Pray First — Then Work

Pray first, then work.

One commitment I made when writing devotionals for Freedom Fighter is I would be real and honest… hopefully you’ll take some of these real stories from my life and learn from my mistakes in your own.

A few days ago I came into work early to finish up a mailing project. I had volunteers coming in at 8am and I needed to run a thousand envelopes before then. As I began to load our addressing machine, every other envelope began to jam… for every two envelopes that went through, it jammed. Needless to say, my temper began to rise.

Pray First Then Work

 

The more I adjusted the more the machine seemed to jam and the more in jammed the louder my yelling became. Looking back, I’m happy that it was so early in the morning so none of the men in the Colony of Mercy program heard me yelling (ouch, not a good testimony).

As I hit the tipping point of my frustration, I sat back on a stool and took a deep breath. I remembered a sign hanging above my office door that says, “PRAY first, then work.” You see, that morning because I was in such a rush, I didn’t take any time to set the day before the Lord, and it showed.

One of the best examples of how to do this whole “prayer before work” thing is Jesus. In Mark 1:35 is says “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”  Every time I read this verse I think to myself “If Christ needed to start his day with prayer, who am I not too?” We can easily see in scripture that not only did Christ pray in the morning but also he had a prayer lifestyle. Every morning, afternoon and evening Jesus was bringing himself and others before the Father in prayer. If this was something important to Jesus, I think I’d better listen.

I know for a fact that if I had started this particular day off with prayer, my attitude would had better reflected someone who is striving to be everything my God has called me to be, and a man of anger is not one of them.

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. ~James 1:19-20

Today’s encouragement is this. As Christian men we should always be striving to be more and more like Christ. We can see in scripture that prayer was something very important to Jesus, and it turn, it should be important to us. Our lives can throw many challenges and struggles our way but if we are “praying first, then working” we will be far better prepared to handle our lives with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If any of you should ask me for an epitome of the Christian religion, I should say that it is in one word – prayer. Live and die without prayer, and you will pray long enough when you get to hell. ~Charles Spurgeon — Graeme Wilson, Director of Marketing at America’s Keswick | graemew@americaskeswick.org

Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 22-24; Hebrews 2

Think About This: The greatest tragedy of life is not unanswered prayer but unoffered prayer. F.B. Meyer

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands. Psalm 78:72

Scenes from Levi’s Deli: The New Wineskins

Scenes From Levi’s Deli: THE NEW WINESKINS

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”  Matthew 9:17 (NLT)

New wineskins

For a guy named Levi it all started with a simple request, “Follow Me” and it now has turned into those wacky Pharisees questioning the very Man that chooses to eat with “such scum” and why His disciples don’t fast. As Levi becomes our beloved Matthew I can only imagine what runs through his mind during this. He is more than likely use to being called “such scum” because he was once a tax collector but as for this Man who requested that he “Follow Me”? Nah…can’t be right to question this Man. Something ain’t right here. Old clothes with new patches, new wine in old wineskins and the Bridegroom is here so why mourn? “What is this Rabbi up to?” might think our beloved Matthew.

Jesus’ response to this inquiry of why doesn’t He and His followers do what every other religious leader (even the disciples of John the Baptist) does, I think, speaks volumes to the heart of The Savior. Now for the sake of commentary John Calvin stated that the old wineskins and the old garment represent Jesus’ disciples, and the new wine and unshrunk cloth represent the practice of fasting twice a week because fasting this way would be burdensome to the new disciples, and would be more than they could bear but I don’t think that really completes the picture. There is something about wanting to change things from old into new that I think Jesus want’s to impart to “such scum” and He wants to make sure we receive it.

Jesus used these descriptions of old clothes with new patches and new wine in old wineskins to explain that it wasn’t about fixing up the religious system that was already in place but to replace it totally. He wanted forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God to be available to all and not the few. And those few thought themselves right with God so they didn’t need what Jesus came to give. Also those few were making atonement almost out of reach for the common man at the time because of their own greed and thirst for power along with the greed and the iron fist of Rome. It was no way to live a purposeful life devoted to YHVH because it was set up to serve men. Not sure I would have survived long in these times as I have had a habit of bucking the system from time to time.

