I shared with you the first Positive Habit with this post: Part 1. Today, I’d like to share with you the second Positive Habit, the habit of Prayer.
Prayer is often seen as a mysterious, even mystical thing that somehow must be mastered over a lifetime of practice. The other night I was bored and the movie Gravity was on…did I mention that I was bored? During one scene Sandra Bullock’s character makes this interesting statement, “Would you pray for me…no one ever taught me how to pray.” I find that very interesting, and telling of our culture. We have this ingrained belief that prayer and praying is difficult, tricky, and that there is some special protocol that must be followed, or else!
Whenever I teach about prayer, I usually go back to what I like to call the discovery of prayer. It’s found in the book of Genesis, chapter 4, verse 26:
Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.
You see when God created the world prayer was non-essential, because God and man communicated face to face. The Bible says that Adam and Eve walked with God together in the Garden of Eden. But, when man sinned that intimate connection was broken, or it would probably be better to say, it was significantly altered. Because of the sinfulness in man, God had to remove his ‘physical’ presence from man or else his holiness would have destroyed them, even if He is/was/always will be ever present. From that point on, however, God’s presence was not as obvious, and men’s relationship with God took a radical turn for the worse. The first man born, Cain, actually killed the second man born Abel, in a fit of rage and jealousy! Wow, it didn’t take long for that to go bad! However, when the next son was born, Seth, his attitude in regards to God was completely different. For some unknown reason, maybe a child was sick or the crops failed, Seth called out to God…and God answered him, and thus began what we now call prayer.
From that seminal moment forward men have realize that whenever they call out to God that He will answer them. Prayer, in it’s most basic and fundamental form, is simply calling out to God, nothing more and nothing less. You can call on God to praise His name, to thank Him for something He’s done, pleading for Him to intervene, to give direction, really whatever you need to say or ask of God, prayer is our mode of communication.
Okay, so let’s get into the specifics:
- Is there a particular place to pray from? Nope! Moses prayed on a Mountainside, David prayed in battle, Daniel prayed from inside the lion’s pit, Enoch prayed in the forest, Joseph prayed in prison, Abraham prayed in the desert…well I think you get the point. Your location isn’t relevant to the delivery success of your prayer.
- Is there a particular verbiage to prayer? Nope! Recorded prayers in the Bible are as short as a couple of words all the way up to an entire chapter in the Bible. It doesn’t have to have thee’s and thou’s, and probably shouldn’t since it’s the 21st century, and there isn’t a particular format. The words you use in prayer are as specific to you as the words you use in regular conversation with others. Trust me, God’s not judging you on your grammar or your use of language. You’ll never here him correct your usage of ‘their’ ‘there’ or ‘they’re’!
- Is there a limit to what I can pray for? Well, lets see: Elijah prayed that it wouldn’t rain, and then later that it would. Isaac prayed for a wife. Joshua prayed for mercy. Solomon prayed for wisdom. Elisha prayed for a boy to come back to life. Jacob prayed that his brother wouldn’t kill him, and then wrestled…literally…with God. The point is, as long as you are praying from your heart, about what’s going on in your life, then there really isn’t a limit, other than of course things that are sinful…yeah, don’t pray for those!
- Is there a prescribed format for prayer? That is a great question, and many people will point you to Jesus model prayer that he gave to the Disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 but even that wasn’t intended to be the ‘be all, end all’ of prayers. But, there are certainly elements that Jesus points are are good and valuable for us to pray to God about.
Jesus says that as we pray we should be reminded of how awesome God is (name be kept holy); we should pray to know, understand, and see His will become reality in our life (your kingdom come, your will be done); we should pray for any needs we might have (our daily bread); to give us wisdom for making decisions (lead us not into temptation); for safety (deliver us from evil); and for forgiveness of our sins (forgive us our sins). Basically, what Jesus is doing here is giving us a list of all of the things that we can come to God for, take a look at that list again in a little more simplified format:
- Who God is
- Know God more
- Know God’s will
- God would provide our needs
- God would give us direction
- God would protect us
- God would forgive us
You see, once you get past all of the years of thee’s and thou’s, God just wants you to talk with Him. He is your Father and He wants you to let Him know what you want, what you need; He wants you to ask questions, to seek direction. Prayer is simply your sharing your heart with God! Don’t make it complicated, don’t make it too formal, and don’t avoid it like it’s difficult.
