Unexpectedly Trained for the Next Step

Unexpectedly Trained for the Next Step

Dear Courageous Church,

Three years ago, Josh asked if I wanted to be a part of a church plant.  There wasn’t a name.  There wasn’t a location.  And there weren’t even people.  We sat down week after week to dream and plan and soon started to have weekly gatherings.  When we sat down to discuss my role in the church.  I assumed since I had been a youth pastor for over a decade, I would be creating a youth program.  Josh had other plans and told me “I believe your gifts, talents and abilities lend themselves to develop our group life.”

Immediately I went and wrote out plan for small groups.  Small groups have always been a part of my ministries and I had a time proven plan.  As I started praying over the plan, I quickly realized that we would not be using my standard plan for small groups.  I had been entrusted to develop a group life that would become the culture of the church.  Whether that be home groups, cell groups, discipleship groups, journey groups, missional groups, community groups, missional community groups or any other name you might call them – Josh trusted me to come up with what was going to be best for Courageous Church.  I read dozens of books, went to conference after conference and talked to anyone that would talk to me about groups and communities.  Out of that study, came Courageous Life.

For the past three years, my ministry has been focused on what people need from a community.  What people need to contribute, how they contribute, what they need out of and need to put into a community. I studied how a community develops, functions, grows, and multiplies.  For the past three years, I have been studying and learning how people connect for the sake of the gospel.  How joyful and fun it has been to watch God work in and through Courageous Church and Courageous Life.  To see others be used by God and be used in ways they didn’t even know about, yet.

Last July, I got a phone call from a sweet lady in Georgia.  As we talked she told me all about her church and their needs.  I finally asked what they were looking for specifically.  She told me that they were seeking an Associate Pastor who could connect people.  God works in crazy ways and uses us in the most unexpected ways.  God has used you Courageous Church to train me to connect people for His glory. On January 18th, I was called by First Baptist Richmond Hill to become their Associate Pastor for the purpose of connecting people to each other and to Jesus Christ.

By watching how God has been preparing me, I am absolutely convinced that God has prepared this specific step for my life. So out of obedience, I will faithfully and trustingly take that step.

I love you.  You know I do.  I have told you every time we have prayed together as a church family.  Know that more than having the honor of being one of your pastors, I have the privilege of calling you my friends.

Always Serving Beside You,

Haley

Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2015

How Not to Read the Bible in 2015 – by Matt Smethurst

How Not to Read the Bible in 2015

When it comes to daily (or not-so-daily) Bible reading, January 1 can be a welcome arrival. A new year signals a new start. You’re motivated to freshly commit to what you know is of indispensable importance: the Word of God. Yet this isn’t the first time you’ve felt this way. You were entertaining pretty similar thoughts 365 days ago. And 365 days before that. And 365 days . . . you know how it goes. So what’s going to make 2015 different? What, under God, will keep you plodding along in April this year when staying power has generally vanished in Aprils of yore? From one stumbling pilgrim to another, here are five suggestions for what not to do in 2015.

1. Don’t Overextend

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!”

This hackneyed high school yearbook quote is bad advice for most things, Bible reading plans not excepted. If you shoot for and miss the “moon” of six chapters a day, you won’t quietly land among the “stars” of three. You’ll just be lost in space. It’s better to read one chapter a day, every day, than four a day, every now and then. Moreover, the value of meditation cannot be overstressed. Meditation isn’t spiritualized daydreaming; it’s riveted reflection on revelation. Read less, if you must, to meditate more. It’s easy to encounter a torrent of God’s truth, but without absorption—and application—you will be little better for the experience. As Thomas White once said, “It is better to hear one sermon only and meditate on that, than to hear two sermons and meditate on neither.” I think that’s pretty sage advice for Scripture reading, too.

It’s easy to encounter a torrent of God’s truth, but without absorption—and application—you will be little better for the experience.

2. Don’t Do It Alone

When it comes to Bible reading consistency, a solo sport mentality can be lethal.  Surely that’s why many run out of gas; they feel like they’re running alone.  To forestall the dangers of isolation, then, invite one or two others to join you in 2015.  Set goals, make a commitment, and hold one another accountable.  Turn your personal Scripture reading into a team effort, a community project.  A daily devotional, too, can function as a helpful companion and guide.  D. A. Carson’s For the Love of God (Volume 1; Volume 2) and Nancy Guthrie’s Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament are two excellent options.

3. Don’t Just Do It Whenever

Every morning we awaken to a fresh deluge of information.  We’ve now reached the point where, I’ve heard it said, an average weekday edition of The New York Times contains more information than Jonathan Edwards encountered in his entire lifetime.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure makes me think.

