A short prayer to help you walk in the Spirit

RMlogo A simple, short prayer on how to walk in the Spirit

This is the primary prayer that teaches me how to walk in the Spirit. I pray this daily, several times throughout my day. The LORD has used this prayer more than any other to keep me focused and directed. I hope it encourages you.

Dear LORD,
Help me to see what I cannot see (Hebrews 11:27). To know what I do not understand (1 Corinthians 2:14). To sense what I need to perceive in order to keep in step with your Spirit (Galatians 5:25). Help me to not become hard hearted (Hebrews 3:7). I do not want a desensitized conscience (Romans 2:14-15).

I need the Spirit to illuminate my mind (1 Thessalonians 5:19). Bring conviction to those areas that are dull to me (Hebrews 5:12-14). Keep me back from violating my conscience (Hebrews 4:7-8). Send merciful encouragements that motivate me (Romans 2:4) to turn from any evil way (Jeremiah 25:5), no matter how small they may appear to me.

Keep me from justifying actions that grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). I don’t want to fall into the rationalization trap (Isaiah 5:21). All blaming must be removed from my thought life (Genesis 3:13; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6). I am not a helpless victim (John 16:33). Fallen, but not helpless (Romans 5:12). Attacked, but not without hope (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

I am asking you to do what you promised to those who seek you (Philippians 1:6; James 4:6; 1Corinthians 1:8-9). I’m appealing to you (Philippians 4:6). I need you right now and every future moment of my life (Philippians 4:19).

I trust you and your judgments (Psalm 119:66). I know you’ll deal judicially with me (1 John 1:9). I also know that I cannot be trusted without you (Jeremiah 17:9). You are my heart treasure and comforting guide (Matthew 6:21; John 17:17, 16:13). I don’t want to quench that relationship.

Keeping in step with your Spirit will give me direction (Proverbs 3:5-6). You are my only lifeline (Colossians 3:3). There are no other options (Deuteronomy 30:19). Your Word will keep me from those things that interfere with the Christlike life you offer (Psalm 119:11, 105; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Teach me to say no to sin (Titus 2:12). This can happen if you give me your illuminating Comforter to shine His light on what is right and wrong (Romans 8:26-27; Galatians 5:18).

May the voice of the Spirit and my inner voice be in harmony (Romans 5:1). I don’t want a weak, soft, or hard conscience (1 Corinthians 8:7; 1 Timothy 4:2). I want a biblically-informed one that is affirmed moment by moment by the illuminating voice of the Spirit (John 16:13).

Being tuned to any other thing will defame you, bring harm to me, while separating me from my brothers and sisters (Isaiah 59:2; Ephesians 2:14). It will take courage to hear what you say and respond in biblical ways (Mark 5:36; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 Corinthians 16:13). And that is the crux (cross) of the matter (John 3:14, 3:30, 12:32).

Keep back your servant from these sins; do not let them have dominion over me (Psalm 19:13).

I don’t want to be a hearer of your Words, but not a doer of them (James 1:22). I need your unmerited favor (Ephesians 2:8) to convince and empower me to respond to what I know to be true from you. Don’t give up on me (Psalm 121:7). Give me persevering grace (Romans 5:4).

Help me to move forward with the knowledge you give me (2 Timothy 3:7; 2 Peter 1:3-4), working it out (Philippians 2:12-13) in practical ways that continues to transform me (Romans 12:1-2) and my relationships (1 Corinthians 12:25; 1 Peter 3:8).

Your servant forever (Mark 10:45),


1 Timothy 1:15-16

Studying Bible vs. Spending time with God

RMlogo Four excellent parenting tips that you can use today!

“How much time are you spending with God …and His Word?”

This is a good assessment question you want to ask those you are discipling. You will want to frame your question differently for each person as you try to find out how much time they have spent in God’s Word, which means with God.

There can be an other-world difference between doing devotions, reading the Bible, or going to a Bible study versus SPENDING TIME WITH GOD IN HIS WORD.

The former disciplines can easily turn to rote, “check this off my list” work while the latter can ignite the soul, setting it ablaze as you cuddle with your LORD and His Word. Be a “cuddler” with your Father and His Words.

Most folks who struggle do not have regular snuggle time with God. The LORD and His Words are a side item at best. It is rare to counsel a person who saturates in God on an almost daily basis, and if they are not daily saturating, they are walking with Him (keeping in step with the Spirit), side-by-side, praying without ceasing, enjoying a “God is at my elbow” kind of life.