Even today I think we have places and churches that stick with an old rigid legalistic way of looking at salvation in Christ Jesus instead of letting the Gospel do its work of constant renewal of those who are called to be disciples of Jesus, which should be all of us who claim to be Christian.  “When we FOLLOW Christ, we must be prepared for new ways to live, new ways to looks at people and new ways to serve.” (NLT Life Application Bible) I don’t think we are a once saved wineskin sack sitting on a hook filled with new wine not to be shared. That wineskin must be emptied, that means sharing Jesus (the new wine) with everyone and allowing The Master to make you into a new wineskin so that you can be used again.

And Jesus wants to use “such scum” to do this with. If we are on the corner shooting off at the mouth that at least we ain’t like the world around us because we are Christians we totally miss the point. You should be on the corner ready to empty yourself for the Gospels sake and the Gospels sake alone!! Now I can’t say that I totally have arrived at this point in my walk, oh no, I still have my favorite old flannel and at times wonder why some Christians don’t do what I do but I realize that I am in need of constantly going to exchange counter and trading me for He. After all, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) In this there is peace. Amen? Chris Hughes is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and a weekly Freedom Fighter Blogger. You can email him at cphughes515@verizon.net

Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 22-24; Hebrews 2

Think About This: “God often sends help in mysterious ways, and we are not trying to understand the secrets of God. We only need to be obedient to what he has revealed to us.”—Fenelon

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands. Psalm 78:72

 

 

I Pray for You

I Pray for You

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers … Romans 1:9

The Apostle Paul was a great illustration of someone who faithfully prayed for people. Just about everyone of his letters penned for us in the New Testament make mention of his praying for people. He must have had quite the prayer list.

Guys praying

I am working at getting more disciplined in praying for people by name. Sometimes the Lord will bring someone to my mind during the night – sometimes during the day. Rather than brush it off as a fleeting thought, I am trying to stop and “make mention” of that brother or sister in prayer.

We have a monthly prayer calendar that we send our daily prayer partners. On each day our partners are encouraged to pray for one or two staff or a Board member. Some have asked me the question, “Do people really do that?”

Last Saturday we had an incident at our pool. A little girl jumped into the pool and went into distress. Our head lifeguard was right there and mobilized the team into action, and God used them to resuscitate her, and her life was spared. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

I shared this praise report with our partners and one of them wrote back this note that just blew me out of the water:

Interesting that God knew Dave would need folks praying for him today.  He was on the March prayer bulletin for today and I prayed for him early this morning, asking God to protect him and use him in a special way as he carried out his lifeguard duties.  I didn’t know how much that would be needed, but God did.  Thank the Lord for His watch care over Dave and that 2 year old.  Will continue to pray as Dave recovers emotionally. 

Thanks for sharing, Bill. Praying for you and the ministry.

Coincidence? No way! God was at work all along and it was a HUGE reminder to me how important it is for me to methodically pray for the people on my prayer list.

By the way – have you had a similar experience? If so, will you share it with me? I’d love to use those as illustrations to share with others about the power and the importance of prayer.

Next time God brings someone to your mind – don’t pass it off as nothing. Pray! Who knows what God might be doing through your prayers. – Bill Welte is President/CEO of America’s Keswick

Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 19-21; Hebrews 1

Think About This: If you find that you are anxious about something as yourself if you have prayed about it, and fully committed it to the Lord. If you have prayed about it, committed it to the Lord, and are still anxious, begin to thank God in your heart and in your prayers for being in control of the situation. Prayer, commitment, and thanksgiving open the door to peace as you wait for His answer. Roy Lessin Meet Me in the Meadows

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: He who walks with integrity walks securely,
But he who perverts his ways will become known. Proverbs 10:9

 

 

I Pray For You

I Pray for You

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers … Romans 1:9

The Apostle Paul was a great illustration of someone who faithfully prayed for people. Just about everyone of his letters penned for us in the New Testament make mention of his praying for people. He must have had quite the prayer list.

Two Men Praying

I am working at getting more disciplined in praying for people by name. Sometimes the Lord will bring someone to my mind during the night – sometimes during the day. Rather than brush it off as a fleeting thought, I am trying to stop and “make mention” of that brother or sister in prayer.

We have a monthly prayer calendar that we send our daily prayer partners. On each day our partners are encouraged to pray for one or two staff or a Board member. Some have asked me the question, “Do people really do that?”

