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When You Say You’ll Pray After a Prayer Request

Have you ever gotten a prayer request from a fellow brother or sister in Christ asking for immediate prayer? Perhaps he is facing a temptation for which he needs help resisting. Or maybe she is feeling overcome by grief or sorrow and is desperate for peace. It might be that your friend has a need and is seeking the Lord’s provision.

We often respond to such prayer requests in the affirmative. We may even say “I’ll pray for you”—as a common and almost automatic response we give without even thinking. But then we go on our way and forget the prayer request altogether. But saying such things without actually praying about the person’s need is worthless. Meaningless. And does more harm than good.

Perhaps the problem is that we fail to grasp the power of prayer; rather, we’ve forgotten the power of the One to whom we pray.

The Power of God in Prayer

The Apostle Paul wrote several prayers in his letters to various churches. These “Apostle Paul prayers” are a treasure trove of insight into the practice of prayer. Paul prayed for each of the churches he ministered to and asked them to pray for him and his ministry as well.

In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he shared two prayers for the church: Ephesians 1:15-19 and 3:14-19. In both of these prayers, Paul focused on the power of God. He wanted the Ephesian church to know God’s power toward them: “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” (Ephesians 1:19-20). In Paul’s second prayer, he asked God to strengthen the Ephesians “with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16).

The same power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power at work in us as believers. It is the same power that brought us from death to life in Christ. It is the same power that united us to Christ through faith. It is the same power that resides within us, teaching, training, correcting, and encouraging us. And it is the same power that will change and transform us into the image of Christ, until the day when our faith becomes sight.

When we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we pray to the God of all power. Perhaps this is why Paul ends Ephesians 3 with this benediction, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (vv. 20-21).

Responding to That Prayer Request Immediately

This is why we ought to be quick to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. As adopted children of the Father, we are united to Christ and one another. We pray to the same Father on behalf of our siblings in Christ. And we can come before our almighty God with our prayers and petitions, knowing that he hears us. Not only does he hear us, but he uses our prayers to carry out his will in this world.

To act on a prayer request immediately takes not only an understanding of the power of God at work in our prayers, but it also takes intentionality. It takes a willingness, desire, and discipline to follow through. So how can we practically respond to immediate prayer requests?

Once we receive the request, we can pause whatever we were doing and pray for the person’s need.

We can keep a prayer journal where we keep a list of prayer needs. When we receive a new request, we add it to the list and spend time in prayer about that need. We can also mark when a prayer was answered.

We can write the request on a sticky note and post it where we are most likely to see it, so that whenever we see it, we pray for that need. The note could be posted on our computer, on the car dashboard, on the bathroom mirror, at the kitchen sink.

We can set a reminder on our phone to remind us to pray for the need.

There are prayer apps we can use to keep track of prayers, as well as the answers to those prayers.

Whatever method we employ, the important thing is that we serve our brothers and sisters in Christ through prayer. We also need to let our friends know we are indeed praying for them and even follow up to learn how the Lord is answering our prayers. What an encouragement that will be to their faith! And perhaps, like Paul, we can even share with them the specifics of our prayers on our friend’s behalf.

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:9-12).

This article about responding to a prayer request originally appeared here.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Wrong Direction?

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”  – Jeremiah 29:11

Bonus Reading: Romans 8:29-32

In 1990, I’d been a pastor outside of Dallas, Texas, for eight years, and knew God was up to something new in our future. I prayed he’d send us east, closer to family and support, as one of my teenage sons was beginning a rebellious streak.

God’s call came, and it was west! Theresa and all four kids were crying as we pulled out for the 2,000-mile drive to our new life. They didn’t stop crying until Amarillo. We were obeying the clear orders of the King, but taking my family away from friends, family, and all that was familiar felt terrible. The adjustments were hard, the new church presented challenges I’d never faced, and my son became more rebellious. I felt alone, confused, and often deeply discouraged.

Fast-forward ten years. The new church developed skills, character, and ministry beyond my wildest dreams. The adversity brought a deeper unity into our family and took our marriage to a whole new level. With opportunities in music that were nonexistent in Texas, the rebellious son did “a one-eighty,” becoming a Christian songwriter and worship leader. God grew a church and launched a radio ministry. What felt like disaster was the hand of a sovereign God working out his highest, best purposes for us.

—Chip Ingram in God: As He Longs for You to See Him

My Response: Am I resisting or trusting my Father’s control?

Thought to Apply: Doing the will of God leaves me no time for disputing about his plans.—George MacDonald

Adapted from God: As He Longs for You to See Him (Baker, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Faith or Fantasy?