And even when they are knocked off their feet, they rebound quickly because “the LORD was there” in their moment of sorrow.

In the middle of Joseph’s drama it says in Genesis 39:20, “The Lord was with Joseph…”. I love those five words. They are simply profound. That “with” part was no accident. Neither was it because of Joseph’s passivity. He had a walking, talking, living, breathing, adventurous relationship with the LORD. God was big and everything else was small.

As you care for others you will find that that is not the case with many of them. They do not have that kind of relationship with God—the kind that leads to an other-worldly living that is broadly practicalized in the milieu—the contexts in which they do life.

Carefully discern this in those within your care and carefully bring them back to their most important love.

Mocking & Sarcasm

A Real Case Study

Read Part Two of this post HERE

William came to me with a question about sarcasm. He has a friend who regularly mocks or puts him down when they are together. Unfortunately, William does not have a real relationship with his friend because his friend is not transparent.

William assumes the mocking and sarcasm is a way to keep distance. His friend does struggle with the fear of man (Proverbs 29:25), so he uses the “put down” as a way to hide from having genuine relationships. William did ask his friend about this and he said making fun of people was his way of “showing affection.”

Unfortunately, the lack of discernment and care regarding William is having an adverse effect on William. Because William is struggling with his own relationship with God, he is trying to reach out to be cared for. However, in most cases his reaching out is reciprocated by some form of a put down in a public context.

The following are some thoughts I gave William, along with the obvious, which is to have a chat with his friend, guard his own heart and carefully address the log in his eye.

What It Means

Sarcasm literally means to “cut the flesh.” Therefore, a person who uses sarcasm or its twin, mocking, is a flesh cutter. No matter how you slice it, generally speaking and in the context of what the word means, you only cut that which you devalue. If you value it, you do not cut it. Therefore, sarcasm or mocking, are ways to devalue someone or something. And this is what William feels from his friend.

I Thought It Was a Gift

As a kid with four brothers, I thought mocking and sarcasm were an art form to be honed. The quicker and sharper the tongue the more adept you were at fending off the enemy. I think where I messed up is that when I became a Christian, I didn’t change my methodology as it pertained to others. I brought some things under the Lordship of my Savior, but not all things, like the tongue. What was a bad habit for the old man can hardly be exported to the new man lifestyle,repackaged and made right. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

The Biblical Category

Since sarcasm is not a biblical category, it might be helpful to bring it within a biblical framework in order to think about it more clearly. Sometimes some things lose their force when we rate or categorize them according to cultural standards. I have found it a good practice over the years to place the words and deeds I do into biblical categories in order to understand them better for the glory of God.

In the case of sarcasm, the biblical category would be unkindness. Though others may find another biblical category to fit better, I hardly think any reasonable Christian would call it “affection” or anything that connotes it as being a good thing.

In the case of mocking, we do see that in Scripture. And I’m not aware of it ever being a good thing or being in a good context whenever it is used in Scripture. Elijah is most certainly mocking the prophets of Baal, but that is an adversarial relationship, not two Christian brothers communicating with one another.

Application Questions

  1. Are you aware of how your words affect others?
  2. What have you done to find out how your words affect others?
  3. If your words are negatively affecting others, what are you doing about it?
  4. Would you talk to three of your friends today about this post and ask them how it applies to you?

Articles in this series

  1. Sarcasm, Mocking & Other Dangerous Sins – 1.0
  2. Sins of the Tongue – 2.0 (tomorrow’s post)
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BIG SINNERS vs. little sinners


My Wife’s Journal Entry: September 6, 2003 

I can only attribute the glow I am beginning to feel to God’s graciousness and the teaching on what the gospel really is — all Christ’s work, none of mine. It is like spring after a long winter.

I was resigned to being spiritually unmoved forever toward the things of God, but God saw fit to use the teaching from Galatians to break through my heart. God quickened my heart, He drew me to Himself. For the first time, probably in my life, I realized I can contribute nothing to my salvation. That realization, along with seeing how all my wrongs are enough to crucify the Savior, has impacted me.

Rick is thrilled to have a dimension of joy added to our relationship. We have been discussing for some time now how I should have gratitude and joy even if I haven’t done drugs, theft, or “wild” living. Those are “big” sins. I have always seen how a “big” sinner could rejoice — they have been saved from much. I didn’t see myself as being saved from much. I viewed my sins of anger and laziness as acceptable.

