14 Verses for the Spiritual Battle

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The Danger of Reading Books on Prayer – and then, 7 You Might Want to Read

By Chuck Lawless

I start this post with this warning: if you read a book on prayer but don’t pray more, you’ll have missed the point. We all know that truth, but we somehow miss it practically. In fact, here’s what I generally say about prayer: “Prayer is one of those disciplines that if you talk or study about it enough, you’ll think you actually did it whether or not you did.” Think about this strategy for reading a book on prayer:

  • Pray before you start reading it.
  • Every time an insight captures you, thank God for it.
  • Each time the book convicts you about your own prayer weakness, confess it.
  • At the end of each chapter, note some specific, practical steps based on that chapter you will take to pray more regularly and powerfully.
  • When you finish the book, thank God for teaching you.

Here, then, are some books I’d recommend:

  1. A Praying Life by Paul Miller. This book is the most helpful book on prayer I’ve read in the last few years. It’s an honest, practical, and useful call to approach God with a childlike heart. I’d start with reading this book.
  2. Prayer by Tim Keller. This one’s a bit more intense than Miller’s book, but it will challenge you to think deeply about having conversations with God. Keller aims to address theological, experiential, and methodological issues of prayer in this single work, and he meets his goal.
  3. Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney. It’s a short but potent book. If you tend to get bored with prayer because you pray the same way every day, this book offers you a solution. You’ll never read the Scriptures the same way.
  4. A Passion for Prayer by Tom Elliff. I include this book because I know how much Dr. Elliff prays. He understands what it means to have intimacy with God, and you can learn much from him.
  5. With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray. The work is older, and the writing can be archaic at times, but it’s worth the time to work through this classic. Murray challenges us to move prayer from a duty to a privilege.
  6. Lord, Teach Us Pastors to Pray” by Chuck Lawless. Forgive the personal promotion, but this book is a quick, easy, practical read (you can read it in one sitting) if you want to grow in your own prayer life. And, it’s free at Church Answers!
  7. Praying with Paul by D. A. Carson. Paul spoke often about praying for the congregations to whom he wrote his letters. Carson uses Paul’s model to help us learn how to pray better. You’ll pray differently after reading this book

10 More Helpful Comments from Mentors Helping Me Find God’s Will

By Chuck Lawless

As I think today about knowing the will of God, I’m reminded of advice I’ve received from pastors and mentors over the years. Two years ago, I wrote a post, “8 Nuggets of Wisdom When You Can’t Figure Out God’s Will.” Here are some additional nuggets I’ve received over the years.

  1. “Get some prayer partners as you seek God’s will.” Prayer is a cry for God’s help, and prayer partners can help us hear God’s voice more clearly. Pray particularly for wisdom.
  2. “Don’t overcomplicate it.” To put it simply, the Bible already tells us much about how we’re to live. If we get these things right, we won’t wrestle as much with the unknown details.
  3. “If you’re not daily listening to God and speaking to Him through spiritual disciplines, don’t assume you can hear him properly today.” Too many people turn to the Bible and prayer only when they need to know God’s will. Doing that is like trying to hear the voice of one with whom you haven’t had a conversation in a long time.
  4. “Be godly now as you seek wisdom for tomorrow.” We’re called to be holy as God is holy (1 Pet 1:15-16). If we aren’t being faithful to what is clearly revealed in scripture, why should God trust us with information about the unknown?
  5. “Be faithfully involved in a local church.” God creates His local church in such a way that all of us need each other (1 Cor. 12:12-31). To try to determine God’s will as a loner is a mistake.

