What Role Does Prayer Play In Your Life?

Posted: November 23, 2015 in Faith, Stories

IMG_2388Not long ago my answer to this question would have been not very much.

Ever had a pivotal moment in life and you had no idea it was a pivotal moment?  A lot of God’s work is like that…where in the moment you have no idea how big the moment really is until you look back. Recently I have been encouraged by the power of praying out loud, and it took me back to the first time I did that. I vividly remember sitting in my friends floor curled up in a ball, looking uncomfortable, feeling uncomfortable, and feeling terrified. Maybe it was because I was afraid of being honest with myself? My friend? Or with God? Not sure, but I am so thankful for my friend who stood by me and waited patiently while I grew in my faith in that moment. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t long, it wasn’t poetic. It was out loud and it was honest, and there is power in that.

That day was almost 9 years ago. I wish I could say my life hasn’t been the same since. Well a little bit is true there, my life definitely isn’t the same, and praise the Lord for all He has brought me through. My prayer life however really had not changed much since that day. Sure now I was no longer afraid to pray out loud, but in this current stage of life the ability to pray isn’t the issue anymore, it is now the role it plays in my life. I remember a pastor not long ago challenging me with the statement of, “If you could no longer pray, would it make a difference? Does prayer hold so much value in your life that it would be missed if you could no longer do it?”

At the time I answered no. The Lord has been moving since then as He has refined my perspective and understanding of who He is and the importance of prayer in my life. God is working and moving all around us all the time whether we see it and are a part of it or not. When you are in a relationship with Him He invites you to join in and be a part of what He is already doing…and a major part of that relationship is prayer. Prayer is not only a conversation, but it is the humblest form of our need of God.

Praying helps us recognize our dependence on the Lord.

Praying out loud holds us accountable for what we pray. I don’t know about you but I am more likely to remember the prayers I intentionally pray out loud than the ones I say in my head.

After you pray it is important that you WATCH. Watch what God is doing around you. Praying is not a magic genie in a bottle. God does not always answer every prayer and He definitely doesn’t answer them in the ways we think he should, but he moves. Prayer is powerful. The closer you grow in a relationship with God the closer your prayers align with God’s mission and in turn you see lots of movement and encouragement from the Lord.

Jesus made prayer an important role in his life here on Earth and He made sure He taught his disciples how to do it. The High Priestly Prayer in John is a beautiful depiction of the relationship between the Lord and his son. In John 17:20 Jesus prays, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who believe in me through their message.” He is praying for all believers. That includes me and you. Out of the whole Bible Jesus only speaks in a small portion of it and I find that it’s pretty amazing that a man of few words felt that it was important to not only pray, but model how to pray and then to spend time praying for all believers. He knew He was going to save us, but He prayed for us anyways!

In Acts 6:4 the disciples said, “and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Before Jesus left them He had taught them how to pray. They prayed for the Holy Spirit to come and now they are giving their attention to prayer. Not to traveling around, not to preaching, but to prayer then the ministry. The ministry of the word is still an important part of Gods mission, but first comes prayer. The relationship with God, the growth in faith must come in order to spread the gospel or be involved in the ministry of the word. The disciples understood this by the time Jesus left them with the Great Commission. In fact a large part of their growth is shown in Mark 9:29 when the disciples weren’t able to cast out demons in a child and Jesus said, “this kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” This is a pivotal moment for the disciples as they see that more time and effort in prayer is necessary in the relationship with God, which is a direct correlation to growth in faith. Their lack of faith and prayer was unable to cast out the demons.

The Lord knows your heart, thoughts, and mind, but the difference is does He have your heart, thoughts, and mind? Because if He does then your answer to the question is yes. Yes…my life would be drastically different without prayer.