Now, I am thrilled that my heart isn’t stone. I have a long way to go in realizing that I sin every day (and many times throughout the day) and even though it isn’t murder, it is enough to warrant hell and thus my need for a Savior. I am glad our local church will help me grow and point out how I can change. God has patiently brought me to a very good place.


Re-Categorizing My Problems

Christians are rapidly losing sight of sin as the root of all human woes. And many Christians are explicitly denying that their own sin can be the cause of their personal anguish. More and more are attempting to explain the human dilemma in wholly unbiblical terms: temperament, addiction, dysfunctional families, the child within, codependency, and a host of other irresponsible escape mechanisms promoted by secular psychology.

The potential impact of such a drift is frightening. Remove the reality of sin and you take away the possibility of repentance. Abolish the doctrine of human depravity and you void the divine plan of salvation. Erase the notion of personal guilt and you eliminate the need for a Savior. 
From John MacArthur, The Vanishing Conscience, p. 11

Functional Legalism

Legalism is typically an easy sin for me to yield to. Being a person who has historically been concerned with what some people think of me I have found legalism to be functional, practical and easy to maintain, in a twisted kind of way of course. You see, in order to be a good legalist you need to be able to out-think other legalists. And if you can do that then you are typically well-thought of and/or respected by your peers for your spiritual practices.

In my past I have been unwittingly proud of my ability to make a longer list of “do’s and don’ts” than the average Christian. And many of my friends unwittingly equated my asceticism with spirituality. I carried the right bible, went to the right church, wore the right clothes, spoke the right words, sang the right songs, went to the right places and associated with the right people. And sadly to some, my arrogance was interpreted as “spirituality.” Being free from this proud thinking was difficult. It is difficult. I am a proud man. I do want people to think well of me. And in the world of Christianity it can be more about what you do than who you are.

As I began to branch out and make new friends who were not part of my ascetic world I found relationships difficult. I was socially awkward. My new friends in my new world would look at my quirks of spirituality and not be as impressed or inspired as my legalistic friends. They saw it for what it was: ignorance, immaturity, pride, Pharisaical standards, smoke and mirrors and, even worse, an insecure person posing as a spiritual person. I was a poser.

My new friends were more interested in other things; more humble, cross-centered things. Here’s a short list: For example, they were curious as to how I treated my wife…

  • Did I include her in the decisions we made?
  • Did I serve her by pitching-in to clean the home?
  • Was I leading her in rearing our children?
  • Was I aware of what she was doing or why she did what she did and what was going on in her life, the children’s lives?
  • Were we spending adequate time together?
  • Was God at the center of our life rather than the “ministry” or my “burden” or my vocation?
  • Was I living an authentic Christian life in the home and not just before those whom I desired a good opinion?
  • Was I regularly repenting of and confessing my sin?
  • Was I confessing my sin to my wife? …to my friends?
  • Did I ignore my sins toward her? Sins like neglect, harshness, impatience, not thinking the best, not walking her through various situations, not protecting her schedule, not actively planning our schedule, not leading the family in devotions, not having quiet times with her, not asking her opinion, not taking the time to ask her challenging questions, not surprising her with love, not taking a day off or an evening off, not having biblical fellowship, not pointing out the many evidences of grace in her life, not leading in encouragement, and much, much more.
  • Was I inviting the humble observations of my friends to help me change?
  • Was I reflecting the humility of Christ?
  • And there is more…much more…

Whew! Being a selfish, arrogant Pharisee, craving the opinion of others and living by a list was a heck of a lot easier. It was certainly safer. It left me in control. Being a Pharisee put my interest, my burden, my ministry, my hobby, my life first. It helped in bending people’s good opinion toward me.

It has taken me years to realize that loving God and neighbor the way Jesus meant in Matthew 22 is radically different than a list of rules. This new lifestyle has been difficult to say the least. It is challenging me every day, not with a list, but with a lifestyle that makes discernment, courage, intentionality, changing priorities, focusing on others a way of living.

Even though it is more work, the relationships are deeper, longer lasting, more meaningful and more rewarding. My wife is not just a sex object or slave for me and my children are not in the way. Life is full.

The rewards of serving are plentiful and immediate. It is the grandest way to live. I am truly free by being a slave to Christ rather than a slave to a code of ethics (lists). By the grace of God I don’t have to live by the list anymore.

By the grace of God I’m learning to live in the good of the gospel in my ordinary life.