It is imperative, then, to set a specific time each day when you will get alone with God.  Even if it’s a modest window, guard it with your life.  Explain your goal to those closest to you, and invite their help.  Otherwise, the tyranny of the urgent will continue to rear its unappeasable head.  What is urgent will fast displace what is important, and what is good will supplant what is best.  If your basic game plan is to read your Bible whenever, chances are you’ll read it never.  And if you don’t control your schedule, your schedule will control you.  It’s happened to me more times than I care to admit.

If your basic game plan is to read your Bible whenever, chances are you’ll read it never.  And if you don’t control your schedule, your schedule will control you.

4. Don’t Live as if Paul Lied

Did you know Leviticus and Chronicles and Obadiah were written to encourage you? That’s what Paul believed, anyway:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom. 15:4; cf. 1 Cor. 9:10; 10:6, 11; 2 Tim. 3:16)

What a sweeping word!  Paul is going so far as to claim the entirety of the Old Testament is for you—to instruct you, to encourage you, to help you endure, and to flood your heart with hope.  Few of you will conclude Paul is simply mistaken here.  Good evangelicals, after all, are happy to take inspired apostles at their word.  But does our approach to our Bibles tell a different story?  Do we act as if Numbers or Kings or Nahum has the power to infuse our lives with help and hope?

Whenever you open your Bible, labor to believe that God has something here to say to meWhatever I encounter in his Word was written with me, his cherished child, in view.  So pursue God’s graces on the pages of Scripture this year. Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow everywhere await.

Whatever I encounter in his Word was written with me, His cherished child.

5. Don’t Turn a Means of Grace into a Means of Merit

Your Father’s love for you doesn’t rise and fall with your quiet times.  If you are united to Jesus by faith, the verdict is out, and the court is dismissed.  You’re as accepted and embraced as the Son himself. Period.  To be sure, you’ll desire to hear and follow his voice if you’re truly one of his sheep (John 10:1–30; cf. 8:47; 18:37).  Not always and not perfectly, of course, but sincerely and increasingly.

So as another year dawns, commit yourself anew to becoming a man or woman of the Word.  But don’t overextend, do it alone, just do it whenever, live as if Paul lied, or treat means of grace like means of merit.  Your Bible is one of God’s chief gifts to you in 2015.

Open, read, ruminate, and obey. May you be ever transformed into the image of our incarnate King, and may he alone receive the acclaim.

 

*Original post can be found at The Southern Blog by Matt Smethurst — December 29, 2014

Deer Brother,

Deer Brother,

Deer Brother,

Some things only brothers understand.  I always see pictures, picture frames, and wall art that talk about sister this and sister that.  You never see grown men with wall art about their brothers.  Don’t worry; this isn’t a post about men needing cheesy artwork on their wall.  But, there is something different about brothers.  We have a unique insight probably due to the fact that we grow up in constant competition, ragging and covering up for each other.

Insights that only brothers can pull out of their tool bags to support each other or pull out of their sheath as a weapon to destroy one another.  Brothers know all the right buttons to press, dials to turn, and switches to flip to swing the emotions of the other just where they want them, usually on the edge of an extreme reaction.  We see brothers time and time again in scripture using their insight to both support and destroy each other.  Cain and Able were brothers that jealousy tore apart which lead to Cain killing Able.  Jacob and Esau got in such a dispute that Jacob had to run from his brother.  It took almost an entire lifetime for Jacob to get the nerve to face his brother again.  Jesus tells the story of the “Prodigal Son”.  If you remember the story correctly, the older son holds a grudge against his younger brother when he returns from squandering his father’s money and making a fool of himself.  On the flip side, it was Andrew that meets Jesus and runs as hard as he can to tell his brother Peter.  Then its James and John who leave their fishing company to follow Jesus together.  Jude and James “the younger” were brothers that followed Jesus.  That means half of the disciples followed Jesus with their brother.

Brothers have insights that only brothers can pull out of their tool bags to support each other or pull out of their sheath as a weapon to destroy one another.

I watched my little brother turn to Jesus in the kitchen when he was 12, I soon followed Jesus myself.  But, that’s not the story I want to tell here.

My brother took up hunting about 6 years ago.  I took it upon myself to make sure he had everything he needed.  Cover scent (buying your brother urine to pour on himself, awesome), grunts, rattles, and anything else that it looked like he needed, I got him.  But, I knew nothing about hunting and didn’t have any interest…then he got Lyme disease.  Side effects of Lyme disease include anxiety, fearing what could happen, and feeling like things just aren’t right with your body.  So 3 years ago, I took up hunting so my brother could go out and hunt.  I got all the gear I needed: a rifle, head-to-toe insulated camo, and cover scent (covering yourself in urine, not as awesome).  We hunted within shouting distance for 2 years, texting back and forth.  In the first 2 years of hunting, I didn’t see a single deer!  Not one!  Sitting morning after morning in the freezing cold and then climbing out of tree stands in the pitch black and I see nothing!

