New life is for real… and it really matters!
I just finished up the first session of a 10-session video curriculum that I’m putting together. It’s got a workbook to go along with it, or you could use the workbook by itself.
Think Beth Moore.
Think “Experiencing God” by Henry Blackaby
It’s called, “New Life Is No Joke” – and it covers the wonderful biblical truths regarding our new life in Christ.
Here are the session titles:
- SESSION 1: New Life Starts with Jesus (free, at the top of this page)
- SESSION 2: What Happened to You – pt. 1
- SESSION 3: What Happened to You – pt. 2
- SESSION 4: Identity Crisis
- SESSION 5: If I Have New Life, Why Do I Still Struggle So Much?
- SESSION 6: Where Did You Get That Flesh?
- SESSION 7: Breaking Mental and Emotional Bondage
- SESSION 8: Putting It To Work In Real Life
- SESSION 9: New Habits of A New Life
- SESSION 10: When Life Is Hard
It’s a great study of the topic and truth of new life in Christ that can be used individually, or in small groups, Sunday schools, home church groups, etc.
The first session is online as a “sampler” – absolutely FREE!
This is actually a SCREENCAST from my other blog… but it’s such an important teaching that I wanted to put it out here too.
Watch it again.
Get these truths down deep inside you!
All of us are prideful people. It’s true… don’t even try to argue the point (those closest to you would take MY side). It comes in various shapes and a million different sizes. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times not so much. It can make us do, or not do, some very interesting things.
For the past few years, my wife and I have been weary… I mean really weary. It’s been so bad that I began to find the things I love – study, sermon preparation, discipleship, leadership training – exhausting, almost to the point that I dread them. When anybody begins to dread the things they love… that’s not good. When a Pastor begins to dread the things he loves that are also integral parts of his role AS a Pastor… that’s really not good. As I examined my heart, my weariness had nothing whatsoever to do with my church family. They’ve always been supportive, very loving, and excited (overall) to have me as their Pastor. I just couldn’t figure it out.
So, my wife and I tried to wait it out, listen to the Lord, search for His purpose and teaching in our weariness, and overall just “push through” it (I’m usually really good at that). But this time, no matter how hard we pushed, nothing budged. Nothing. We just became more and more and more weary.
So we began to ask ourselves and the Lord a series of questions…
- Is it time for us to move into some other realm of ministry? (Every time we asked this, both our spirits and the searching we did in the Word of God told us “No. That’s not it.” And we still had a great love for our church family that gave us the desire to be among them and continue leading them.)
- Is it time for me to move out of ministry altogether? (Every time we asked this, we got the same thing.)
So, exasperated and without a clue, we called the District Superintendent of our association of churches to come and meet with us. We told him our experience, about our weariness, and about the road that got us there. He helped us to see that in almost 20 years of ministry, we had only had one “real” vacation. He wondered if we had gotten adequate, much-needed needed rest over the years. Then he asked me a very revealing question… “Is this to the point of crisis, or not?” As I pondered his question, I realized that we weren’t at a crisis – yet. But if something didn’t change, we would be soon. That bothered me…
He suggested that we might need a sabbatical.
My ears perked up… Sabbatical? I’d heard of those… in fact I knew exactly what it meant – but had never thought about the possibility of having one for myself. As he described what a sabbatical could look like, he used 4 “R” words – Rest, Renewal, Restoration, and Recreation. Man… did that sound good… to me and my wife! He said that in his opinion, if we didn’t get a sufficient break from ministry, a time when we could totally unplug from all ministry responsibilities and contact, something would give out. It might be health, it might be emotions, it might be our minds – but something would give out under the strain.
That’s when I began feeling a bit scared. I could already feel hints of some of those things in my soul.
That’s where the pride reared its ugly head (remember how I started this post?). A ton of prideful thoughts began to flood my mind… It’s not like me to give in to a little fatigue. It’s not in me to quit – at anything that I feel called to do. And I felt like I hadn’t been at this particular church long enough to ask them to bear the burden of an extended paid leave for me (I’d just begun my 5th year). In essence, I was saying that I hadn’t earned it yet. After all, a sabbatical usually doesn’t happen for a Pastor until after 5 years at the earliest, and many times not until after 7 years. It just didn’t seem fair to me to ask that of my church.
