Transparency: How much of your story should you tell?

I know I appreciate a transparent person. Don’t you? A sincere testimony, someone admitting “I’ve been there” and telling his story. Empathy. Understanding.

If you follow social media, you probably have been embarrassed a time or two when someone shared too much very publicly—at least in your opinion.

How much transparency is too much?

I believe it varies from person to person and with situations, but I also believe we can find a balance.

It is good to tell our stories.

It helps others when we share how we’ve overcome.

It’s encouraging when we can truly empathize with people going through the same kind of trial we’ve been through.

But, there can be some issues with transparency:

  1. Pride—building ourselves up as the superhero who overcame. The truth is, we all need the Lord’s help.
  2. Hurting others when we tell our story—We might reference someone who did us wrong and identify the person, trouble in our family, financial information, or something else. Is that person still living? Has this wrong been reported and justice been served? Or, will telling the story hurt someone’s feelings? Are you betraying a confidence? If abuse is part of the story, consider other people in the families and other victims.
  3. Forgetting to edify—Some people tell all the sad parts of their story, set themselves on a pedestal as an overcomer, and forget to help others. Christians should build up and help others. Your transparency should have that goal in mind.
  4. Couching gossip as a “prayer request”—While it is great to share prayer requests, we need to be careful not to air someone else’s dirty laundry in the guise of sharing a prayer request.

Be real. Let people feel your humanity. Tell how you learned a particular lesson, and give the glory to the Lord.

Do you need wisdom? (All the time.) If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5). Pray for wisdom about sharing (yes or no) and for how to share, if God gives you a yes answer.

Think and pray before you speak—even in casual conversation.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

God bless you as you bless others.

So, where’s Hosea?

Okay, I admit it.

Sometimes I have a hard time finding a book of the Bible. Take Hosea, for example. Old Testament for sure, but is it one of those before Psalms or after the Major Prophets? I have to think about it every single time—and go back over my memorized books list until I find it. Amos is another one that trips me up. And, which book comes before Nehemiah? Where’s Nahum?

Familiarity with the Bible comes with use, but it also helps to memorize the order of the books in the Old and New Testaments. I surely won’t judge you if the preacher announces Obadiah and you look in the Table of Contents.

Have you ever read the Bible—all the way through? Or did you get bogged down in Leviticus and quit—forever?

We’re at the beginning of a new year, and I hope you’ve considered Bible reading as a regular practice. There are all kinds of Bible reading plans. You can use an app. or the Internet or have it on your phone. There are lists you can check off. My personal favorite is The Bible in One Year. See what works best for you.

The important thing is to read God’s Word. Make it a priority.

The Bible is the only living book. That means that it is supernatural—God breathed—and the Holy Spirit applies it to each person’s life. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). No other book can do that. It’s the only Book that knows you.

If you started once in Genesis and got bogged down by Leviticus or so, consider starting in a different place: the Gospel of John. It’s 21 chapters. That means you can easily finish it in less than a month, reading a chapter a day. The gospels are about Jesus and His ministry, and any of them would make a great place to start (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Ask God to speak to you. He will.

After John, try Acts. A good friend calls it the “Acts of the Holy Spirit”—which is an accurate representation. It chronicles the time after the resurrection of Jesus and what was happening in the early church. Read the entire New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. Go for the Old Testament, as well. Genesis 1-11 is all about beginnings. There’s lots of history in Chronicles, Kings, and the Samuels. Enjoy reading about the Old Testament heroes and villains. Learn how God works in the history of mankind. Read prophecy and find out what has already happened and what is yet to come. Finish up with Revelation—almost all of it still to occur. There’s a blessing for everyone who reads it (Revelation 1:3).

As you read through the Bible, you’ll see the amazing connections between then and now and different passages. It’s the most awesome Book in the world, and it will change your life, if you let it.

Find out where Hosea is, Nahum, and all the rest. Become biblically literate, and let the Word of God change you.

Begin today! You still have 29 days in January to finish the 21 chapters in John.

God bless you.

Depending on Jesus

What is it about human nature that we hate to be dependent on others? We don’t like to accept help, go to others for support, or reach out. We don’t want to be a burden.

This includes how we feel about God. We almost feel guilty when we have no other recourse but Him.

Have you ever considered that God wants us to live exactly that way? God wants us to depend wholly on Him.

The Father delights when his children come to Him. He desires our complete dependence. Just like a good daddy wants to take care of his children—and infinitely more so—God wants to take care of us.

He promises sufficiency. He’s ready and willing to meet every single need.