Thanksgiving always falls on the opening of gun season and my brother is feeling much better now, almost back to his old self.  So we decided to head out on the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving.  We gear up and hike out to a new spot that he has been scouting and climb up into a 2 person deer-stand.  After sitting as quietly as we can for over 2 hours, he nudges me right at sunset and whispers, “Deer, get your gun ready”.  For the first time in 3 years, I have a deer in my sights!  That deer was so far away and so small that when I put my cross-hairs on it the deer completely disappeared.  However, I instantly knew my brother’s intentions; he was going to make sure I got a deer.

“It’s far off.  I’ll have to be a good shot.  Do I want my first deer to be a doe?  Why isn’t it moving?  Well if it’s not going to move.”  BANG!!!

4:15 am – BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!  Time to get up, sneak out of the house, and drive off into the dark.  Beating the sun to the deer-stand with the crisp 27 degree chewing at the tip of my nose, a feeling that I have told myself now for 3 years is how I am going to get a deer.  My brother and I get situated in the stand right at 5:30 am; sunrise is at 6:23 am.  The first signs of the sun making its rounds have just started; I am surrounded by that funny gray color the world gets in the moments before the sun peaks out from the horizon.  My brother just whispers “deer”, points and then says “it’s a doe, if you think you can make the shot.”  I raised my gun and a black silhouette of a deer is painted against a gray canvas.  Thoughts race through my mind… “It’s far off.  I’ll have to be a good shot.  Do I want my first deer to be a doe?  Why isn’t it moving?  Well if it’s not going to move.”  BANG!!!  I have just shot what sounds like a cannon blast, he leans over and whispers, “I think you got it!  I saw it drop.”  Not 30 seconds later he says, “There’s another one shoot it you have the shot.”  I never saw that deer… All of a sudden there was a barrage of gun blast coming from his rifle.  It sounded like “there was a firefight!”  To be clear, it was only 2 shots, but it sounded like he had just started a war!

“There was a firefight!”

As we sat waiting perhaps for another deer to walk out, he told me that what felt like an eternity of thoughts flying through my head was really a smooth 5 seconds of swinging the gun up, steadying, and taking the shot.  He said it was calmer than he had ever been when he sees a deer. Then this look came across his face.  “Haley, what if you shot a buck?  That was a big body doe, it would be really exciting to walk up and it be a buck.  But, I think we got 2 does.”  We climbed down out of our stand and walked directly to where I shot the deer, but there was no deer, just a drop of blood.  What!  I missed!  And then I saw it just 25 feet away from where I shot it, laying just on the other side of some tall grass where I couldn’t see it very clearly.  My brother ran over to it and started yelling, jumping and pumping his fist like he had just won the World Series, “It’s HUGE!  You did it, you got a BUCK!  It’s bigger than anything I’ve ever shot!”  I didn’t care about that deer at all in that moment.  Don’t get me wrong; sitting in the woods that long, I wanted a deer, bad.  But, my brother wanted it for me more.  I’m not sure if he knew it was a buck or if it really was the biggest deer he had the opportunity to shoot, but I can’t help but think he did.  But, that wasn’t his goal.  His goal was to get me a deer.

Thank you Casey, my brother.

Brothers know what we need, sometimes better than you do.  They understand that fixing something doesn’t necessarily mean fixing it.  Sometimes what we need is a win and brothers know how to make that happen.  They know if they sacrifice themselves for their brother, it will be returned, somehow, someday.

Brothers understand that fixing something doesn’t necessarily mean fixing it.  They know if they sacrifice themselves for their brother, it will be returned, somehow, someday.

Not to spiritualize things too much but as the oldest child, I didn’t have a big brother until Jesus.  He knows what I need way more than I ever will.  He sacrificed Himself for me just as any good big brother does for their little brother.  That gift is free, but He knows as a brother, I will sacrifice my life for Him, somehow, someday.  Romans 12:1, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

Jimmy buffet

Not to leave the other brother out (that would turn the wrong crank).  As I am carving the beautifully grilled Thanksgiving turkey, a chunk of salt and spices flies into my eye and I let out a yell of pain and frustration.  As I’m trying to get to the sink to flush my eye out, I see out of the corner of my eye my other brother, in slow-motion, in the air, completely clearing the couch trying to get to me.  He grabs the syringe I use to inject the turkey, fills it with water and begins to flush my eye. (Don’t worry, the needle was not attached or I would have passed out.)  Brothers know what to do, when you don’t.

Thank you Hunter, my brother.

FullSizeRenderBy the way, I killed a 185 pound, 8 point buck from 237 yards away with a perfect shot just behind the front shoulder.  Yeah, it was awesome!

Brothers, I love you both.

Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

Waiting to be Wowed by God

Waiting to be Wowed by God

I have been in prayer for some time now begging and pleading with God to reveal Himself to me, to “show up”, to make His plans known for me.  I just want a glimpse of what He wants for me, which direction He wants me to go… GOD!  Please give me something!  Anything will do!  Show yourself to me!  I am sure you understand the frustration in my voice.  Most of us have experienced at one point or another a time when we need a clear answer from our God.  And there is nothing.  No answer.  No jaw dropping fire from heaven.  Nothing to make us stand in awe of God, though we long for Him to do something that just leaves us breathless, that leaves us “wowed”.

As believers, we long for God do to something that leaves us breathless, that leaves us wowed!

One of my favorite places in the world is my family’s lake house.  So much of what my family does together revolves around that small house.  As much as I love the lake house for the way it brings the family together and is the backdrop for so many memories, my absolute favorite times are the rare moments when it is just me and lake.  Usually, I have to wake up earlier than everyone to grab those few moments before the house becomes alive with movement.  In that time alone before the family wakes up or boats fill the lake, it is really easy to “be still and know that He is God.”  In one of the rare moments, when I was alone with God pleading with Him to reveal Himself to me, to show me His plan…

I looked up and looked around…

In one big burst of color the hills were shouting the praises of God as the leaves changed colors and swayed in the breeze.  The hills rose up only to meet a crystal blue sky declaring with certainty the Lord of all creation.  A fog was dancing with joy, hovering over the water as heat escaped into the air making a clear vision of the Holy Spirit hovering over all the earth.  My eyes filled with tears and my mouth could only utter one word, wow.

Psalms 19:1-4

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.

Without one word, without a single sound God’s creation screams at the top of their voices the glory of God.  All you can do is step back and know that you don’t have to wait on God to reveal himself.  You can sit down in wonder and amazement and know that He has and is revealing Himself, and that He is revealing Himself to you.  We have to trust that when He wants you to know whatever it is you need to know, He will let you know.  How?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that God can do the impossible, surely He can guide my path.  In the mean time, I will let God’s creation proclaim the glory and majesty of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

You are God’s creation, shout his glory with every breath.

Don’t ever forget, you are also God’s creation and as God’s creation you can shout from the rooftops the praises and glory of Jesus.  The rest of creation doesn’t have a voice, but you do.  What are you doing with your life and your voice?

 

Luke 19:40
“I tell you,” he replied, “if you keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

 Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

 

Looking and Listening for Opportunities

Seeing and Listening for Opportunity to

I took a little vacation this past weekend.  It had been 4 years since I had seen the beach.  Unless you don’t like sand, salt water, seaweed, creatures under the water you can’t see, and people wearing swimsuits they should never ever consider wearing – then 4 years is just too long or it may be just right.  I tend to visit other churches when I am on vacation just to see what others are doing to reach people.  This church happened to be one of the larger churches in the area.  I was a little early and so I  started putting some volunteers through a gauntlet of questions about the church.  “What is the church’s denominational background?”  “How do people find community?”  “How do you split up your small groups?” … you know, the “typical” questions a guest wants to know.  I wandered around the halls for a few minutes and checked out some of their meeting spaces, then made my way into the auditorium.

Sitting down on the edge of a row, I was approached by an older gentleman who I could tell was a bit flustered.  Dean immediately looked at me and said, “Can you help?”  In his hand he was holding a layout of the auditorium and the names of men, several that had been scribbled through.  A quick glance at this piece of paper, paired with his frustration I figured I knew what he needed and so I asked him, “Are you short an usher?”  He quickly answered about how one of the men had simply not shown up and two others had called in sick.  So I asked him, “How do you need me to serve, by taking up offering or serving the Lord’s Supper?”  He looked at me and what seemed like shouting exclaimed, “There are your FIFTEEN service plates ready with the elements!”  15 plates!  This stack of service plates (you know those super shiny plates that hold the little cups of juice) was so tall I couldn’t even see over it as I carried it!

It brings joy to your heart to serve people who will never know who you are or that you even exist.

Don’t blame Dean for not knowing that I was a visitor or for not introducing himself (thank goodness he had on a name badge), like I said, it was a huge church and he was beyond frustrated.  It wasn’t fair to him that I recognized his situation and knew the words to say.  But that is the point – I recognized his situation and knew how to take care of it.  He didn’t have to know me and I didn’t need to know him, we were brothers serving Christ and by serving him and serving their church, I was serving Jesus.  I harp all the time on making sure you listen to the stories of others and be on the lookout to bless and serve others.  The stories don’t have to be long and drawn out to know how you can jump in and serve.

How many times have we simply missed the good works that have been prepared for us?