Fellowship: Our Animating Center

The key to any relationship is fellowship. Spiritual, biblical, caring fellowship is the functional, practical core of a robust relationship. Whether you are married or have kids or close friends it is active, animating, consistent fellowship that will keep the relationship alive and focused on God. Our animating center must be a desire to pursue one another in biblical fellowship. When this kind of relational emphasis becomes dormant or non-existent that relationship is in danger of dying or at best becoming a pragmatic agreement between two people who are spiritually distant, while mutually agreeing they must press on and somehow co-exist until their common interests are no longer.

Typically the “common interests” in these diminishing relationships are children. And when the children begin to leave it becomes evident to the pragmatic-partners that living together is no longer necessary and they soon part. Others who do not want the stigma of divorce will choose to live a “silent divorce” in the home. Outwardly they may appear as one, but from every perceptive vantage point they are not. The reason for this is a deadening of their animating center. They do not have spiritual fellowship. In short, God is not ruling their hearts to the point where He is spilling out and into each other’s lives.

What are we do? This is a good question that has a simple but challenging answer. Here’s the thing to do. You must determine to make a plan to engage one another in biblical fellowship.

And part of making a plan with a fellowship-focus is asking each other the right questions. As you think about your soul and the souls of your friends here are some excellent questions to ask. Ask them first of yourself. Be aggressive and honest. Be specific and detailed. Charge forward into the depths of your soul during your quiet time, even if it hurts. Bring your notepad and pen along with you. Make copious notes. Dig deep. Be broad. Don’t come up until you’re done. Go back and dig some more. Keep after yourself. Take your soul to task.

Next? Tell a trusted friend, preferably your spouse if you are married. Then begin to seek out your friends and ask them these questions. Lead them. Serve them. Help them. And may both of you experience the joys of biblical fellowship. May your animating center come alive in God. May you both magnify our great Creator together. Let us choose to build up the body of Christ. And let us begin in our homes.

Here are some good questions to get you started:

  1. What specifically is God doing in your life?
  2. What has He taught you this week?
  3. How are you applying what you are learning? Detailed and with specificity.
  4. How have you failed in some area of spiritual and practical responsibility?
  5. How have you succeeded in modeling Jesus Christ to others? Your spouse? Children? Others?
  6. What are your plans regarding our commission to go out and make disciples?
  7. How can I help you in this area…apart from the obvious: praying?
  8. What are your inner struggles?

Now, go and practice…

Real Strength

Recently I enjoyed the privilege of reading the book The Gospel Primer, by Milton Vincent. I’ve excerpted some enriching and inspiring quotes for you here. I trust it will also inspire you as well as you savor the Christ. Jerry Bridges popularized the quote “you  must preach the Gospel to yourself everyday”. I think this small but powerful book will assist us in giving the gospel its rightful and central place in our minds.

Here is a very satisfying quote from Vincent: God did not give us His gospel just so we could embrace it and be converted. Actually, He offers it to us every day as a gift that keeps on giving to us everything we need for life and godliness. The wise believer learns this truth early and becomes proficient in extracting available benefits from the Gospel each day. We extract these benefits by being absorbed in the Gospel, speaking it to ourselves when necessary, and by daring to reckon it true in all we do.

At my conversion I got the Gospel, I understood the Gospel and I applied the Gospel to my wicked soul. However, since that time I have tended to forget the Gospel in my day-to-day affairs. It is almost as though I believe that the Gospel saves, but post-conversion it is more about being obedient through my practices. The bible would contradict my poor theological understanding of sanctification. The Gospel does indeed save. And the Gospel does indeed have application in my daily affairs, post-conversion. The Gospel is power for salvation AND power for sanctification.

Here’s another quote from another book that gets at this same thought: The gospel isn’t one class among many that you’ll attend during your life as a Christian – the gospel is the whole building that all the classes take place in! Rightly approached, all the topics you’ll study and focus on as a believer will be offered to you “within the walls” of the glorious gospel. –Mahaney, p. 75-76 of The Cross Centered Life

And one last thought from Vincent regarding how the Gospel should take up the most central place in our daily thought. He is reflecting on Romans 1:16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Here is the quote: Indeed God’s power is seen in erupting volcanoes, in the unimaginably hot boil of our massive sun, and in the lightning speed of a recently discovered star seen streaking through the heavens at 1.5 million miles per hour. Yet in Scripture such wonders are never labeled “the power of God.” How powerful, then, must the gospel be that it would merit such a title! And how great is the salvation it could accomplish in my life, if I would only embrace it by faith and give it a central place in my thoughts each day!