Why do you think God permits some of the situations he allows in our lives? So that we’ll look to Him. When everything goes smoothly, we believe in our own sufficiency. We might even forget to pray. Maybe we think we don’t need anything. But when something happens—sickness, financial need, and negative circumstances—we start praying more, opening our Bibles, and looking for answers. Sadly, that’s human nature. And, that’s why God allows some of our trials. He wants us to look to Him.

Let’s read some of the Scriptures about going to God with our needs.

  • The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him (Psalm 28:7).
  • Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved (Psalm 55:22).
  • Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him (Psalm 103:13).
  • I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living (Psalm 142:5).
  • In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge (Proverbs 14:26).
  • For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall (Isaiah 25:4).
  • If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11)
  • But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
  • Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Whatever your situation today, God cares. He wants you to go to Him with it. Whether you’re in prosperity or need, He craves a relationship with you.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Merry Christmas!

How to be holy in two easy lessons–and what to do when you’re not

Being holy thoretically depends on two easy concepts:

  1. Knowing God’s Word—what He wants.
  2. Obeying.

The problem is, we can’t do it. As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10). For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).

Not one person in the history of the whole world has been able to live up to the standard of holiness, even the first two, Adam and Eve, who were created holy. The only exception was God in the flesh, Jesus.

So, does this mean we throw up our hands in despair?

Of course not. The command to be holy is part of Scripture: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

We can’t be holy, but we should be? Is that right?

Yep.

It’s a goal.

How do we do this? Know God’s Word. Obey it.

For example, here are some of God’s commands:

  • Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it (Psalm 34:14).
  • Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (Matthew 22:37).
  • But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Romans 6:22).
  • There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).Take the escape!
  • Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves (Philippians 2:3).
  • Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).

And, so many more!

When we sin, we can get clean again by confessing our sin and forsaking it. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

The only goodness that we can have is through forgiveness in Christ. We have none by ourselves. Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5).

Holiness will ultimately happen when our spirits are completely redeemed—in heaven. Until then, we learn and obey—and confess—and go on.

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. (Jude 1:24)

Formulas for Prayer

I’ve read all kinds of kooky articles and a few short books about “magic prayers” in my time, but recently I saw some posts on social media that shared Bible verses and biblical thoughts about prayer. Some years back, I did an extensive study about what the Bible says about the discipline of prayer. But for this post, I’d like to share some of the “formulas” for prayer in the Bible.

What kinds of prayer does God honor?

How can we be sure our prayers are getting higher than the ceiling?

The first prayer that God is for sure going to answer is the call for salvation. He might choose to answer an unsaved person’s other prayers, as well, but we can be sure He will answer this one: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

When the disciples wanted instructions on how to pray, Jesus replied with what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It’s a model for everyone. What should we include in our prayers? Jesus says, After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13).

We’re to be in communication with God all the time. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And he (Jesus) spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1).

Jesus also instructed the disciples to pray believing: And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matthew 17:20).

Similar to this is praying with faith, And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him (James 5:15).

A wonderful formula for prayer is trusting, even when we don’t quite understand. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

This formula helps us see the value of prayer to ask and also give thanks. Be careful (full of care, anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Notice that the result of praying like this is awesome peace.

Here are a couple more verses about praying with thanksgiving. There are many. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30). Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).

We need to ask the Lord to lead us in His way, not ours. Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies (Psalm 27:11). Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass (Psalm 37:5).

Something very important is to know how to ask. We need to ask the Lord according to His will. The only way we can know what that is is to learn what the Bible (God’s Word) says about things. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us (1 John 5:14).

There is definitely power when Christians pray together. Jesus is speaking: Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 18:19).

I am not sure if you actually have to say the words “in Jesus’ name we pray,” but we need to be conscious of how we are praying. Jesus says, And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it (John 14:13-14).

God will answer seekers and askers. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7).

He also answers sincere, repentent, intercessory prayers. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:18).

I personally love this verse: Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:8). Do you need a refuge? Pour your heart out to the Lord.

Just as the Bible gives us encouragement in prayer, it also gives us warnings about praying like people who don’t know God.

What should we not do?

Don’t be a showy hypocrite. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him (Matthew 6:5-8).

Don’t look down on your wife; honor her as equal but different. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

Don’t be unforgiving. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).

Prayer is an awesome privilege and an incredible spiritual tool. It is so amazing that we have 24/7 access to God, that He hears, listens, and answers prayers from needy people. Let’s take advantage of it and enjoy our Refuge and Help.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

God bless you!