While all that was true, I was falling into the trap of thinking, “I can just stick it out for a bit longer, until I earn it.” As I began to voice those challenges to the idea, both Greg and my wife helped me to see that I couldn’t stick it out. I couldn’t. Though it would be a huge request, that if granted, would be an added burden the entire church family would have to bear together, it was what I needed as their Pastor – and wisdom and humility demanded that I openly share my need with them. What settled it in my mind once and for all was when Greg said, “It’s a lot cheaper, in every way, for them to do this for you than for them to have to find another Pastor.” He was right… and my pride melted into humility – at least enough for me to admit that I had to do this, and soon.
The next week at Elder meeting, I spoke to my Elder team about this need… and they were more than understanding. They understood my need and were eager to help. To make a long story short (too late) I have been given the gracious gift of 4 months of paid leave, in which I am expected to rest, renew, restore, and recreate. I’m so thankful. So humbled. So amazed at how God Himself is already working to get things in order for the church family while I am gone from them.
I will miss my church family. I will miss my role as their Pastor. But I will cherish the great gift of rest, reflection, and extended time with my family and the Lord. And today, I am seeing anew, God’s great grace – that by definition is not deserved or earned.
- If we love a person, we like to think about him. We do not need to be reminded of him. We do not forget his name or his appearance or his character or his opinions or his tastes or his position or his occupation… Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ!
- If we love a person, we like to hear about him. We find a pleasure in listening to those who speak of him. We feel an interest in any report which others make of him… Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ!
- If we love a person, we like to read about him. What intense pleasure a letter from an absent husband gives to a wife, or a letter from an absent son to his mother… Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ!
- If we love a person, we like to please him. We are glad to consult his tastes and opinions, to act upon his advice and do the things which he approves… Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ!
- If we love a person, we like his friends. We are favorably inclined to them, even before we know them. We are drawn to them by the common tie of common love to one and the same person… Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ!
- If we love a person, we are jealous about his name and honor. We do not like to hear him spoken against, without speaking up for him and defending him… Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ!
- If we love a person, we like to talk to him. We tell him all our thoughts, and pour out all our heart to him. We find no difficulty in discovering subjects of conversation… Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ!
- Finally, if we love a person, we like to be always with him. Thinking and hearing and reading and occasionally talking are all well in their way. But when we really love people we want something more… Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ!
I told you a bit ago about a new ministry endeavor I’m launching (with the support and encouragement of the Elders of my church). I now have a website up to give details about what I’m doing! If you hear of or know of a Christian group needing to find a Jesus-centric speaker for…
- Men’s retreats
- Couple’s retreats
- Spiritual life conferences
- Revival services
- Or anything in between…
Keep me in mind!
You can find a lot more information about where I’m headed with this endeavor at http://careygreen.wordpress.com
This is a WONDERFUL resource from the folks at www.desiringgod.org (John Piper’s ministry). As they often do, they have provided a tremendous FREE resource for your Christian growth! You can find all kinds of resources here to help you in memorizing scripture, including phone apps and memory songs! Go there NOW!!! Click on the logo above!
Organizing your prayer priorities
For years, I struggled to find a way to include the many things I needed to pray for and about, into a system of some kind so that I wouldn’t overlook or forget them. I wanted to be diligent in my prayers for my family, friends, and church family, but felt that the great number of things I should be praying for was so overwhelming that I couldn’t get through it! It seemed like I’d never be able to consistently pray for all those needs! I tried to write out my requests on a “list” so that I could systematically go through them, but I never felt like I was being consistent to pray for ALL of them, or praying for the truly important things enough.
One year when I was attending a conference, I heard Dr. D.A. Carson (author and professor at Trinity Theological Seminary) speaking. In his message, he made a side comment about the way he went about organizing his prayer life. He had a very simple, easy-to-follow system that enabled him to regularly and consistently cycle through all of his prayer concerns. I began using his system, and found it very helpful. Over the years I have adapted it in a few significant ways. It has been a wondrous blessing to me. It’s no cure-all, but is is a very practical way to organize your many prayer requests into a system that works. I call it the 3 stack method – and here’s what I do initially to get it organized…
- STEP 1: I write a list of everything and everyone that I want to pray for on a regular basis.