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: I know, O Lord, that your decisions are fair; you disciplined me because I needed it. Psalm 119:75

Bonus Reading: Job 9:4-7, 12

The missionary aircraft piloted by Jim Bowers was blown out of the sky by a Peruvian jet in April 2001, killing his wife Roni and their infant daughter Charity. Humanly speaking, it was a tragedy that never should have happened. Many bullets sprayed the tiny plane, but a single one took the life of his wife and daughter. Looking back, Jim Bowers called it a “sovereign bullet.”

Only a man who knows God can say a thing like that. But that’s exactly what the psalmist is saying in the Key Bible Verse above. As he looks back over his life—the good times and bad, the happy days and sad nights—he knows that all that has happened to him isn’t by chance, fate, or some cosmic roulette. Nothing can happen to him that God has not faithfully planned for his own glory and his children’s ultimate benefit.

Jim Bowers declared his total faith in God’s sovereignty in the death of his wife and daughter. “Nothing bad happened to them,” he said. “They got to heaven quicker than we did.” Those are the words of a man who, out of great personal loss, has rested his faith in the promises of God. Even the worst tragedy doesn’t appear as such when viewed from heaven’s perspective.

—Ray Pritchard in The God You Can Trust

My Response: Could I rest my faith in God’s promises while undergoing great personal loss?

Thought to Apply: Either I’m going to get bent and eventually bitter, or I’m going to allow God to be God.—James MacDonald (Illinois pastor)

Adapted from The God You Can Trust (Harvest, 2003)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Orthodox Creed, Deist Actions

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who … say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  – Isaiah 52:7 NIV

Bonus Reading: Exodus 19:3-6

Every Christian believes that God—the all-powerful Creator of Genesis 1—used to be in charge of this world.

And all agree that God will be in charge at the end. On that fateful day our eternal destiny will rest in the hands of our Judge.

But what about the interim? Is God in charge here and now, or has he momentarily lost his grip? Has our continent spun off into a renegade orbit he’s unaware of or powerless to correct?

I don’t believe that, and neither do you.

So why do we act that way? In thousands of churches every week, Christians stand and sing the chorus “Our God Reigns.” They may raise their hands, swaying back and forth to words based on the above Key Bible Verse. But they go right on worrying and “stressing” about what the local school board did the previous week or what the latest tax reform bill failed to include.

I call this the” New Evangelical Deism”, after the eighteenth-century philosophy that said that God perhaps created the universe in the beginning but then wound it up like a clock and left it to run on its own.

It’s time once again to hear the thunderous voice from Sinai: “All the earth belongs to me” (Exodus 19:5).

—Dean Merrill in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church

My Response: To bring my actions into line with my beliefs about God’s control, I need to …

Thought to Apply: God’s calling the shots. He’s running the show. Either he’s in full control or he’s off his throne.—Charles Swindoll (pastor, educator, & author)

Adapted from Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church (Zondervan, 1997)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

Where the Buck Really Stops – Your Move – Or Is It?

Spiritual GrowthKey Bible Verse: “The Lord Almighty has spoken—who can change his plans?  When his hand moves, who can stop him?”  –  Isaiah 14:27

Bonus Reading: Isa. 14:24-27

A few years ago I was in Indonesia and got to play against a chess master. It was brutal. There were ten of us, each with a chessboard setup, and he played us all at once. He’d walk down the row of boards, crushing each of us with his speed and incredibly insightful moves. In 15 minutes, we were all out of the game!

That’s a bit how God works. We make our moves, but his purposes aren’t affected by them. If we make a good move, God knows the next move. If we make a bad move, God knows instantly what he’ll do. He’s always known both what we’d choose and what he’d do. But God isn’t playing a game with us. We’re stuck in time, while he made all his moves in eternity past!

In some twisted way, we think we’re more secure when we’ve got God figured out. He’s way beyond our figuring out. That’s not only okay, that’s how it needs to be. Imagine how small God would be if we could comprehend all he allows and why. If the smartest and wisest of all mankind ran the universe, can you imagine the cosmic mess we’d be in? It only makes sense that an element of mystery surrounds God’s person and ways.

—James MacDonald in Gripped by the Greatness of God

My Response: Is asking questions of God wrong? Must I be resigned to leave some unanswered?

Adapted from Gripped by the Greatness of God (Moody, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

 

Where the Buck Really Stops – Cosmic Consultant?

Spiritual GrowthWho Said It …Larry Osborne

Larry Osborne is an author who says, “I’ve always had a heart for the regular guy, the one who can’t imagine ever becoming a ‘super saint.’ I like starting where people are, not where they should be, and pointing them towards the path of growth.”

Larry is also the innovative lead pastor of North Coast Church in California’s San Diego County, which is credited with originating the concept of video venues.

What He Said…Cosmic Consultant?

When God gives advice or guidance, it’s not coming from a potentially fallible source. It’s not the mere advice of a pastor or friend; it’s the counsel of God!

When God speaks, it doesn’t make much sense to push back or give him ten reasons why it won’t work. That’s an argument we can’t win.