Last Saturday we had an incident at our pool. A little girl jumped into the pool and went into distress. Our head lifeguard was right there and mobilized the team into action, and God used them to resuscitate her, and her life was spared. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

I shared this praise report with our partners and one of them wrote back this note that just blew me out of the water:

Interesting that God knew Dave would need folks praying for him today.  He was on the March prayer bulletin for today and I prayed for him early this morning, asking God to protect him and use him in a special way as he carried out his lifeguard duties.  I didn’t know how much that would be needed, but God did.  Thank the Lord for His watch care over Dave and that 2 year old.  Will continue to pray as Dave recovers emotionally. 

Thanks for sharing, Bill. Praying for you and the ministry.

Coincidence? No way! God was at work all along and it was a HUGE reminder to me how important it is for me to methodically pray for the people on my prayer list.

By the way – have you had a similar experience? If so, will you share it with me? I’d love to use those as illustrations to share with others about the power and the importance of prayer.

Next time God brings someone to your mind – don’t pass it off as nothing. Pray! Who knows what God might be doing through your prayers. – Bill Welte is President/CEO of America’s Keswick

Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 19-21; Hebrews 1

Think About This: If you find that you are anxious about something as yourself if you have prayed about it, and fully committed it to the Lord. If you have prayed about it, committed it to the Lord, and are still anxious, begin to thank God in your heart and in your prayers for being in control of the situation. Prayer, commitment, and thanksgiving open the door to peace as you wait for His answer. Roy Lessin Meet Me in the Meadows

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: He who walks with integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will become known. Proverbs 10:9

Do’s and Do Not’s

“Do’s and Do Not’s”

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

Did you know that you are responsible to inspect a vehicle before you drive it? When was the last time you took the time to walk around, kick the tires, pop the hood and check all of your running lights?

Do's and Don

If you’re like me, you just get in turn the key and drive away, not knowing if the vehicle you’re driving is going to be able to “serve” your need. Of course we all try to keep up with the maintenance and check mileage to gage the life expectancy of the critical parts.

Here’s my point, as Christians I think sometimes we get into the a routine of reading our Bibles, doing our devotions and spending time in prayer to God, check, check, check etc. But are we road worthy or “at His service” in our daily walk.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus takes the time to go over a few things with us. He seems to remind us that our daily routine or maintenance can easily be distorted or misplaced. As I was reading through the chapter I caught myself repeating certain phrases, “do and do not”. Don’t do this, but do that, don’t be like them but be like this.

A couple of verses after reminding us “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, Jesus hits us with, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon”. Here He seems to bring in the idea of the love of money as being the stumbling block that can turn our worship into vain conceit. That maybe our motivation is to impress God and others. Don’t do that!  Paul tells us in Philippians chapter 2, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

So before we just get in to our daily routine maybe we should take an inspection of ourselves and kick the tires, don’t just get in and drive. Get rid of the routine because we are responsible for the way we walk. If you’re relying on you maintenance records, “don’t do that”. Amen!  — Rob Russomano is a graduate of the Colony of Mercy and serves full-time at America’s Keswick. You can email Rob at rrussomano@americaskeswick.org

Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 10-12; Titus 1

Think About This: Prayer is not a self-improvement program; it is part of the process of living in unity with God. Glen Argan

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands. Psalm 78:72

It’s All About Him

It’s All about Him

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. (Deuteronomy 8: 17-20 NIV)

It's All About Him

As the Israelites were preparing to cross over the Jordon to the “promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey,” Moses urged them not to forget that it was God that had provided them with everything they had. He exhorted them to observe the commands of the Lord their God, walk in His ways, (Deuteronomy 8: 6), and praise Him for the good land He was giving them (v. 10). Don’t forget God; observe His commands, laws and decrees (v. 11).

Moses reminded them that it was God who led, protected and provided for them the whole time they were in the desert, and it was He who gave them the ability to produce wealth (v. 18). It ended with a strong warning, though. If they ever forgot the Lord and followed other gods and worshiped and bowed down to them, they would not be unlike other nations before them that He destroyed (vs. 19-20).

For many, personal reflection is warranted when Moses warns the Israelites not to forget to observe the Lord’s commands after achieving great wealth and power, because their hearts will become proud and then they will forget the Lord (v. 14). I say this because too often I’ve followed the same pattern as the Israelites. I get busy, focus on my work (don’t spend as much time in God’s Word), unknowingly follow other gods (success, money, security), then give myself credit for what “I’ve achieved.” Then, because of His great love for me and desire to have my devotion, it is taken away. Then I get it! So, the big question is how do I stop this pattern? I have found that spending time in God’s Word is a great start.