- This is everything from my wife and children, to individuals in my church family, to ongoing personal needs, to my country and its leaders.
- I make a list of all those things so that I have a pretty full idea of the things I want to be praying for.
- STEP 2: I decide how often I want to and need to pray for each of those prayer concerns.
- Some people or things, like my wife and children, I want to pray for daily.
- Others, like specific families in my church, or temporary situations, I don’t feel a need to pray for as regularly – though I do want to be faithful to pray for them.
- Finally, there are issues or needs that are even lower on the priority scale than that. It’s not that these are unimportant or shouldn’t be prayed for, but that they are not AS important as some of the other things on my list.
- I assign one of 3 priorities to each of them: I’ve decided to call those 3 levels of priority “Daily”, “Weekly”, and “Rotation” requests.
- STEP 3: On index cards or note cards of some kind, I write each request, one to a card (you’ll understand why in a minute).
- Somewhere on the card, in large letters, I write it’s priority.
- Then I place each card in a stack with the other cards of the same priority.
- Here are some examples…
- STEP 4: Using paper clips, I fasten each stack together so they don’t go flying across the room if I drop them! So now I have 3 stacks of requests, each with a different priority assigned to them.
- HOW IT WORKS: Here’s where it gets really practical… and where you will begin to understand why I’m using paper clips!
- Every day when it comes time for me to pray, I pray for each request in the daily group, from front to back. When I finish praying for a request, it moves to the back of the stack. When I finish praying for the next one, it goes to the back of the stack, and so forth until the entire stack is finished. Then I reattach the paper clip.
- When I’m finished with the daily stack, I move on to the weekly stack and pray for an equal amount each day. (For example: If I have 21 cards in my weekly group, and if I have my prayer time 7 days a week, I’ll be praying for 3 per day. Again, as I finish each request, it goes to the back of the stack. When I’m finished with the weekly group, I reattach the paper clip. Since I moved the requests I prayed for today to the back of the stack, the first one on the stack will be where I start the next day.
- When I’m finished with the weekly stack, I’ll move on to the rotation stack. I don’t have a specified number that I pray for in this stack, just whatever I have time for. Again, as I finish each request, it goes to the back of the stack. When I’m finished, I reattach the paper clip to the stack of cards.
- Using this method, I simply start with the top card in each stack because I know that they are “next in line.”
- What happens if I run out of time or an emergency comes up? Even if I didn’t finish one of the stacks as planned, I just paper clip it where I left off, and pick up there the next day, resuming my normal routine. I never worry about “catching-up” if I have fallen behind for some reason. I just pick up where I left off.
- You should keep your 3 stacks in something where they won’t get lost or misplaced. You could use anything from a zip-lock baggie to a file folder, to a briefcase pocket. I have a zippered pocket folder where I keep mine. Just make sure you keep it in the same place all the time so that when it comes time for you to pray, you know where it is!
- ADDING/REMOVING ITEMS
- Any time a request is no longer relevant, you can simply remove that card from the stack and throw it away.
- For answered prayers – you could create a 4th stack of “Answered” requests that you could periodically look through in order to give additional praise to God for His answers! You could even put a card in any of your stacks that says, “Praise for answered prayer” to remind you to use that 4th stack!
- If the priority of one of you prayer items changes for some reason, you can reassign it to another category by making a new card for it.
- The most difficult part of this system is in handling new requests. If someone asks you to pray for them, you first have to remember to write down their request so you don’t forget. Once that is done, all you have to do is to make a card for their request, assign it a priority, and include it in the cards you already have in that stack.
- Sometimes you might be given a prayer card from a missionary family, or another ministry that contains its own list of specific requests. Or you might be part of a prayer chain or other distribution list where you receive lists of requests on a regular basis. You can make individual cards for every individual request if you’d like, but I don’t go to that trouble. I include those kinds of cards in my “rotation” pile. When I get to that card, I pray for as many of the individual requests on it as I can. If I don’t get all the way through, I leave it on the front of the stack and mark with a pencil next to the request where I should begin praying next time.
I’ve found this method to be a great help to me in organizing the many things that I need to pray for. It allows me to regularly and consistently be praying for the things that are important to me, or that are my responsibility to pray for as a father, husband, pastor, etc. Now, I can honestly say that I’ve been praying for people on a regular basis – and encourage them by telling them so!