But who hasn’t done this? We’ve all had times when we knew exactly what God wanted us to do, but we still decided that in our particular case our wisdom was better than his.

Every time that happens, our relationship with him goes through a fundamental role-reversal. He stops being our God and becomes our cosmic consultant.

Now a consultant is someone whose wisdom we highly value and listen to, but at the end of the day, we make the final decision. That’s why they’re called consultants.

Here’s the problem: God doesn’t do consulting. Never has. Never will. He does God. When we treat him as a consultant, he simply stops showing up to the meetings. We may think he’s there. But he’s not.

Adapted from A Contrarian’s Guide to Knowing God (Multnomah, 2007)

Prayer for the Week: Deliver me, sovereign Lord, from attempting to manage You. Help me to honor You by trusting and submitting to Your control.

Are You for Real? – Outclassed?

Living Uo to Your FaithKey Bible Verse: You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead … you are like babies.Hebrews 5:12-13.

Bonus Reading: Colossians 1:9b-10

I knew that I’d just married an incredibly principled, moral young woman. But after bringing Dawn to Fort Benning, I was seeing it on a daily basis.

This connected with what had happened with Kurt Smith, a close friend in our Ranger reconnaissance regiment. In the spring he’d gone home on leave—and returned radically changed. He’d turned his life over to Jesus Christ, and it clearly showed. Right away his language changed for the better, his music choices cleaned up, and his general attitude brightened. He began telling others in the detachment about Christ and what a difference he’d brought to his life. It was unmistakable.

I had to admit that although I’d been a declared Christian for nearly a decade, my daily life didn’t reflect it. I looked at the way Kurt acted and felt guilty. Then I went home at night to Dawn and sensed more of the same.

The two of them, without lecturing in any way, were shining a spotlight on my inconsistencies. I was definitely rough around the edges, behaving pretty much the way most young enlisted men in the army behave. I’d lie in bed at night and think, God, I’m not matching up to these two at all.[continued 1/29]

—Jeff Streucker in The Road to Unafraid

My Response: Here’s how my growth trajectory since becoming a disciple could graph:

Adapted from The Road to Unafraid (W Publishing, 2006).

Prayer for the Week: May you receive glory and praise, Father, because the faith I claim and the life I live square up.

 

 

Are You for Real? – Performance Appraisal

Living Uo to Your FaithWho Said It… Lane McGullion

Lane McGullion manages projects for a power generating company in Georgia, and is a leader in his church’s men’s ministry. Its claim to fame is constructing an 80 percent scale model of the Tabernacle—that’s 12′ tall, 24′ wide, and 36′ long—with furnishings.

Lane’s wife, Sonya, serves as the children’s church coordinator. They have two girls and a boy. Lane likes to sing and is a die-hard Auburn University football fan.

What He Said… Performance Appraisal

Remember your first review at a new company? Have I lived up to the references’ glowing description of my abilities? you wondered. Or should I bring an empty box to pack my belongings?

As a Christ follower, you may never be called into a conference room, but you face a different kind of workplace appraisal. During a conversation about current events, politics, or what you did this weekend, your biblical worldview will surface (hopefully you’re not trying to hide it). Your words will challenge and possibly offend.

That’s when the performance appraisal begins. Your coworkers will begin watching with the zeal of a private detective to see if you measure up to the bar you’ve set so high. You’ll have the opportunity to share the words of life, but if you also tell off-color jokes, will anyone take you seriously?

You maintain that Christ gave himself up for others, but if you fail to lend a hand to a coworker who’s falling behind, your words will fall on deaf (and lost) ears. So make sure your deeds back up your words.

Adapted from Practical Justice (InterVarsity, 2006) by permission.

Prayer for the Week: May you receive glory and praise, Father, because the faith I claim and the life I live square up.

 

 

Are You for Real? – Pocket Book Probe

Living Uo to Your FaithKey Bible Verse: “I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there.”  –  1 Chronicles 29:17

Bonus Reading: Genesis 4:1-12

The phone rang. The owner of a large apartment complex had been referred to me by a mutual acquaintance. She’d had a pricing evaluation done on her property and wanted a second opinion before selling. Commercial real estate is viciously competitive. You only get paid when you close a deal. A “team mentality” isn’t taught. If I priced her property aggressively, she’d probably use me as her agent.

But another agent in my office, the woman disclosed, had done the first pricing analysis. For several months I’d been sharing Christ with him because he was in debt and looking for answers the world wasn’t providing. I could undermine his weeks of excellent effort by telling the caller that he was less experienced, and that I could get a higher price for the property. Or I could do what Jesus would want. I told the woman the agent was capable, and that his pricing conclusions were sound. She went with him.

Just this week, the building transaction closed, and he was able to pay off all his debts. “Nobody else in this office would have done that for me,” he confided. “You really live out your faith.” He invited me to lunch—another opportunity to share my Christian hope.