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12 Ways to Minister to Young Men in Your Church

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8 Signs I’m Not Trusting God Like I Should

The writer of Proverbs called us to trust the Lord with all our heart (Prov 3:5). I don’t know about you, but I’ve had times when I’ve NOT trusted like I should. Maybe these descriptions of ways I know I’m not trusting will help you evaluate your own life:

  1. I lie awake at night. I do that because I’m still learning later in life how to leave things at Jesus’ feet.
  2. I too quickly get frustrated with God’s seemingly delayed responses to my prayers. When I expect God to act according to my plans, I’m not trusting Him as I should.
  3. I act first and pray second … if at all. You don’t think much about trusting God when you can handle it on your own.
  4. I worry. Sometimes my distraction from trust is trying to come up with my own solution; in other cases, it’s just anxiety over something I can’t change.
  5. I get afraid. I may not admit it, but it’s real at times. When fear keeps me from taking steps of faith, I’m not trusting God.
  6. I see the negative more than the positive. When your proverbial glass is always half empty, you miss the work of God around you—and you consequently don’t trust Him.
  7. I don’t listen to God through His Word. I may read it, but that doesn’t always equate to hearing Him and trusting Him. Sometimes it’s part of my job.
  8. I just know I’m not trusting Him like I tell others to trust Him. The Spirit of God has a way of teaching us about ourselves . . . even when we don’t like what we learn.

I trust I’m still learning to trust, but I pray I’m still growing. What about you—how do you know when you’re not trusting God like you want?

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10 Descriptions of a “Sweetheart Love” for Jesus

By Chuck Lawless on Jan 14, 2021 01:00 am

In the past, I’ve written about Brother Jack Tichenor, one of my pastoral mentors who challenged me to love Jesus “with a sweetheart love.” Seldom did he pray for me without using those same words, and I’ve never forgotten them. This saying is, in fact, one of those leadership statements that echo in my head. As Pam and I approach our 30thanniversary in a few months, I’m reminded today of what a “sweetheart love” for Jesus looks like:

  1. Your world changes because of Him. It’s amazing how many plans we change, how many adjustments we make, and how many goals we re-set when we fall in love with somebody.
  2. You just want to be with Him. Like an earthly sweetheart love, you don’t even care what you do. You just want to be with somebody.
  3. In fact, you can’t wait to be with Him. You think about Him often, and the busyness of the day doesn’t divert your attention from Him.
  4. You want to know everything about Him. That desire drives you to His Word, where you learn about His loves, His expectations, His plans, and His heart. Everything about Him fascinates you.
  5. Your heart leaps when you hear His voice. His Word is true and transformative, and it’s incredible to know He speaks to us through it. Few things are as powerful as hearing from Him.

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10 Evaluative Questions at the End of the Year

By Chuck Lawless 

We’re just under two weeks away from ending the year. It’s been a crazy year, but our responsibilities as believers haven’t changed. On that basis, here are some questions I use to evaluate the past year in preparation for setting next year’s goals:

  1. Will I complete my Bible reading plan by the end of the year? I’m not “locked in” to finishing the plan or else, but I do want to strive toward that goal.
  2. Am I a stronger or weaker prayer warrior this year? I trust I keep learning to pray – but not asking the question could mean I’m not as concerned about prayer growth as I should be.
  3. How many times did I share the gospel this past year? I also want to know how many people have followed the Lord through my ministry, but I’m more burdened about making sure I at least shared the good news.
  4. What’s been my percentage of giving to God’s work this year? Sometimes, my evaluation has shown I’ve given more dollars, but less percentage of my income than the previous year. I don’t want that to happen.
  5. Would my wife (and children, if we had any) say that I’m more Christlike this year than last year? Our hearts are deceitful enough that it’s tough to evaluate ourselves—but our families are often brutally honest.
  6. What unreached people group(s) is/are prayed for more this past year because of my own prayer commitment? This question, of course, reflects my missions heart. Ideally, I will have also led my family and church to intercede for people for whom few others are praying.
  7. Am I in better or worse physical shape at the end of this year? Taking care of our God-given body is part of our spiritual responsibility before our Creator. Neglecting it is a poor witness, in my estimation.
  8. Would my pastor (or, my church members if I’m the pastor) say I’ve shown commitment to, and love for, the local body of Christ this year? That’s a complicated question in this COVID year, but it’s still a necessary one.
  9. Is there an ongoing, controlling sin I’ve been unable to shake this past year? If so, I need to quickly talk with someone, build accountability into my life, and fight for godliness in 2021.
  10. What did I want to accomplish this year that I haven’t done? This is a catch-all question, but that’s the point. Answering it now will help me set some goals for 2021.