Having accountability partners (spouse, friend, group of friends) is another great way to help keep on track. Talking to God everyday in prayer, praising Him for all He does and asking for His continual intervention into our lives is important. Most importantly, increase doing all of this during times of great success and prosperity rather than waiting for things to get bad. We must always remember it is Satan who wants to steal away peace and joy, while God wants to give it abundantly. All He is looking for is our devotion to Him. It’s all about Him! Bernie Bostwick serves as Executive Vice President of Ambassador Advisors. You can email him at bbostwick@ambassadorsadvisors.com

Keswick, America’s  (2012-12-13). Real Victory for Real Life Volume 2 (Kindle Locations 3651-3654).  . Kindle Edition.

Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 8-9; 1 Corinthians 16

Think About This: The books of men have their day and grow obsolete. God’s word is like Himself, “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” R. Payne Smith

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands. Psalm 78:72

Scenes From Levi’s Deli: Old Flannel Shirt

Scenes From Levi’s Deli:

OLD FLANNEL SHIRT

“Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before.” Matthew 9:16 (NLT)

Old Flannel Shirt

How many of us have had that favorite old shirt or pair of jeans that we just can’t part with? In my younger years it may not have been a favorite pair but a necessary shirt or pair of jeans for the simple reason we couldn’t afford new. In either occasion if those garments got torn a patch was the thing that made that garment last just a little bit longer. Sometimes those patches were sewn on and someone had to take the time to be meticulous with their craft and get that patch just right. As America got in the convenient lane where it takes 30 seconds to get a burger (figuratively speaking that is) we had the iron-on patch that got you back into those garments in no time flat.

However, it doesn’t sound like Jesus was into patching old garments up. On the contrary it sounds like He wants you to wear new. As Jesus went on with His dialogue after the question of fasting came up at Matthew’s home, The Savior goes into something that to me doesn’t align with fasting.  Now I am getting the notion that He needs to put right a thought process that has been looked at in an old traditional way but clothing and eating are two different things, right? So maybe this is about coverings? And since Jesus just got done telling them that the bridegroom is here now so why mourn it would also seem plausible to think that grace has arrived also. Maybe what Jesus is saying is it’s time for something new and a little bit of it just won’t do.

You see, “a person born into the family of God receives a new identity.” (Steve McVey) “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Jesus comes into our lives, just like being at Levi’s house for a meal, and through Him we can realize that what we are wearing as a covering for our everyday living isn’t gonna save us from the judgment. Even in Secularland people judge by appearance, just watch that “Fashion Police” show on E! and you’ll get the sense that when people don’t dress to impress they fall short of the glory of man. (like that has any merit) Jesus wants us to “put on” His identity knowing that The Father will be pleased by our appearance because all He will see is His Son.

And this won’t work if you are trying to put a piece of those things that are God honoring here and there…ya know in those spots that you think need God size patches. What Jesus wants us to do is to “take off” that old, raggedy flannel shirt we call ourselves, not to patch it up with a little grace here and little grace there. It won’t work. If you do so when it goes in the laundry (like a crucible) the sewn seams (like a vertical connection) will become undone. It may not be today but it will happen eventually. And when that happens you’ll be left with a flannel shirt that’s worth nothing (or like salt that loses its taste). Not only will people around you not benefit but you may grieve the very heart of God…maybe.

That’s why it is important to understand that coming to Jesus means you get to meet the new you. You won’t hunger for identity; you’ll have it in Christ Jesus. And the benefit package that comes with that is being called a saint (just like the Corinthians were called), being God’s work of art (written like a poem), being righteous and holy (something bringing comfort to your soul) and fully accepted by God Himself (based on who you now are not on what you’ve done). It doesn’t matter what those around would say, or better yet what the adversary would say or have you think. The bottom line to it all lies in this verse, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Amen? – Chris Hughes graduated from the Colony of Mercy and is a weekly Freedom Fighter blogger. You can email him at cphughes515@verizon.net

Daily Bible Reading: Proverbs 6-7; 1 Corinthians 12

Think About This: “If Jesus is at the core of our existence that gives us an identity much greater than most Christians acknowledge.”—Steve McVey

This Week’s Verse to Memorize: So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them by the skillfulness of his hands. Psalm 78:72