—Danny Kapic in Devotional Ventures

My Response: If Danny had snatched the listing for himself, what might have transpired?

Thought to Apply: Our task is to live our personal communion with Christ with such intensity as to make it contagious.—Paul Tournier (Swiss psychologist)

Adapted from Devotional Ventures (Regal, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: May you receive glory and praise, Father, because the faith I claim and the life I live square up.

 

 

Are You for Real? – …and Consequences

Living Uo to Your FaithKey Bible Verse: May you always be filled with … those good things that are produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.  –  Philippians 1:11.

Bonus Reading: 2 Peter 1:3-8

[continued from yesterday]   Linda and Jerry weren’t perfect, we discovered. But then again, they never claimed to be.

Primarily what we saw was a gentle spirit of acceptance toward us, a lot more humility than pride, a willingness to admit when they were wrong, an anxiousness to reconcile when there was conflict, a readiness to acknowledge the rough edges of their character and a sincere effort to smooth them out, a refusal to playact by pretending that the Christian life is always happy, an admission that they struggled with their faith from time to time, but most of all, undergirding everything, we saw an honest desire to become a little more like Jesus, bit by bit, as time went by.

In short, they were real. Leslie and I became citizens of God’s people largely through their example.

Now I don’t want to make you paranoid, but if you’re a Christ follower, you are being watched. Your friends, neighbors, and acquaintances are scanning your life with their hypocrisy radar, because they want to know whether you’re authentic. And what they observe will either stymie or propel them in their spiritual journey.

—Lee Strobel in God’s Outrageous Claims

My Response: Will others detect in me someone who approaches life with integrity?

Thought to Apply: How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing … it is irresistible.—C.S. Lewis (British academic & author)

Adapted from God’s Outrageous Claims (Zondervan, 1997, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: May you receive glory and praise, Father, because the faith I claim and the life I live square up.

 

CENTRAL’S SUMMER STREET PICNIC – A HUGE SUCCESS!

Thanks to underwriting by a generous donor, Central Church was able to offer a Summer Street Picnic to our community this afternoon.

For this special, first-time event, 13th Street outside the Church was blocked off by the Beaver Falls Police, and tents and grilling rigs were erected all along the street, providing a dizzying array of grilled chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, and roasted corn on the cob, in addition to coleslaw and other traditional picnic fare.

We even had a burning barrel set up with firewood in the middle of the street so those attending could toast marshmallows over the open flames and make s’mores!

In addition to seating under a tent in the street, our Fellowship Hall featured live music by several talented artists from our area and an opportunity to enjoy their performances in air conditioned comfort.

We lost count of how many folks came to eat after the first 128 plates we put out were gone, but people continued to come by to eat and stay for a while to hear the music all afternoon.

In addition to our usual neighbors and friends who regularly attend our feeding ministry outreach offerings on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, folks walking along 7th Avenue and other streets were drawn by the music and festivities and joined us for a time of food, fun, and fellowship.

We even had a gentleman riding by in a taxi, who asked the taxi to change his destination and drop him off at the Church so he could join us.

What a glorious day!

 

 

Many thanks to all of our dedicated volunteers who took time from their busy schedules to help make our event a big success, and many, many thanks to our generous donor who made all of the festivities possible!

 

Are You for Real? – Truth…

Living Uo to Your FaithKey Bible Verse: “Yes, the way to identify a tree or person is by the kind of fruit that is produced.”  –  Matthew 7:20.

Bonus Reading: Matthew 7:15-21

Years ago Linda and Jerry lived in the same condominium building as Leslie and I, and so we got to know each other well. Our daughter, Alison, became best friends with their daughter, Sara.

But what Linda and Jerry didn’t realize was how much we were scrutinizing their lifestyle. They were up-front about the fact that they were Christians, and we were curious to see whether they were real. Do you know what I mean by that?

We wanted to see whether we could detect a holier-than-thou attitude toward those who didn’t subscribe to their theology. We wanted to see how they’d handle conflict in their marriage. We wanted to see whether they’d put on a Christian happy face and pretend they never got angry, worried, or frustrated.

We wanted to see whether they’d be truth-tellers and whether they’d ask for forgiveness when they made a mistake. We wanted to see whether they’d hold a grudge if we did something to hurt them. We wanted to see if they were honest about the little things in life. We wanted to hear the comments they would make about people who weren’t around.

We watched over a long period of time, and guess what we found? [continued tomorrow]

—Lee Strobel in God’s Outrageous Claims

My Response: How do I distinguish the contrived from the genuine in another person?

Thought to Apply: Where one man reads the Bible, a hundred read you and me.—Dwight L. Moody (evangelist)

Adapted from God’s Outrageous Claims (Zondervan, 1997, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: May you receive glory and praise, Father, because the faith I claim and the life I live square up.