Please don’t read this and see it as a need for a pat on my back.  I have missed opportunity after opportunity to practice what I preach.  This time I recognized it and jumped on the opportunity to be used.  Jesus listened to those around Him and responded to their needs by serving them. Even if their stories are short or untold, Jesus came to serve.  In Luke 8, a woman simply touches the hem of Jesus’s cloak, He responds to her so gently and serves her.  Don’t miss that she touched his cloak while Jesus was going to heal Jarius’s daughter. The gospels are full of Jesus listening to stories and responding to people by serving them.  Remember, we are created to do good works in and through Jesus and those good works are prepared for us in advance (1 Corinthians 2:10).  Keep your eyes open and listen to people, they will tell you how to serve them.  How many times have we simply missed the good works that have been prepared for us?

  Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

*Hey, Dean!  Thank you for trusting me to serve you and your church.  It was an honor.

The Lord’s Supper Everyday

The Lord's SupperI need to be extremely clear on something before we get into this.  In 1 Corinthians 11:33 Paul says, “ So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat the Lord’s Supper, wait for one another.”  The Lord’s Supper is meant to be done corporately as a church body.  It is not necessarily meant to be done alone or with just your immediate blood family.  Now that I have made that clear, there is a very practical, everyday way to use the Lord’s Supper.

Eating is a natural rhythm of life, we all do it everyday and most of us eat 3 meals a day.  Now, have you ever considered how normal the elements of the Lord’s Supper are?  Jesus was sitting at the table eating with his disciples when He “took the bread.”  Is there a food that is a part of more meals than bread?  We eat bread with everything!  Bread is at almost every table and on every menu.  How many restaurants give you bread when you sit down to eat; “would you like some more big fat yeast rolls?”  I think that Jesus chose bread specifically because it is so normal.

Jesus chose bread and a cup because they are so normal to our everyday lives.

And then there is the cup.  Don’t get too focused on what is or what isn’t in the cup, remember it is a symbol.  Not too many times do we eat without having something to drink, it is just as everyday as bread.  Jesus is using these elements of the Lord’s Supper for a teaching moment, and then, as recorded in Luke 22, He says, “do this in remembrance of Me.”

The symbolism of the Lord’s Supper is easy to understand, but deep in it’s meaning.  The bread is Christ’s body, broken for us to give us life.  The cup is the wrath of God, God’s anger burns against sin.  The drink inside is Jesus’s blood, that is poured out for the forgiveness of our sin and makes us righteous in Christ.  These symbols are what we are to remember every time we take the Lord’s Supper.  But these elements don’t seem to be all that special, and like we said, we see them almost everyday.  These things, as normal as they are to every day life and as simple as they tell us the gospel, need to be an everyday reminder to us of Christ’s work on the cross, the gospel.

Everyday Remembrance

Let’s put this all together – What would our lives be like if we remembered Jesus and His work on the cross before every meal?  We have all the elements and symbols in front of us, why wouldn’t we remember?  And Jesus did say every time you do this…  Seems to me that I need to be personally thinking about Christ on a daily basis and why not let the elements that Jesus used spur me to think about the gospel – 3 TIMES A DAY!!!

Every time you see bread and a cup, remember Jesus and His gospel.

When we remember Christ’s work on the cross during the Lord’s Supper I divide it into 2 simple sections for our congregation:1)  Jesus died to forgive our sins so we need to allow Him to search our heart for repented sin and 2) Our sins are forgiven because of Jesus so we need to thank Him.  Just think how much closer our relationship with Christ would be if we thought about the gospel and dealt with the 2 issues every time we sat down to eat.  How much more would Christ be on our mind?  How much more would we notice the things of God?  How much more would we seek His Kingdom?  How much more would we be in-tune with what God is doing around us and how we can be used?

 Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

Praying the Words of God Into Your Life

Praying the Words of God Into Your Life

In the past few weeks, I have heard or read about praying God’s Word no less than ten times.  I love this idea and have been known to use the phrase while preaching, speaking and teaching.  But what does it even mean and how do we apply it?

A  Real Head Jerker

I have an “exciting life list” / a “get’er done list” / a “man I really want to accomplish or be a part of ______ list”.  (Most people would call it a bucket list, but I don’t like the idea of kicking a bucket.  First, I don’t like pain very much.  Second, yes… it is a list of things to do before I pass away, but I don’t like thinking about that day much.  I feel this list is more about living life than “kicking the bucket.”)  This list consists of places I want to visit, things I want to do and see and things I want to experience. There are normal things and off the wall, extreme things, and there are ways I want to be used by God.  Some of the ways I want to be used by God may sound a little arrogant, but they are evidence to me that I am being used in some mighty (mighty crazy) ways by God.  One of the ways I want to be used by God is to be quoted in a sermon. The idea that something I said could be used by God to influence the life of more than just those that can hear my voice excites me so much.  When you hear your name, what happens?  You get excited!  Your ears perk up and your head jerks around toward who said it.  We want to be acknowledged, recognized and/or given credit for what we have done or said.  So what do you think God does when He hears his own words directed back towards Him?  I think you get His attention.  Remember, these words are from the same God that spoke all of creation into existence.  God’s words and Word are powerful, He doesn’t take them lightly.