Whatever you are doing, just stop for a minute. Pause and say hello to God, He’s there, I promise you. Tell Him about your day, your fears, your hopes, your dreams, just talk…and then listen. It is often after we have poured our heart out to God that He pours Himself into us. God’s most direct form of communication is through His Word, the Bible (I talked about this is Pt 1) but He loves to talk to us when we are still, silent, and listening. It is often in those moments I can almost ‘feel’ God right there. I’m no ‘spooky Christian’, but I do believe what the Bible teaches, so I’ll leave you with this.
Be still and know that I am God! – Psalm 46:10
Until next time!
How do you grow spiritually? Depending upon your background you may answer that questions using different words than what I’m about to. But, the basics of growing spiritually haven’t changed since the beginning of time, when a relationship with God was the most important thing (see Adam and Eve in the Garden with God). Yet ever since that fateful day when our grandparents rejected God we’ve been trying to create some type of system to get us back closer to Him, and often it’s on our terms. We create religious systems that are, at best, flawed/cheap imitations of what God has truly intended.
Instead of trying to get you to do a particular thing(s) that fit a particular religious system, let’s just go back to what God has highlighted in His word as important stuff for us. God doesn’t tend to waste his breath or talk just to hear Himself, so when God speaks our ears should perk up and take note. My hope is that you can begin to build these habits into your life and move towards spiritual health, because that which is healthy…grows!
This particular habit is probably the least utilized, even though it may be the most important since it flows into our understanding of all the others. Now, I’m not going to tell you that you need to get up at the ‘butt-crack of dawn’ and scour the Scriptures for the theological equivalent of a needle in a haystack! But, it is absolutely essential to your spiritual health that you are listening to God. The Bible refers to itself as the “Word of God”, let’s put that in a way we can grasp, “God’s words recorded for us, to give us direction, hope, and comfort for our everyday life”. Often, Bible reading/study can feel like homework, but what it should be and should be viewed as is simply an opportunity for us to hear from and receive wisdom from the greatest source in all of the universe.
When I was a younger pastor, I often thought how helpful and informative it would be to be able to spend an hour with some of the great pastors of the previous generation and gain wisdom from them. I even went so far as to try to get some time with some very well known men at my own expense. Unfortunately, rarely did it pan out, and when it did I was often disappointed. Yet, the greatest source of leadership teaching, wisdom, and coaching sat just inches from my hand on my desk. It wasn’t that I didn’t read or study my Bible, but I saw it as one dimensional, spiritual, nothing more, nothing less. But then I re-read a passage of Scripture that I’d read a hundred times before:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
Do you see it, “…every good work…”. The Bible isn’t just a ‘spiritual manual’ it’s a Life Manual. When you read it God is filling you with wisdom for living life. The God who created and sustains all life is literally giving you the secrets to living a life of significance! And, unlike all of those self-appointed gurus it’s not ‘3 easy payments of $19.99’ it’s free, readily accessible, and without any type of limitations.
So, how about you and I today spend a little time listening to God? Grab your Bible, open it up, and just read, you never know what you might be inspired, challenged, equipped, taught, lead, encouraged to do until you start to listen to the ONE whose hand is guiding it all!
Next post: Prayer
Well the old expression goes, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Have I ever mentioned that I have a rather driven personality? I don’t know about you all but I don’t think I can wait an awful lot longer before I start having to gnaw on something (or someone) to relieve the tension!
Thankfully, things are moving, but as with everything that has anything to do with governmental red tape, it moves way slower than what we’d like. On the very positive side all of our information for financing is in the lenders hands and we have multiple banks who are now ‘competing’ for our business, this usually means good rates, which means a savings in the long run…even better!
On the exciting side…if our bond issue is resolved and our meeting goes well with the City, then nothing further stands in the way of us breaking ground! We don’t have a date yet since it’s still dependent upon those last two hurdles being jumped, but all signs point to go as of right now.