 

 

Are You for Real? – Barracks Shock Waves

Living Uo to Your FaithKey Bible Verse: For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13.

Bonus Reading: Phil. 2:12-15

I decided to clean up my act. I began disciplining myself to speak without the splatter of four-letter words epidemic in army talk. I could get my point across without them.

I stopped drinking. Alcohol was part of my family growing up, and everything we seven in my detachment did together—going to the movies, playing volleyball—included a couple of beers. I can still hang out and have a good time, I told myself, I’ll just have a Coke instead. But the six quickly asked, “Hey, what’s wrong with you, Streucker?”

I also excused myself from certain movies I would have seen before. Then I started cleaning out my music collection. I’d been raised on classic rock, and bought a lot of heavy metal too. But the lyrics started to bother me. I got a big garbage bag, loaded it up with hundreds of cassettes and CDs, and dropped them on our unit’s front desk. “Here you go,” I said, “They’re yours, free for the taking.”

“Streucker must have joined some cult!” they said. I’d already heard how they ridiculed Kurt Smith behind his back. When I told him about it, Kurt calmly said, “So? I’m not concerned about what they think.” That became my stance as well.

—Jeff Streucker in The Road to Unafraid

My Response: Where have I let what my peers might think inhibit clear-cut discipleship?

Thought to Apply: Once you get a taste of where you want to go, motivation takes care of itself.—Chuck Daly (basketball coach)

Adapted from The Road to Unafraid (W Publishing, 2006)

Prayer for the Week: May you receive glory and praise, Father, because the faith I claim and the life I live square up.

 

Are You for Real? – Outclassed?

Living Uo to Your FaithKey Bible Verse: You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead … you are like babies.Hebrews 5:12-13.

Bonus Reading: Colossians 1:9b-10

I knew that I’d just married an incredibly principled, moral young woman. But after bringing Dawn to Fort Benning, I was seeing it on a daily basis.

This connected with what had happened with Kurt Smith, a close friend in our Ranger reconnaissance regiment. In the spring he’d gone home on leave—and returned radically changed. He’d turned his life over to Jesus Christ, and it clearly showed. Right away his language changed for the better, his music choices cleaned up, and his general attitude brightened. He began telling others in the detachment about Christ and what a difference he’d brought to his life. It was unmistakable.

I had to admit that although I’d been a declared Christian for nearly a decade, my daily life didn’t reflect it. I looked at the way Kurt acted and felt guilty. Then I went home at night to Dawn and sensed more of the same.

The two of them, without lecturing in any way, were shining a spotlight on my inconsistencies. I was definitely rough around the edges, behaving pretty much the way most young enlisted men in the army behave. I’d lie in bed at night and think, God, I’m not matching up to these two at all.[continued 1/29]

—Jeff Streucker in The Road to Unafraid

My Response: Here’s how my growth trajectory since becoming a disciple could graph:

Adapted from The Road to Unafraid (W Publishing, 2006).

Prayer for the Week: May you receive glory and praise, Father, because the faith I claim and the life I live square up.

 

 

Make Your Talents Count – Generosity

GenerosityGod has given each one of us a unique combination of gifts and passions to be used for the good of others.

As the parable of the talents discussed in this week’s readings revealed, we have a choice to invest those gifts and reap a rich return or hoard them to ourselves to our own detriment.

In this week’s Key Study Passage, Paul encourages generosity. After all, our generosity flows from the generous heart of God and will be bountifully rewarded by him.

Key Study Passage:  2 Corinthians 9:6-15

  1. Why do you think Paul gives the church the option whether or not to give rather than requiring it?
  2. Do you think it’s okay to expect a blessing when you give? (See vv. 8-11.)
  3. List and then reflect on the motivations for generosity from this passage.
  4. Take a mental inventory of your gifts, talents, and resources. Are you cheerfully using each to the best of your ability and for the betterment of those around you and the advancement of God’s kingdom? Are there any areas where growth is needed?
  5. If question 4 stirred your heart, commit to praying for and planning to make better use of what God has given you.

Spend Time in Prayer: Ask God to give you a cheerful, giving heart that looks to the needs of others ahead of your own; ask him to reveal to you the gifts that he’s given you and help you invest your talents well.

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.

13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

Prayer for the Week: Giver of all good gifts, help me to be aware of the talents with which you have equipped me; give me a vision for ways to use them for your
kingdom.

Make Your Talents Count – Can’t Out-Give God

GenerosityKey Bible Verse: “I am the LORD All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test. Bring the entire 10 percent into the storehouse. … Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing.”  – Malachi 3:10, CEV

Dig Deeper: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

I urge you—plumb the depths of the parable of the talents. Take a good, hard look at the context of your life—nothing happens by chance. You are where you are and the way you are for a reason, for God’s reason.