God spoke all of creation into existence, His words are powerful and he doesn’t use them lightly.

Are Your Ears Burning

There is even a saying that suggests that we know when people are talking about us.  Have you ever called someone and they say, “Are your ears burning?  I was just talking about you.”?  I’m not sure there is any truth to you knowing when people are talking about you or that your ears burn, mainly because, we can’t hear them and have no other way of knowing.  (On the flip side, that happens way too often.)

Make God’s ears burn by talking about what He says.

However, God does know you are talking about Him. He can hear you, He can see you talking to Him and about Him and He knows the words you are using.  Talk about God in your prayers.  Talk about what He has done, what He is doing and how great He is. Talk to Him using His words from scripture.  Make God’s ears burn, because you are talking about Him and to Him.

God’s Words are Promises

Most of us look at the Bible and see a really long book with super thin pages.  The Bible I use to preach from has 1,152 pages, no doubt it is long.  But, compared to what is within those pages, its fairly short and brief.  Get ready for this one… The Bible has over 3,000 promises in it. That is 3 promises per super thin page!  (I went with the most conservative number.  Some sources say that there are over 7,000!  While others say that each verse of scripture is a promise from God making that number over 30,000!)  Take God up on His promises.  He has given us His “Word”; shouldn’t we take Him at His Word?

God has given us His “Word”, shouldn’t we take Him at His Word?

We need to learn to pray the promises of God into our own life.  Asking God for what He has already promised you puts you on the same page as God.  Mark Batterson says, “You’ve got to define the promises God wants you to stake claim to, the miracles God wants you to believe for, and the dreams God wants you to pursue. Then you need to keep circling until God gives you what He wants and He wills. That’s the goal.”  Paul says, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 2 Corinthians 1:20

Now you know why we need to be praying God’s word, but how do we do it?  Well, instead of telling you how, can I pray for you and will you pray with me?  Here are some examples:

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Jesus, it is so easy for us to be afraid of our situation in life, to be discouraged, to feel down and out about where we seem to be in our life.  God make us strong and courageous so that we can face tomorrow.  I know that you are with us no matter where we are or what we are facing.  Please remind us of your presence as we find ourselves in these situations. God, there are some of us facing extremely difficult situations, give us the boldness and courageousness that it will take to stand with you and for you.  Father, I specifically ask for the boldness to share your love with others and the courage to step out and say the first word to someone because those first words can be the most difficult.

Job 42:2I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

God, we trust you to be in control.  We believe that nothing is impossible for you, nothing.  Holy Spirit, align us with your purposes and use us in and for your purpose.  God, we know that if it is your will that nothing can stand in your way.  Jesus, some of us are facing things that appear terrifying, give us the comfort and the understanding that our Father can do all things.  Let us rest in the comfort of your control.

Romans 1:8There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Jesus, I know so many of us face the condemnation of the world daily.  That we have done wrong, that we don’t measure up, and that we aren’t good enough.  Even more so, we know that we aren’t good enough. Jesus, we know that we don’t have to face or even fear condemnation from our Father because of You.  Jesus I ask that you bring comfort to so many of us that follow you and call you Lord but are still worried about salvation.  Help us to understand that you have declared, redeemed and forgiven us. You have freed us to live free in You.

Galatians 5:19-24 – Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Father, we want to be with You in your Kingdom, glorifying and honoring Jesus.  We thank you for Jesus and that we are no longer condemned for our sins. Father, keep us from temptation, keep us for the works of the flesh.  They are evil and do not reflect who you are and what you have declared us to be.  Holy Spirit, reveal yourself in us and let others know of the Father’s love through your fruit.  God, I know my fruit would just be rotten, but your fruit is pure and gives good witness to your Lordship in us.  Continue to weaken the passions and desires of the flesh, take them away.  Let our joy be fully in You.

God, let us pray to you and through the Holy Spirit.  Help us to pray prayers that honor and glorify You.  Father, give us the words to say and answer our prayers.  We love you.

 

 Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

He Knows Where I Am

He Knows Where I  Am

“God is everywhere.”  Why does this truth sound so much like a cliché  these days and why can be easily misunderstood?  In the past I have used it as a kind of catch all statement for not sinning when no one else is around.  “Don’t do that, you know God is everywhere and sees and hears everything.”  However for the past few weeks this doctrine has transformed itself in my life to be a means of comfort.

Our theology should serve as a means of comfort.

While reading I tend to pay attention to where the writers footnotes.  The footnotes tell what us what the author is reading and studying.  We get the answer for who is influencing the people that are influencing me.  Mark Batterson included a short story in Draw the Circle by Ken Gaub.  At the end of the real life account given by Gaub, he exclaims to his wife, “God knows where we are!”