You will notice that some of the property next to Emerson road is already getting dug up. This is a part of the improvements that are being done to the road and are a part of our new acceleration and deceleration lanes that will make coming and going much easier on Sundays and for our Childcare parents when all is said and done.
Finally, as I shared with you recently, we just reached 40% of our $627,000 committed to the MOMENTUM project, way to go Friendship! If you made a commitment and haven’t yet started giving or your a little behind, I’m going to challenge you to start or get back in rhythm to help us reach 50% even faster. Let’s keep moving forward to make an impact that’ll last a generation!
Well, this is what we are currently seeing all around our building right now! I’m thinking that I might pick one of these bad boys up so that I can fit in with all of the cool kids. I wonder what type of gas mileage they get?
We’ve had some pretty cool things take place over the last month. Now, we’ve still got a long way to go, but pretty much all of our meetings have gone fantastic. We even had a huge answer to prayer in our excess dirt removal and actually have a couple of different people willing to take it off of our hands with no cost to us.
Here are the big items on our plate right now, and almost all of it is in the financial areas. Our finance team is working over time to get all of this information together and correct so as to not hold up the project, but here is what you can be praying for:
- The City is requiring us to get a Bond for all of our site-work. Bonds are really not a big deal, unless of course you’re a church! Then it can become a real process. Be praying that we can get this completed and ready to present to the City by the Board of Public Works meeting on June 14th!
- Our final architectural plans are almost ready to be submitted to the State. This is the last major pre-construction hurdle. Pray that the State approves and that the City signs off.
- Compilation of the last several years of financial records. Think of it as doing your taxes…blindfolded! Yeah, that’s kind of what this is like.
The 3 people who are carrying the load are Don Stewart, Jessica Seelye, and Nita Conaway. Please be in constant prayer for them as I’m certain the numbers can get overwhelming at times.
Here’s the really exciting news: If all goes well with getting our financing in line, and there are no unforseen hiccups at the June 14th BPW meeting, we can apply for our LAP (Land Alteration Permit) and we can begin moving dirt. So, let’s all pray that the big boy dozer’s aren’t just at our neighbor’s next month, but are roaming around our land too!
That’s all for now!
The snail pace of the pre-construction process continues. We gave our site design (parking, sewer, storm water, ect…) to the City and they came back with some alterations, and we have re-submitted it with the areas they asked us to address. So, the next phase is submitting the actual building/construction designs for approval.
I can’t tell you how anxious I am to begin seeing ground moving on our land. All of the dirt mounds piling up on Worthsville Rd are just adding to my anticipation! If you are as excited about us moving dirt as I am there are 4 things I’m asking you to do:
- Pray! Our biggest asset as we work through the submission, permit, and bonding process with the City are your prayers. We believe that prayer changes things! So, pray that our builder move quickly, that the City responds quickly and reasonably, and that everything would take place on God’s perfect timing.
- Talk! Share your excitement for the building with everyone you know. Talk to them about what will be happening there, talk about how it will allow our Childcare, which by the way is awesome, to grow and impact more families. Talk about the coffee shop whose proceeds will be used to help people who are hurting, lost, and lonely. Talk about how our teen ministry will finally be able to have a space of their own. In short, talk about it, build the excitement!
- Commit! Last year we presented the MOMENTUM project and many of you committed financially to give over and above your regular offering to make the project a reality. If you were not a part of Friendship then and you’d like to know more about it and potentially become a part of MOMENTUM yourself then go to our dedicated website, read the information, watch the amazing stories, and commit to being a part of the MOMENTUM at Friendship Church! If you’ve already committed, then let me say “Thank You!” and keep up the giving!
- Invite! Once our building is complete we will have seating for 600 in the auditorium and our kids space will double. As we build over the next year our vision of glorifying God as an effective and influential church isn’t being put on hold! Some may say, “Where will we put more people right now?”. That’s a great question, I really don’t know…but we’ll find room. Lack of space will never be an excuse for us to stop doing what God has called us to do, and when the time is right God will let us know what the next step is. Kind of exciting, isn’t it!
Just remember, when God’s people, pursue God’s vision, in God’s timing, we can expect God-sized results!