The master says that when you invest the talents he’s given you, when you are faithful to bear fruit from the little he’s given you, he will give you more. And you will enter into his joy. People around the world are searching for joy. Where is it? How can we find it?

Here’s the answer. Plain and simple. Straight from God: Invest what I’ve given you. Take a chance. Put it to work. Trust me. Make it multiply. Then I’ll give you more. And you’ll be happier and more content than ever fathomed. Don’t believe it? Think of investing your talents the way the Old Testament describes giving your tithe [in today’s Key Bible Verse].

We’ve all heard it said, “You can’t out-give God.” He’s made me a believer. My joy is worth more than all the money in a zillion banks. What about you? Are you ready to take a good, hard look at yourself and determine what talents God has knit together within you?

—Bob Westfall in The Fulfillment Principle

My Response: How is the Holy Spirit prompting me to respond to this reading?

Thought to Apply: God has a way of giving by the cartloads to those who give away by shovelfuls.—Charles Spurgeon (British preacher)

Adapted from The Fulfillment Principle (Leafwood, 2012)

Prayer for the Week: Giver of all good gifts, help me to be aware of the talents with which you have equipped me; give me a vision for ways to use them for your kingdom.

 

Make Your Talents Count – You’ve Got It Already

GenerosityKey Bible Verses: “The master called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them … each according to his ability.” Matthew 25:14-15, NIV

Dig Deeper: Matthew 25:14-30

Let me make an essential point here: God has already given you the talent, ability, skill, money, or passion you need to fulfill his plan, to be entrusted with more, and to walk in pure joy. That’s one of the key truths of the parable of the talents that many people miss.

Remember? The master went on a journey. But before he left, he called his servants in and “entrusted his possessions to them” (Matt. 25:14, NASB et al.). He passed out five talents to one, two to another, and one to a third, “each according to his own ability,” (v. 15) and then he went on his way.

What I’m trying to show you is that you already have everything you need! The skill is within you. The dream is deep inside you. The plan is in place. The passion is there. The ability is woven into your DNA by the Creator himself.

Have you examined your life? The people within your circles? The possibilities within your realm? Will you be faithful in the little things?

Examine your life today. Don’t make the mistake of saying, “Someday, when I have this, I’ll do that,” or, “When I have more time, I’ll pursue that dream,” or, “When I have more money, I’ll give to this or that organization.”

—Bob Westfall in The Fulfillment Principle

My Response: Have I been making these kinds of excuses? If so, I will repent and make a plan of action.

Thought to Apply: He who waits to do a great deal of good at once, will never do anything.—Samuel Johnson (British writer)

Adapted from The Fulfillment Principle (Leafwood, 2012)

Prayer for the Week: Giver of all good gifts, help me to be aware of the talents with which you have equipped me; give me a vision for ways to use them for your kingdom.

 

 

Make Your Talents Count – Moving Mountains

GenerosityKey Bible Verse: Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.  – 1 Timothy 4:12

Dig Deeper: John 14:12-14

Austin has a book out with a title that reiterates the point of today’s reading: Take Your Best Shot: Do Something Bigger Than Yourself. One of the Bible verses Austin reflects upon as he speaks about Hoops of Hope is today’s Key Bible Verse.

“I’m happy and I’m proud that kids are finally seeing that they can make a difference at a young age, that they don’t have to wait to be an adult,” Austin said. “At the same time, it’s hard to be proud of what we’ve done when you go to Africa and see how much more there is to do.”

Wow! The faith of a child—a child who saw a video about orphans in Africa, and refused to let the memory of it die. A child who felt a burden and realized, with God’s help, he could move mountains.

Maybe you’re a high school teacher who’s been entrusted with a classroom full of students. How will you steward the hearts and minds of those kids who’ve been placed in your care?

Say you’re a college student. You’ve been entrusted with an education. What will you do with that knowledge and experience? How will you invest it for the good of others?

—Bob Westfall in The Fulfillment Principle

My Response: What talents have I been given? How can I better use them to serve God and bless others?

Thought to Apply: The world asks, “What does a man own?” Christ asks, “How does he use it?”—Andrew Murray (South African writer, teacher, pastor)

Adapted from The Fulfillment Principle (Leafwood, 2012)

Prayer for the Week: Giver of all good gifts, help me to be aware of the talents with which you have equipped me; give me a vision for ways to use them for your kingdom.

 

Make Your Talents Count – Hoops of Hope

GenerosityKey Bible Verse: Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.  – James 1:27

Dig Deeper: Matthew 25:34-40

There is a young man in Arizona by the name of Austin Gutwein who, at the ripe old age of 10, saw a video about a girl in Africa who lost her parents to HIV/AIDS, and it gripped his heart. He learned that 5,700 children are orphaned each day because of HIV/AIDS, and that 15 million children have already lost one or both parents to the disease.