Not Her Best

Carolyn Mahaney recently posted on her Girl Talk Blog a very helpful article on the tensions and toils of the wife laboring in the home. She points out that it is okay for the woman not to excel in everything she does. She further points out that the wife and mother should NOT feel as though there is a competition to be the best cook, the best seamstress or the best storyteller to her kids.

She quotes G. K. Chesterton from his book The Emancipation of Domesticity who said, “Women were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary, they were kept at home in order to keep them broad”

Carolyn’s aim is to encourage our ladies on the broader aims of God and the robustness of being domestic for the glory of God.

You can read the full article HERE.

On Being Average

While on vacation recently we visited a local church meeting. It was a wonderful experience. I loved it. My wife loved it. My kids loved it. Christ was magnified. God was glorified. The people were warm and friendly. The teaching was outstanding. As a guest our family was served so well. We went away encouraged and grateful to God for our time with other Christians.

However, as I was reading through some of the material they gave us I noticed something that confronted my limitations. In short, I’m not a bright person. At best, I am average. I have given up the Utopian notion that I will be above average in anything. It will never be.

Here’s the good news: I’m okay with being average.

However, where being average comes to the fore and presents its most habitual sin problem for me is in the area of sanctification. This church’s literature brought my “average-ness” to my mind again and I felt a slight angst rise-up in my soul. To their credit they had some guiding principles that they value and in their desire to serve their people these principles were laid out in a list for clarity, precision and hopefully encouragement. My problem is that when my “average-ness” collides with a sanctification list such as this I can feel a functional, spiritual illiteracy oozing over me.

Sometimes I convince myself that I can do this and I go off with much zeal and hope that I am “more than a conqueror through Christ” only to find after a day or week or month that I can’t keep up with the varied Christian disciplines. I’m not consistent and even worse I’m typically overrated in my mind. I’m a 40-pound spiritual weakling. And when these realities settle into my soul I’m tempted to sin. I tried to overcome and I failed, again. I gave it my best shot only to land hard upon the heap of lists, priorities, to-dos and goals…again.

This local church had goals to shoot for like prayer, evangelism, bible reading, bible study, fellowship and confession. Now these are all good things. These are things I want to do. These are things that I need to practice on a daily basis. AND in addition to this I want to be a good neighbor to my world, a good husband to my wife, a good dad to my kids, a good brother to my Christian friends AND I want to learn how to be a leader, be humble, be consistent, be repentant and more. My problem is that sometimes I feel like a juggler with more to juggle than is humanly possible. Or at least impossible for the average Christian (Read: Me).

Typically my average-ness only allows me to juggle one thing at a time. Multi-tasking in the spiritual disciplines is not part of my gift mix. This is a hard truth for me to “fess-up” to. I’m a proud person. I love me and my loyalties to myself sometimes cross lines to the point that I live in self-deception. It has taken me multiple decades to embrace my dumbness. Am I discouraged by this? Absolutely not! I am not discouraged at all. I only get discouraged when my self-deception inflates my head to the point where I am striving to impress others. This is twisted.

I can easily be tempted toward a higher view of myself. I realize it could be sad to think I’ll never be a Major Leaguer. It is even sadder when I sinfully strive in situations that only lead to frustrations and temptations through my ill-advised efforts to make the “Bigs”. Accepting my place is not failure. It is a practical reality of how God has made me and now I can live robustly within these parameters.

I’m a pretty good Little Leaguer.

It is not giving up or a failure/fatalistic mentality. It is actually a better definition of success. I could be a very successful Little Leaguer when I realize my gift mix does not allow me to be a Big Leaguer. This is biblical thinking. The key is to recognize who you are and fulfilling fully God’s plan for you as you are empowered by his Spirit within the grace-gifting you have received.

James hinted at the dangers of striving beyond your grace-gifting in 3:16: For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. I get in trouble when I selfishly strive in areas beyond my limitations. I’ve come to realize that my average-ness is okay with God. A “widow’s copper penny” is huge in God’s mind if that is all she has.

Now what do average people do who struggle with spiritual-multi-tasking? This is a good question. What are we to do when we can only do one thing at a time? How does the bible speak to this? Well here’s more good news. The bible only asks us to do one thing. The bible only has one value, one task on its list, one “to-do”, one priority.

More on that later…