Prayer is one of the things people struggle with the most.

We don’t know how to come to the Lord and share openly. We ask with wrong motives. We seek the wrong things. We ask the wrong questions. We fail to offer a prayer in faith. We ask, but we also doubt.

Prayer is one of the most powerful things we can do.

It changes circumstances, impacts situations, alters hearts, inspires change, brings resolution, and breaks down barriers.

Prayer is our communication with the Lord.

It is the means by which we can share with the Lord. The Holy Spirit was left with us when he returned to be with the Father, and the Spirit helps us to pray.

Prayer is not about being perfect.

The words, the mannerisms, and the methods are not what is important. It is our heart. The Lord wants to know that we desire to share with him, and as we ask with hearts that do not doubt and have the right motives the prayers will be answered in ways that we can recognize as answers. Whether a plea, a groan, a praise, or a grateful spirit is what we have to offer, we have the freedom to come to the Lord in prayer and to share.

“You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” James 4:2-3

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:13-16

“But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:6

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

Prayer bring hope and faith

As we share with the Lord, even if that prayer is nothing more than the word HELP, there is an impact in the spirit. Through prayer we begin to find hope, we open the door for faith, and our hearts and spirits will be changed.

When was the last time you shared a moment with the Lord in prayer? Could you spare a moment now?

There is no magical formula. Say hello and tell him what is on your mind and heart. He wants to hear what you have to say.

I recently came across this video. As I viewed it I considered what I want in a church, what I desire the church I am helping to plant to look like, but I also thought of home many people hear things like this and it breaks their heart. It isn’t the church they have known. For many people, church is not what they say in this video.

My church is open and inviting

My church is a place where there’s always going to be a merciful response to what I am going through

They accept me for who I am

I can come, regardless of what’s going on in my life

It is a place where I feel safe

My church is a place of forgiveness

It is grace filled

It is a place where there’s mercy for me

My church is a great place to learn about God

There’s always something new, and I always seem to relate to what is going on

My church is one of the most creative and inspiring places that I go every week, sometimes twice.

It’s a place where my kids have a great time, and they’re learning, and I know that they are safe

My church is where I can come and use my talents and can help other people

My church is a place of healing

It just gives us that extra support that sometimes is hard to ask for

Anything I go through, there’s other people and probably a group that are going through it too, and I can join with them

My church is open and inviting

It’s Grace filled

Fun

Loving

Creative

Peaceful

Healing

Accepting

Real

Full of God

Invigorating

Welcoming

Freeing

Honest

It’s a place where God is alive

It’s my soft place to fall

My church is where my family has started a story

It’s a place of hope, healing, forgiveness, and grace

My church brought me back to life

It’s a place that I will always call home

What are some things you would say “church” is to you?

I grew up in the Presbyterian and United Methodist churches. Overall, their beliefs are very similar, and by the time I left the care of my parents and church I had a good start to a foundation. I had only been a believer for two years when I stepped out my own, not realizing there were dangers that lay ahead.

In college, I attended InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Covenant Church, and a non-denominational church. I also studied Religion, and was exposed to a large range of belief systems. When Christianity was discussed, it was often in negative light or a very weak manner. After college, I served with a ministry in the south (Bible Belt) and then went overseas with Youth With a Mission. I returned to the states to look for a solid church home for several years before settling into a non-denominational church. Twelve years later, I was abused.

Since that time I have received counsel from leaders of many different churches, worked with counselors with different belief systems, attended several different churches, and I have been exposed to a very large number of books, sermons, web sites, conferences, etc. They do not all share the same viewpoints and beliefs.

I am a theological mess!

The mixture of things I was exposed to has broadened my mind and stretched me, but it holds many dangers.

I have been exposed to so many varying teachings and beliefs, that sometimes I don’t know what to believe.

Sometimes things I read or hear sound really good, and then I start to realize that it is misleading or shortsighted in some way. It leaves me wondering how often I read or listen to things and do not realize it is distorted or off target. It isn’t that these writers and speakers intend to mislead, because I am sure they firmly believe what they share, but unless we know the whole truth, the parts can mix us up or may not make sense.

Not long ago I learned that a very well-known pastor I have read and listened to believes the Bible is a product of humans, and not inspired and created by God. He used to look to the Bible for truth, but now he just accepts that certain things will remain a mystery. The news shocked me and made me wonder why I did not know this about him. It made me realize that I do not know much about the beliefs of those I have listened to and read.

Not knowing about those speaking into my life has left me in a very dangerous position where I can be mislead and deceived.

I have been taught many conflicting things.

Sometimes I don’t know what to believe, but there one thing of which I am absolutely certain.

The Lord is greater than any theology or belief I hold. He can fix any mixed up belief, deceit, misleading, or shortsighted understanding I hold.