“That hit me hard,” recalls Austin, now 16. “I felt God calling me to go do something about it.”

A friend suggested Austin use his favorite sport, basketball, to make a difference. He got some friends involved in shooting free-throws to raise money for those children in Africa. God used the faith of that little kid from Arizona and he birthed Hoops of Hope (hoopsofhope.org), which has since become the world’s largest free-throw marathon.

Some 40,000 children have participated in Hoops of Hope, raising more than $2.5 million and allowing the organization to build a school in Zambia where there was no school for 70 miles. Not only that, Hoops of Hope has partnered with World Vision to build four dormitories for students of the school, two medical clinics, a computer lab, and more.

—Bob Westfall in The Fulfillment Principle

My Response: What gets me excited? How can I use that passion to serve others?

Thought to Apply: Not he who has much is rich, but he who gives much.—Erich Fromm (psychologist)

Adapted from The Fulfillment Principle (Leafwood, 2012)

Prayer for the Week: Giver of all good gifts, help me to be aware of the talents with which you have equipped me; give me a vision for ways to use them for your kingdom.

 

Make Your Talents Count – Man on a Mission

GenerosityKey Bible Verse: Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless.  – Isaiah 58:7

Dig Deeper: Isaiah 58:6-12

Sean Lambert is president of Youth With a Mission San Diego/Baja. While on a mission trip in Tijuana, Sean and his daughter, Andrea, joined a team of 15 people to build a house for a poverty-stricken family.

When the house was complete and the family moved in, Andrea pointed out another poor family living in an abandoned bus adjacent to the new home being built and said, “Daddy, are you going to build them a house?”

Andrea’s words moved Sean to build a second house and Homes of Hope was born.

Starting with this single house in Tijuana, Mexico, Homes of Hope has now built 3,482 homes for poor families in 10 different nations. One of the “talents” knitted into Sean’s make-up is his compassion for the poor. He was faithful with the one house God sent him to build and so God put him in charge of many.

Today, Homes of Hope impacts needy families in five key areas: economic, educational, health, social and emotional, and spiritual.

Sean is an excellent example of someone who took small, simple steps in obeying God, entering into all God wanted to do in and through his life in a ministry that is now impacting 10 other nations … and growing!

—Bob Westfall in The Fulfillment Principle

My Response: I will think about people who are less fortunate than I am, and consider ways I can help meet their needs.

Adapted from The Fulfillment Principle (Leafwood, 2012)

Prayer for the Week: Giver of all good gifts, help me to be aware of the talents with which you have equipped me; give me a vision for ways to use them for your kingdom.

 

Make Your Talents Count – Invest Your Talents

GenerosityKey Study Passage: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Who Said It … Bob Westfall

Bob Westfall is president of the Westfall Group, which serves charities and Christian ministries in financial stewardship and communications. His company has helped charities raise more than $210 million in new income for their valuable work.

He frequently speaks at national conferences and to charity boards, philanthropists, churches, and other groups, and is the author of The Fulfillment Principle. He currently lives in Suwanee, Georgia, with his wife, Kim. They are the parents of four children.

What he Said … Invest Your Talents

The word “talent” spoken of in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) is a measure of weight and, in this usage, means “money.” As in many of Christ’s parables, however, the story contains multiple layers of meaning and wisdom. God gives us something of his to invest—according to our ability.

Although God may have given you five talents and me two and someone else one, he views us each the same. Just because you have more does not mean God views you as more valuable or important. Indeed, God sees us all as equal; he values us the same.

And what he truly values most is the way you and I steward the talents he’s entrusted into our lives. How do we invest those talents? Are we fruitful? Do we get good return on the deposit he’s made in our lives?

What talent—be it treasure or ability or passion or skill—has God entrusted to you according to your unique ability? What passion has he woven into your heart, and only your heart?

Adapted from The Fulfillment Principle (Leafwood, 2012)

Prayer for the Week: Giver of all good gifts, help me to be aware of the talents with which you have equipped me; give me a vision for ways to use them for your kingdom.

Effective Stewardship – Month #12

We are to be content with what we have.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money,

and be content with what you have; for he has said,

‘I will never leave you or forsake you’” (Heb. 13:5).

 

Suppose that God allowed you to have one wish. Without limit, you could have anything you desire. You could have unlimited wealth. You could have perfect health and live 1,000 years — or more. You could — like Solomon — have great wisdom. Whatever you want, you may have it. But you only get one wish.

What would you choose?

Sad to say, many people would choose great wealth and material possessions. Unfortunately, that would not be a good choice. Listen to the counsel of God as expressed in this contemporary translation of Proverbs 27:20 through Solomon, one of the richest people who ever lived — “The eyes of man are never satisfied.”