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10 Ways To Drive People Away From Your Church

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10 Ways to Drive People Away from Your Church

Very good reminders

By Chuck Lawless on Dec 04, 2020 01:00 am

Maybe you have some folks you want to drive from your church, but that’s not the focus of this post. My concern here is what churches do that inadvertently drives attenders toward other churches. Here are some ways to drive attenders from you:

  1. Preach something other than the Word of God. It’s true that preaching the Word also sometimes confronts and offends in a healthy way, but here’s the point: people who come looking for a Word from God won’t stay if you give them something other than the Bible.
  2. Have a boring, disorganized, irrelevant worship service. Right or wrong, the people we’re trying to reach have little patience for anything that lacks excellence or relevance. Enough churches are offering solid worship that folks don’t linger long where it’s not done well.
  3. Provide nothing for kids and teens. I’m not arguing here for always separating families in all we do as a church, but I am arguing for providing equipping and teaching that are life-stage specific. Even in COVID days, we can offer something to next generations.
  4. Let ministry needs fall through the cracks. If you want to drive people away from your church, have nothing in place to hold them up when life is hard. Let them face difficulties alone, and they’ll look for a more caring congregation.
  5. Ignore people.  Perhaps this wording sounds harsh, but that’s what it feels like when no one pays attention to a guest or member of a church. If folks can slide out the back door without our noticing, something’s wrong in the church.
  6. Provide no growth process. It seems that some churches believe people will grow significantly in their faith simply by attending regularly. When attenders realize their growth is minimal, those who want to mature will look elsewhere.
  7. Judge people, and offer no redemption. The Bible is itself confrontational. A call to repent is not an optional part of our message. If we judge and never get to redemption and hope, however, we’ll likely lose some struggling attenders.
  8. Talk about, rather than do, ministry. If you want to drive away young folks, make sure you provide no hands-on, experiential ministry opportunities. Require the staff to do all the ministry so that no one else can get involved.
  9. Don’t keep your word. Integrity among believers matters. Few people want to walk alongside leaders they can’t trust.
  10. Fall in sin. This is where this post gets really personal. Somebody’s watching you, and it’s possible somebody will leave your church if you fall into sin. Your failure can be as influential as your faithfulness.
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7 Ways to Pray for Missionaries Caught in the US by Global COVID Restrictions

By Chuck Lawless

Our guest bloggers today serve as international missionaries. Especially as we in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I want us to remember leaders like them who find themselves “displaced” by COVID. 

The year 2020 brought a number of surprises and challenges for Christian ministry. International missionaries are not immune to these challenges. With the closing of borders of many nations, a large number of missionaries had to return unexpectedly to their home country, or they could not return to their field. We’re one of those couples. Here are a few ways you can intercede to the Father on behalf of us and others.

  1. Pray for needs to be met.  Displaced missionaries have tangible needs. Housing, transportation, and other logistics are usually sorted out long before stateside assignments.  Missionaries are finding their options limited during the pandemic.  Pray that God would meet these needs.
  2. Pray for grace for their grief. Missionaries miss being with the people God called them to serve.  During the Christmas season, we grieve the loss of open opportunities to share the gospel and celebrate Christmas with our church families. Missionaries are also grieving the loss of certain foods, familiar rhythms of life, the language we’ve worked so hard to learn, and special traditions and customs.
  3. Pray for children who miss their home. Missionary kids find themselves in a foreign land called the USA. While these kids may have US passports, they have very little experience in American culture. They miss their home and long to return.
  4. Pray for thankful hearts and peace of mind. The struggles with self-pity, anger, faithlessness, anxiety, and resentment are real. God still surrounds us, though, with His presence and His gifts each day; pray that missionaries would see His goodness and rest in His promises.  Pray that we would take each moment of uncertainty and anxiety to the Father and allow His peace to guard our hearts.
  5. Pray for opportunities to serve sending churches. Missionaries want to be involved in ministry. Even though we’re in a holding pattern, we want to be useful for God’s kingdom. Pray that local churches would identify ways for missionaries stuck in the USA to serve and help the church grow in its Great Commission engagement.

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