Some great news everyone! I recently had a meeting with the City of Greenwood and the subdivision planner to the West of us. As we all sat around the table attempting to resolve the domino effect that we were experiencing the subdivision planner came up with a fantastic idea that allowed not only us to move forward but also the subdivision! That means that both of our projects can continue to progress, and hopefully without much further delay.
At this point we have to get back with our engineers to change some of our drainage and road issues and hopefully be able to work with the subdivision in creating a great timing solution that works for both of us. So, as of right now, our engineering firm is beginning to work on the layout. Once that is done we will present that to the City and get an initial approval to apply for a land alteration permit (basically allows us to start moving dirt).
The unfortunate part of all of this is that this process has caused us to be about 4-6 months behind our initial desire of breaking ground in December. The positive part is that this is allowing us to get to know more of the people involved in the project and be able to build positive relationships with them. In fact, I’d like to give you a few names of people who will be influential in the ongoing progress of our project and ask you to be specifically praying for them.
- Paul Claire (Subdivision Planner)
- Mark Richards (City Engineer)
- Paul Peoni (Assistant Engineer)
- Bill Peeples (City Planner)
All of these men I’ve been able to get to know throughout this process, and I can tell you that I am personally praying for them, and I’d like you to join me.
Well, that’s all for now, keep praying hard and I’ll keep you up to date as things progress!
Wow, I’m simply amazed at how our MOMENTUM series went, and I’m in awe of how excited and supportive everyone is of the project. For those of you who don’t yet know, we did reach our goal of $600,000 committed to the project over the next two years, and on our Big Give Sunday 25% of that amount came in, that’s just astounding by any measure!
Our hope was to break ground still in 2013, unfortunately do to some circumstances beyond our control that have recently taken place we will need to delay the groundbreaking a little bit. We are still hoping to be able to get started early in 2014 if we can make some pieces move the way we want. Here’s the skinny on what has happened and how it affects us:
- First thing that happened was that a Greenwood resident, East of us on Worthsville Rd, is fighting the Eminent Domain ruling. This has put a six month delay on the construction of Worthsville Rd. This does not affect us…directly, but as you’ll see below it has a pretty substantial domino effect.
- Because the City of Greenwood has had to delay the project for six months, they’ve chosen to start on the West end of the project across 31. Again, this has no direct impact on us…but wait!
- The subdivision directly to the West of us across Emerson Ave needs to tie into the new storm water system that the City is building into Worthsville Rd, BUT that is also being delayed, so the subdivision has also decided to delay starting. Now, this has a direct impact on us because our current drainage goes onto the property they are building on so they were going to have to take our drainage and connect it to the new City storm water system. They also were going to bring Emerson up to a County Road designation (thicker pavement and a little wider lanes).
So, because all of this is delayed, that places all of the improvements (road, drainage, moving of utilities, etc…) squarely on our shoulders, which if it stands will mean a potential increase of $250,000…yes, that’s six figures!
We are in the process of working with our construction team to determine exactly what it might cost us, and if there is some way around, or some way to work with either the City or the subdivision to find a positive solution. So, be praying very, very hard that God gives us a clear path and gives us precise directions!
WARNING, SPIRITUAL APPLICATION COMING!!!
As I think about this process I can’t help but think about the verse I began Sunday’s message with:
A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. – Proverbs 24:24 NIV
Rarely can we trace a path of ruined life back to one ‘huge, monstrous bad decision’. Granted, there are some of those, but more often then not it’s a small decision, that leads to another, and another, and another. Then one day you find yourself in a place you never wanted or intended to be, and it often impacts other people.
This gentleman who is fighting the City is not going to win. If it were for a strip mall or another parking lot, yes he would have a small shot, but no one has ever won an Eminent Domain case when it involved a road. So, not only will he lose his case, but he’ll also lose his money for the lawyer, which means the money that he would have gotten for his property will be significantly diminished or he could lose it all together. His decision also affects all of the people who would benefit from the new road, the people who would be purchasing the new homes, the guys who would be employed to build those homes…well you get the picture.
Moral of the story folks, every decision and every choice matters which is why Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:16;
“Watch your life and doctrine closely!”
Keep praying for God’s best team, because it’s on it’s way!!!