts. We would do well to study Paul’s life and receive the advice he gives us, and while we practice mindshifting, allow Jesus to guide us one thought at a time!
What kind of thoughts have you been struggling with lately? Do you have a favorite go-to verse that assist you in regaining control of your negative thoughts? Feel free to comment below, and let’s work on moving our thoughts from ugh! to hallelujah!
Blessings to you and yours!
Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 2015 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA 90631. All rights reserved.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc.
Prayer is simply talking with God. Seems like a simple concept, doesn’t it? But oh, how we complicate it!
All the usual questions come to mind – Where should I pray? Is there a specific position of prayer that really expresses my sincerity? How long do I pray? And most importantly, what should I pray?
The Bible provides some great examples of prayer from both Old and New Testament characters, like:
Personally, I don’t believe that God is so much concerned about the place, position, or length of prayer we pray. In those areas, do what comes naturally to you, because most likely, He is concerned about the matters within in our hearts. Would you agree?
Therefore, if we take the first three elements of prayer discussed above off the table, that leaves the content of our prayers. Today, I propose that we look at the prayers of Paul as an example of what to pray. (And, of course, I would suggest that we do it in light of the teachings of Jesus).
Though Paul would not have the opportunity to learn about prayer directly from Jesus like the other apostles, his prayers were completely God honoring. They show a level of spiritual maturity that was also reflected in the overall behavior of Paul. And the subject of his prayers provides real guidance for Christians attempting to further their walk with Jesus.
Ready? Let’s jump in!
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. Eph. 1:16-20
In this prayer, Paul is praying for those new to the faith to be given wisdom. You can bet that before Paul ever started praying for God’s wisdom to be given to the Church that he was in constant prayer that God would give him wisdom. And he would be right, because as the saying goes, you can’t give what you don’t have. To help mold and shape the Church, Paul would need wisdom.
When God provided that wisdom, Paul was eager to share it with others. In our walk with Christ, we should first seek the foundational building block of wisdom. From there, our understanding of everything else will grow.
2. Praying for Spiritual Strength and Growth
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. Ephesians 3:16-18 NLT
Right after praying for spiritual wisdom, Paul prays for spiritual strength and growth. Knowledge of God’s ways is life changing in and of itself, but it takes inner strength to carry out God’s instructions daily. Paul knew firsthand what it meant to come face to face with the truths of God’s Word.
He also knew how the daily grind of life as well as the challenges of being of a believer could wear away at the soul. So, he prayed for strength, knowing this in turn would give room for spiritual growth on more than a superficial level. And in tandem, the believers’ spiritual growth would fortify their spiritual strength, allowing the cycle to repeat.
3. Praying for Knowledge Regarding God’s Will
So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. Colossians 1:9-10 NLT
In this prayer, Paul repeats some of the same themes he has used in other prayers (e.g., wisdom), but he also adds a new line. Paul asks that the Church be given complete knowledge of God’s will. So, what’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom? Knowledge is simply the information you have been given. Wisdom is the ability to take in information, make sense of it, and then apply that knowledge correctly when making decisions.
Initially, Paul would seek from God the ability to understand His will and then once fully prepared, ask God to reveal His will. I like to think of it this way. Had we not been prepared in 2nd grade to take on the information coming in 3rd grade, once we reached 3rd grade, we would not have been able to fully use what we were being taught. To know God’s will on a level that makes it useful to us, we must be ready to receive it.
4. Praying for Partners in Ministry
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:4-6 NIV
What I love about Paul was his insatiable appetite for all followers of Christ to be active proclaimers of the gospel. As one person who took as much territory for Christ as possible, Paul was keenly aware that if his efforts were doubled by others also taking ground for Christ, the gates of Hell would be completely crushed sooner than later. Likewise, we should be constantly in prayer for our fellow Christians and rejoice when they succeed.
What would happen if we prayed these types of prayers? What if we could stay others-focused? I am the first to admit, I struggle with those questions. However, I have also been a witness to what can be accomplished if we pray with conviction for wisdom, strength, growth, knowledge, and ministry partners. To that end, I will repeat Galatians 6:9 –
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (ESV)
I’ll be praying for you!
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.