After all, he is God!

How do you eat?

Do you savor every bite? Do you take in the whole experience of food: the location, the company, the music/ambiance, the smells? Do you race through eating? Is eating something you do because you need to, but not really something you put a lot of focus on? Do you eat for comfort or escape?

How do you eat spiritually?

Recently, I have been reflecting on how we are fed spiritually even more than how I eat, although they go hand in hand together. There are several different ways that we are fed: finding food on our own, being spoon fed, being led to the food, being taught how to eat, being taught how to look for and hunt spiritual food, and a combination of the above.

I have been in several churches, study groups, etc. where I have been spoon fed. This means, being presented with what to believe and how to view scripture. The more I am exposed to it, the less I like it. It gives me spiritual content, and makes certain things clear, but I am not having to work for it at all. I am not examining the scriptures and making my own choices, but instead am taking the beliefs of others and swallowing it without really knowing what it contains. I think that is very dangerous, and it creates very immature and unexperienced Christians.

I believe the best way to be fed is through a combination of styles and methods. There are times where I need to be spoon fed. It may be a difficult concept, or I may not be doing well and need to depend on the direction and counsel of others. Ultimately I want to move from being spoon fed (which is where most believers start), to being shown where the food is, learning how to eat it well, and then to learn how to hunt for more food on my own. That is a path of growth and maturity.

When we are hurt and traumatized in our spirit and soul it is hard to look to that spiritual food. However, if we do not eat of spiritual food we become malnourished and the situation gets even worse. We desperately need to eat because our bodies, minds, spirits, and souls are in need of the spiritual nutrition to heal and be restored. We may need to be spoon fed at times, and most if not all of us will need some help in being led to the healthiest food. On our own we can often find unhealthy food, but the healthy food is harder to get to and we need direction and sometimes assistance to reach it.

How are you being spiritually fed? Do your leaders tell you what to believe? Do they present material to you without much or any opportunity to respond or ask questions? Do they apply it to your life, or just present it before you, expecting you to know how to apply it and have it change and fill you?

Take a few minutes to think about your spiritual life, and how you can take a step toward maturity and growth? How can you show a desire or ask to be led to food, taught how to eat, and shown how to hunt for spiritual food on your own? It is likely that your church services will not change, but consider if there a study group you can join, a study group leader you can talk to regarding adjusting their style, a friend you can start meeting with for discipleship, or a training class you can attend.

After I experienced spiritual abuse I questioned everything.

I did not know who to trust, what to believe, or what was true. I doubted my own judgment about everything.

For over four years I wanted to know what was true, but I did not know where to find it.

Thankfully, someone did. It took over four years of searching, trying Christian counseling, talking to pastors and ministry leaders, sharing with family and friends. It took over four years of searching, digging, striving, working, pleading, fighting, and finally surrendering before God said, “look here”.

I knew the answers lay with God, I just didn’t know how to find it and live it.

A door opened for biblical counseling/discipleship. This was completely different from the Christian counseling I had received because it was all about God and scripture and not about us. I was shown what the Bible said about each subject. I was taught that the Bible was not an instruction manual given to guide me, but was the revelation and presentation of God. I was shown once and for all that truth exists, and exactly where to find it. When God said, “look here”, he wasn’t referring to the discipleship, but to himself and his revelation in scripture.

“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true.  And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)

If we do not believe that Christ is truth, and that he is the source of all truth then we are not believing in who he is.

I no longer believe in a man, believe in a religion, or believe in teachings. I live by truth.

Today I listened to an amazing sermon that clearly presents how we can be deceived and misled. It is based upon Colossians 2:6-8. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”

If you have struggled to know what truth is or have felt as if you are mixed up, confused, and living under confusion I have three suggestions:   

  1. Study scripture to learn about the character and nature of God. Throw out everything you have known and especially what you have been taught by man, and let the Lord and the Holy Spirit bring truth to you.
  2. Read 1 John. I believe this book clearly shows how we know what is true, presents fruit that is exhibited by those who walk in truth, and teaches us HOW to live out a life that is changed from the Gospel transforming our lives.
  3. Listen to the sermon I mentioned above. It is by Matt Chandler at the Village Church in Texas. I do not know much about the church, but I know Matt’s reputation is very sound, and he is one of the strongest biblical teachers in our nation. He is very blunt (which I like), which means he will address things that other pastors might not, including how we are misled by false teaching. He gives us some tests to use and ways to communicate with others when they present us teachings and philosophies that sound good up-front, but which really drive us away from truth. You can find the sermon here. The first 12-20 minutes are the section that speak directly to these issues, but the entire sermon is good and powerful.