God knows where we are!

Those words stopped me in my tracks and I just sat for 15 minutes in silence letting those words sink in.  Of course God knows where I am!  What a relief!  I mean really, what a relief!  What a huge weight that is lifted off of our shoulders to know that God knows where we are.  The Creator of the Universe knows where you are.  Our Father knows where you are.  Our Savior knows where you are!  Our the joys and victories of life – God knows where we are.  When we are lonely and depressed wondering why it feels like no one cares or no one loves us – God knows that we are going through that.  Not having a job or facing a seemingly demanding situation at work – God knows where you are and how you are feeling.  Getting injured or falling ill and knowing that your life will never be the same – Jesus knows where you are and what you are going through.  Facing the loss of someone – Our Father knows!

Please let this sink in.

He knows what you are walking though, He knows what trials you are facing, He knows the suffering your are feeling, He sees the tears your cry and hears the screaming of your voice.

Take comfort in knowing that God is not just everywhere, but God knows where you are.  I don’t mean to focus on the difficult moments, we need to know that God knows where we are when celebrate, but we often feel at the end of our rope in the difficult moments of life.  Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life…” (John 14:6).

This is very simple, but when facing these moment remember God knows where you are and….

When you feel like you have no idea which way to go… Jesus is the Way.

We find ourselves not knowing what to do next.  Perhaps a doctor has told you that there isn’t anything more that they can do.  Perhaps, you have search for a job for so long that there doesn’t seem to be any other options.  Maybe it’s that your marriage is getting rocky and you don’t have the answers, you don’t know what the next step is to save your relationship.  There are so many times we find ourselves in situations where we don’t know which way to turn.  Remember, God knows where you are.

When you feel like you have no idea what to believe or who to trust… Jesus is the Truth.

There are times when it seems the world is against us.  Nothing is working for you.  You are getting so many different opinions and none of them seem right.  Maybe, you just feel like everyone has lied to you or you have tried to cover up so much with lies that you don’t even know the truth.  Remember, God knows where you are.

When you feel like you don’t want to take another step, don’t want to live another day… Jesus is the Life.

And yes, there are the days and times when if we are being honest, it seems that not only do you not know what step to take, but you don’t even want to take another step.  Everything in you life might feel like its crashing down on top of you and it seems that it would be easier if you weren’t even around.  Being brutally honest, there are times when it might seem as though you would be better off dead.  Remember, God knows where you are.

I don’t mean to be so dark, but I know too many of us find ourselves at the end of our rope.  If you find yourself here, where you think your would be better off dead, God has more for you in life, run to Him.  Trust me, He knows where you are and what you are going through.  Please let someone into your life that will guide you to Jesus.  If you don’t know anyone, I am here, I’ll be there for you.  Please contact me. 

 

 Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

** Ken Gaub’s story can be read in its entirety at http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/1391

Working On Your Prayer Life

Prayer hands

I started my summer realizing that my life was almost void of real prayer.  Having been a pastor now for 10 years I have gotten use to praying at every single event under the sun.  Sunday morning services you pray at least 3 times for each and every service, eating a meal – pray, waking up – pray, going to sleep – pray, hospital visit – pray, counseling – pray, weddings -pray, funerals – pray, town-hall meetings -pray, the kids’ fish across the street drowned – pray… you name it, I’ve bet I have prayed at it and I know that pastors everywhere share the feeling.  The problem isn’t the lack of prayer, the problem is my attitude toward prayer.  I know the words to say and I am confident that Jesus will use my prayers in the lives of those around me, but the heart, my heart, behind the words just wasn’t there.  Don’t hear me wrong, I wasn’t fake praying, my words were real and sought after God’s intervention and will.  I am telling you my attitude, my heart, my mind were not fully engaged into pleading to God nor did I really expect God to answer my prayers.

Real prayer fully engages your heart, mind and beliefs toward God the Father.

It is with this lack luster attitude that I started on a journey over the summer to seek out real prayer in my own life… I had no idea what I was getting into.   During the past 3 months I have experiences moments that I have only heard prayer warriors talk about, I have watched God answer prayers, I have felt comfort in times that I would normally would have lashed out in anger, I have watched God embolden others through my prayers, and I seen my prayers become long term prayers instead of instant gratification prayers.  Below I want to give you the 3 most important aspects to prayer that I have learned that you can implement into your prayer life immediately.  Or immediately start your prayer life.

  • Base Your Prayers on God’s Word

On my bucket list, along with many other things that I have no control over, is the desire to be quoted in a sermon, for God to use my words beyond just my own realm of influence.  I quote others all the time, sharing their insights and wisdom.  I was preaching a few weeks ago and I quoted our pastor, who I’ll call Josh, because that’s his name.  He was sitting in the crowd, and I said “Josh said…”  His head jerked around so fast and he stared right at me, waiting for what I was going to say he said.