I. O.U.S. Prayer Method
I first heard of this method in a series of lectures given by Pastor John Piper on the topic “Fight for Joy.” Since that time I have discovered that he covers this method of prayer in one of his books.1 The idea is very simple: pray scripture back to God. Piper says that he uses this method himself, almost every day of his life. I can see why… it is very helpful in pointing your heart toward the things of God. The letters in the acronym stand for the first word in 4 different passages from the Psalms. If you will take the time right now to look up these 4 examples, you will notice that the verses surrounding them lend themselves to this kind of use as well. Here’s the outline of I.O.U.S….
I. – Incline – Psalm 119:36 – “Psa 119:36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! “ Use this example from the life of David to ask God for the inclination to desire His word. He delights to answer this kind of prayer!
O. – Open – Psalm 119:18 – “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Ask the Lord to open your eyes, that you can see the amazing truths that lay within the pages of His word.
U. – Unite – Psalm 86:11 – “unite my heart to fear your name.” We must face the reality that we have divided hearts. We rush after too many things, forgetting that what we really need is a heart that is united in pursuit of God. Ask the Lord to unite your heart to fear Him.
S. – Satisfy – Psalm 90:14 – “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Ask the Lord to satisfy you with Himself, with His love, with the things of God.
The Lord’s Prayer Model
In Matthew 6 we find what we call “The Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father.” Though it was given to us by Jesus, it is not intended to be a word for word prayer that we repeat without meaning. It is to serve us as a pattern or model. Many people find it helpful to follow the outline this prayer follows, similar to how we would follow the A.C.T.S. method. I’ll show you how that looks…
Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
- Spend time acknowledging God’s role as your Father
- Spend time “hallowing” His name… worshiping Him.
Matthew 6:10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
- Acknowledge God’s rule over all things in heaven and earth. Submit yourself and your time of prayer to that rule.
- Ask God to bring about His will on earth perfectly, just like it is in heaven. This is prayer that asks God to overcome the consequences of sin in daily, practical matters.
- You could also pray here that the Lord would accomplish His will in the circumstances faced by friends, relatives, etc.
Matthew 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread,
- Similar to the “supplication” part of the A.C.T.S. prayer, this is where you ask God to act on your behalf, to provide, to give you what you need.
- This is another section where you could pray for others and the needs they have.
Matthew 6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
- This is where you would confess your sins and failings.
- Ask the Lord to forgive you because of Jesus’ death on your behalf. Ask Him to give you the strength and ability to turn from that sin.
- Ask the Lord to show you any situations where you need to offer or give forgiveness to someone else, or pursue reconciliation with another person.
Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
- Ask the Lord for protection from temptation, Satan, sin, and your own sinful inclinations.
- Ask the Lord to make you strong in your faith when these temptations do come your way, so that you can honor Him in that moment.
This example is just a rough outline. Feel free to fill it in with more details from your own life. Use the categories of the Lord’s prayer to pray through your prayer list!
A prayer journal is place where you write out your prayers to God. Think of it has a letter you are writing to God, or a conversation you are having with Him. There are a variety of ways you can organize your journal. Some people purchase a spiral notebook with multiple sections, using those sections to separate different headings or topics of prayer. If you do, you might label the sections as Family, Work, Church, Health Issues, etc., listing your prayer requests in the appropriate section and writing out your prayers as you go. Other people simply begin at the front of their notebook or journal and write out what is on their heart each day in prayers to God (similar to a daily diary, only directed to God).
One of the advantages I’ve discovered to using a prayer journal is that the process of writing forces me to slow down enough to think through what I really need and want to speak to the Lord about. I find my written prayers are actually more expressive of what is on my heart. A disadvantage, which can become a frustration over time is that prayer journaling requires a decent amount of time. It’s simply slower to write out your thoughts than to think them or speak them. Some individuals have tried to overcome that drawback by typing their prayers on word processing or other computer software. But for me, though it can become a frustration at times, the value of journaling is that it DOES take time. I’m forced to think a bit more deeply, and I find myself feeling that I’ve been able to express my heart to the Lord more fully. There are really no rules for how you journal – you should do what works best for you.