Lately I have not been feeling that well, and I have noticed that I am not thinking as clearly as I was not long ago. It began to concern me that some of the confusion and muddled thinking from my past might be returning. I started to question if I was falling into depression or if there was some more serious issue at work.

Then I remembered, we are what we eat.

Last year when I fell into crisis and became depressed, I also learned that what I was eating and drinking was affecting me. I was dehydrated, and my body was responding to the artificial ingredients and starches I was eating. I was not eating an extraordinary amount of these things, but at that time it was more than my body could handle.

Stress affects us in many ways. When we are under stress, the foods and beverages we eat and do not eat can affect us to a much greater extent than they might at another time. Different people will be more susceptible than others to certain foods. Prior to this time, I already had issues when I ate too much wheat, and I have to monitor that intake every day, but during the difficult time last year I was also affected by other starches, especially sugar, and by artificial ingredients.

When I removed the wrong foods from my diet and increased my fluid intake there was a dramatic change.

I lost over twenty pounds, my thinking became clearer than the spiritual changes already created, and my energy increased significantly. Over the course of the last year foods have been reintroduced and I had been eating pretty normally. Lately I have been in a very busy and stressful season, and I stopped paying attention to my diet and health. The issues I faced last year may have resurfaced, causing me problems once again.

When we are under stress, our diet can add to any feelings of frustration, confusion, and disillusionment.

If you are feeling those things, take a few minutes to look at any changes you could try in your diet for a few days. Take a moment to think about the music, media, and activities you are “feeding” on also.

I changed my diet two days ago and I already am seeing changes. God made us as whole people, and we need to treat more than just the spiritual areas of our life. Spend time caring for your whole body: heart, soul, mind, and body.

One of the things I have learned through my journey over the last few years is that there are easy days and days that are more difficult ones. The last few days have been some of those more difficult days.

I am still learning that there are conversations which engage and bless my heart and soul, and others that may cause me struggle.

Unfortunately I am still not very good at recognizing ahead of time those that might lead to struggle and then avoiding them.

Recently I engaged in a conversation that has caused me struggle. One of the hardest pieces for me over the past year has been learning to deal with the love I still feel for my last pastor and the people of that church, and having absolutely no outlet to express it since they will not speak with me. In this conversation someone voiced an opinion they hold which left me conflicted. It is their right to hold their opinions, even if I do not agree with them. I do not believe this person had any intention of saying anything that would cause me to struggle, but the truth is it did.

Struggles come in all sorts of forms, and we don’t always know when they are headed our way. We can not always avoid them.

We can however prepare ahead of time to deal with them when they arrive.

In this situation, the root of my struggle is twofold 1) I am left asking what the biblical truth is about a specific subject 2) My heart aches that someone has spoke negatively about someone I care about, even if our relationship is currently broken and unresolved.

For the first issue, the best way to respond is through time in the Bible and in prayer. The Lord knows the truth and he can reveal it to me. He alone defines what truth is. Men may disagree, but the Lord knows how to take multiple scriptures that speak to different sides of an issue and to bring them together to make sense. I could have prepared ahead by spending more time in Scripture before this conversation, and by recognizing this area of uncertainty, however since I did not do that I need to turn to Scripture quickly and not let the questions and uncertainty fester and cause me confusion or distraction.

The second issue is more difficult for me to deal with in my relation to others. On my own, I have spent time mourning the loss of these relationships and allowing the Lord to minister to my heart. Each time this comes up I have to go back to him and allow the Lord to comfort me on a deeper level. I continue to try to reconcile the broken relationships and have to deal with the constant disappointment associated with that. I also have to protect my heart and soul from anger, resentment, and bitterness.

When I speak to others about my story I have faced some very hard conversations and pressure. Over and over again I have been told to have nothing to do with the people from my old church. I have been told to let go of the past and to move forward. I have had to listen to great criticism of others, and have faced a lot of criticism about how I have responded. There are some people I have encountered who hold a great deal of anger and bitterness in their hearts. They get angry about things that are not a part of their story due to resentment and offense they hold in their heart. I have been told to turn my back on others and to not work through the issues. I have been told it is okay to forget them. I have been told I am justified to feel angry, hurt, and to be unkind and unloving toward others.

I just can not agree! No matter what others have done or will do to me I have to choose to follow what the Lord has shown me love, sacrifice, and truth.

The Lord has changed my heart and healed it so deeply that I can not even understand much of what I have been told by others. I do not feel offense or anger. I do still live with the pain of the brokenness and disunity that exists. My heart desires love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Today my heart hurts. I wish the world would be a place where the only conversations I even could engage in would bless my heart and soul.

Unfortunately, life brings struggle, but I know that God can use every single struggle to bless, grow, change, and draw me to be more like him. That is where I want to go!