If you pray God’s Word, your prayers are directed in the same direction God moving.

In scripture, God has given us promise upon promise that are just as true and relevant for us today as they were to those He gave them to.  If we align our prayers with God’s Word we know without a doubt that our prayers are directed in the same direction God moving.

  • Pray Big, Bold Prayers that Honor God

Sad to say, but my typical prayer was usually for something that I should have taken care of already and because I didn’t, it would have taken a miracle to happen.  Not sure God likes answering “rescue me because I’m lazy” prayers.  Throughout scripture, God answers prayers that only He can answer.  If we are praying for something that we can do, why would God answer it?  Go do it!  Dave Ramsey gives us a modern day version of St. Augustine’s quote, “Pray like it all depends on God, but work like it all depends on you.”

God will glorify Himself through your big, bold prayers.

However, when we pray big, bold prayers that only God can answer, God is given the opportunity to glorify Himself through your prayers.  Elijah prayed for a huge fire, Shadrach Meshach and Abednego prayed to be protected from fire, David prayed to kill a Giant, Samson prayed for God to give him strength… on and on in scripture the prayers are big and bold — and then they went to work!

  • Expect God to Answer Your Prayers

After Elijah prayed for fire he built an alter and drenched it with water; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego got on their knees and prayed to God, not bowing down to other gods and then were thrown in the fire; can you imagine David’s prayer as he gather up rocks to throw at a giant, then he charged the giant; a blind Samson prayed for strength one more time and then started pushing the pillars a Philistine temple.  These men prayed big, bold prayers and then got to work expecting God to answer them.  Step out on your prayers because stepping out on your prayers shows your faith.  Your faith is not in question when you step out on a prayer, it’s God’s reputation that is on the line.  If we are not expecting our prayers to be answered, then what is really the point in asking?  Is it that old answer, “Just ask.  What is the worse that can happen, he says no?”

When you step out on the promises of God, it is God’s reputation that is on the line.

Our God wants to hear from us.  But, I get the feeling though that our prayers seem a bit dull to Him.  Nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37).  If that is true, we need to be praying prayers that are only possible for God and then stepping out on those prayers.  Our Father God wants to give us what we ask for, make Him prove it.  Please don’t hear me saying that God will answer each and every prayer you pray the way you want it answered.  However, I do know that God will answer prayers that are rooted in His promises.  It just may not be when you thought.  He may not answer it even in your life time, but He will answer.

 Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

 

***Who and What did I study…  I started in scripture looking at the prayer life of Jesus, David, Paul, Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah.  I then read books by Mark Batterson, Matt Chandler, Kyle Idleman, Charles Stanley, Eric Mason & Tim Keller.  I had a steady diet of sermons by Matt Chandler, Louie Giglio, John MacArthur and John Piper.  Finally I prepared a sermon about bold prayers.  These books and sermons were not necessarily on prayer, in fact most of them were not.  However, listening with an ear tuned to prayer and promises from God, God used their words.  Thank You.

7 Questions to Ask During Your Personal Bible Study

7 Questions to Ask During Your Personal

Sitting down to have a personal Bible Study is something that most of us as believers do not do enough.  Then there is the question, “When I sit down to study scripture, what do I do?”  Its a really good question and shows where pastors have let you down by not teaching what to do.  Sadly, it might really be because a lot of pastors have no clue how to have a personal Bible Study.  After reading a portion of scripture I often find myself thinking wow, that was really cool, but no clue how to deal with what God wants to teach me through the verse.

Here are 7 questions to ask during your personal Bible Study that will help you know what God is revealing about Himself through His Word.

  1. What does this truth say about God?
    • Why would God even say it?
  2. What would my life look like if I actually believed it were true?
  3. Why did this passage catch my eye?
    • Why did it make me curious? What stirred that curiosity?
  4. How does my culture twist, distort, or reject this?
    • How has culture affected me regarding this truth?
  5. Why don’t I really believe this; or, to what degree do I doubt it?
  6. How does this truth make me love God more?
  7. What do I need to change in my thinking or actions to align myself with its truth?

There are many questions to be answered about having a personal time in the word.  My suggestion is to pick a book in the New Testament and start.  I am not against the Old Testament, in fact I love seeing God weave the gospel throughout the entity of scripture.  However, when starting out reading and meditating over scripture I have found that the truths communicated in New Testament are a lot easier to understand and apply to our lives.   Print these questions off and put them in a place you can see them and use them.

 Jonathan Haley Uhrig © 2014

 

*Questions originally Posted by Sam Williamson on his Blog Beliefs of the Heart in the post  Hearing God in Meditation ,originally posted July 15, 2014.