The behavior and attitude which always wants more has a name: Greed, and it demonstrates itself in our lives as though we were at an auction. If we have $5, we want $10; if we have $10, we want $20; if we have $20 we want $30. Solomon went on to say in Ecclesiastes 5:10, “The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain.”

A better choice would be to ask for God’s perspective on life and all that life entails. When we see life as God does, we realize that everything belongs to Him, that we are just managers and stewards, and that only what is done for Him will endure for eternity. When we have God’s perspective, we will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “ . . . I have learned to be content with whatever I have.”

When we have God’s perspective, we will accept with a spirit of peace and restfulness whatever He entrusts to us. And when we have God’s perspective, we will put into practice the truth of Hebrews 13:5“Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”

 

 

 

The Difference One Can Make – Just Imagine!

Faith in ActionWho Said It…Richard Land

Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which works to keep the public informed on critical issues facing the family and the nation.

He was also appointed by President Bush to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Dr. Land has also served as pastor, professor, and adviser to a former Texas governor.

What He Said…Just Imagine!

What if just half of those Americans who claim to be evangelical Christians were truly to practice their faith in their local communities as responsible citizens?

Every volunteer social organization in the country seeking to meet the needs of less fortunate people would be transformed overnight.  There’d be so many volunteers they’d have to be put on waiting lists.

The databases of crisis pregnancy centers and prison transition ministries and foster-care agencies would be crammed with the names and numbers of families ready to take in young women and ex-cons and children who need hospitality, practical help, and loving care. Food pantry shelves would overflow.

Homebound senior citizens would never be isolated.  School children would have mentors for literacy programs and reading enrichment, and adults committed to staying involved in their lives. Nursing-home residents wouldn’t pass time in empty days, neglected by family and ignored by society.

Even those not influenced to accept Christ by such radical, positive changes in society would live better lives.

Adapted from Imagine! A God-Blessed America (Broadman & Holman, 2005)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.

 

The Difference One Can Make – The Chattanooga Challenge

Faith in ActionKey Bible Verse: “He can win the battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” 1 Samuel 14:6

Bonus Reading: 1 Samuel 14:1-16

During the 1970s and ’80s, Chattanooga, Tennessee, was decaying. Divorce was rampant.

Half of all births were to unwed mothers. Single women, many living in poverty, were the sole providers in 30 percent of homes.

Five local businessmen decided to do something about it.

In 1997 they formed the nonprofit organization First Things First. It provided classes to help couples prepare for marriage, strengthen families, reduce teen pregnancies, and encourage father involvement in the lives of their children.

Some seminars offered: “Before You Say I Do,” “Boot Camp for New Dads,” “Fighting for Your Marriage.” DVDs and videos can be checked out from its resource center.

When businessman Brad Rymer was exposed to the state of Chattanooga families, he says, “I went home and prayed, ‘Lord use me to help You save marriages.'” He ended up selling his business and assuming a mediation role with fractured families.

The results? As of 2006—less than 10 years since the program began—the city’s divorce rate has gone down by 25 percent. Cases of children having children have gone down by 26 percent. Fathers, more aware of their crucial role, spend more time with their children.

—Julie Baumgardner in Focus on the Family

My Response: What goal dare I pray for God to empower me to achieve for Him?

Thought to Apply: Attempt great things for God. Expect great things from God.—William Carey (missionary to India)

Adapted from Focus on the Family (8/06) and First Things First (www.firstthings.org)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.

 

 

The Difference One Can Make – Urban Field of Dreams

Faith in ActionKey Bible Verse: “The King will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'” Matthew 25:40

Bonus Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:5-7

On his way to work one day, Chicago insurance broker Bob Muzikowski saw a derelict ball field full of trash in a gang-infested neighborhood.

The kids there could use a real Little League to play in, he thought. He teamed up with a friend to create the Near North Little League. In “pretty wild” early practice sessions, coaches dealt with 250 boys long on enthusiasm but short on fundamentals.

Each game began with a prayer. Cursing was strictly forbidden.

“While I had no illusions that I’d change the world, I had no doubt that God wanted me to play baseball with these kids,” said Muzikowski , converted not long before. “My faith had taught me that being a Christian means truly believing what Jesus said about loving my neighbor.”

The next year, 400 kids joined the league.

Today 900 fatherless kids in 100 Little League teams are learning self-respect and community values. Reporters wonder why a wealthy white businessman lives among the poor, coaching other people’s kids.

Muzikowski answers, “Jesus didn’t say, ‘When you’ve paid someone to do it unto the least of these. … ‘ What He said was, ‘when you have done it. … ‘”

—Charles Colson in How Now Shall We Live?

My Response: One way I could directly serve a marginalized person in my community is …

Thought to Apply: Christianity demands a level of caring that transcends human inclinations.—Erwin Lutzer

Adapted from How Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale, 2004)

Prayer for the Week: I’m available, Lord, for any assignment. Use me to make a difference in Your Kingdom.