Last Sunday, I was up in NYC visiting my cousin. One of the main reasons that I made the trip up north was to go to a service at the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Why the Brooklyn Tabernacle? I was in a Bible Study with six close buddies a couple of years ago and we went through a book called Spirit Rising: Tapping into the Power of the Holy Spirit. Spirit Rising was written by Jim Cymbala who is the Senior Pastor at the Tabernacle. It is a  great book! It really opened my eyes to the third, and often overlooked part of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One of the main themes of the book is to simply be aware and recognize the work of the Holy Spirit. It is constant and it is what Jesus left for us here on Earth.
It is hard for me to remember the last time that I’ve felt so much energy during a service. The choir was massive. It had to have over a hundred people in it and they were good…. VERY GOOD. It was a different kind of energy and dynamic then I’m used to in a service. I’ve grown used to rock and roll church with mics, electric guitars, and drums, but the Tabernacle was nothing like it. It had some background music to guide the choir and the congregation, but the music was often drowned out by the power and volume of all the voices. It was a very emotional service. There were points I was so fired up that I had goosebumps and points when I was nearly brought to tears from everything that was going on in the service. It was very powerful. If you are ever in NYC you’ve got to make the trek over to Brooklyn to check out a service.
Later on that day I went to a service at Hillsong NYC. It meets at the Best Buy theater right off of Times Square. The walk up to the theater was very interesting… as I’m sure you can imagine if you’ve ever walked through Times Square. I walked right past the infamous Naked Cowboy playing a guitar, girls that were only wearing body paint, and a huge group of mascots. If you know me well then you know that I used to be terrified of mascots! The service at Hillsong was amazing and kind of mind blowing to me. The band was playing all the latest Hillsong jams and Carl Lentz touched on Romans 12:2 in his sermon…#Againstiflow. Pastor Lentz brings alot of energy in his messages and he has a passion for bringing the Gospel to the people of NYC.
If you’ve never been to NYC you’ve got to make a trip at least once in your life. It’s huge, fast, and dirty. I can’t wait to go back.

Several months ago a few of us took a trip to Peru and took on the Santa Cruz Trek. We survived and we documented the entire trip the best we could! Enjoy!

God's Will ImageI feel like trying to figure out God’s will for my life is a constant struggle. Recently, I found myself reading through the Psalms and skimming the pages until something jumped out at me that specifically applied to my season of life right now. Then I realized…what if it wasn’t about God’s will for my life as much as it is about God’s will?

I am a detail-oriented person by nature. Therefore, when I am trying to seek God’s will for my life I pray as hard as I can that God will lay the groundwork out in front of me. I pray that He will reveal every detail of how He is going to work, what He is going to do, through who, and how long it is going to take. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way” – He doesn’t say, “I will give you a road map of exactly how this will work out.” If Jesus is the way, then walking with Him every single day will place me in the center of God’s will. Jesus tells me to take up my cross and follow Him every single day and He will SHOW me the way. This is such a beautiful part of God’s design for His relationship with us. It keeps us in step with Him and in utter dependence. I would have to think that if God laid out His entire plan in front of me I would be prone to take the reins and try to put the plan into action myself.

Genesis 12:1-5 is the story of Abram and the Lord says to him, “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” God told Abram to leave, and go. Go where? “To a land I will show you.”

It seems that I may have been asking the wrong question all along. Instead of laying out the plans that I have for my own life and praying for the Lord to bless them, I need to look for what God is doing and then adjust my life in order to join Him! And furthermore, in order to be able to see God at work, my relationship with Him must come first. That way I can recognize the Lords presence when it is right in front of me. The Lord is so personal in his relationship with each of His children. He speaks to us uniquely and in different ways. If we want to recognize God’s voice when He speaks to us then we must first seek Him and a relationship with Him in order to get to know Him better!

In reading through Experiencing God by Henry & Richard Blackaby (a fantastic daily devotional if you are looking for one!) the authors state that:

“We adjust our lives to God so He will do through us what He wants to accomplish. God is not our servant to adjust His activity to our plans. We are His servants, and we adjust our lives to what He is about to do. If we do not submit, God will allow us to follow our own devices (Psalm 81:10-12). In following them, however, we will never experience what God wanted to do on our behalf or through us for others.”

Holy Father, don’t leave me to follow my own devices. Help me come to a place where I long for Your Will above my plans. I submit my dreams and my desires to you, knowing that when I lay my desires and dreams down, you will either pick it up and give it back to me, or take me to a place that is far better than what I was willing to settle for in the first place. Amen.

My new favorite song is by Hillsong United called, “Touch The Sky” – oh that these verses would imprint on my soul and define my life.

“I found my life when I laid it down

Upward falling, spirit soaring

I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground”

YL 1The Lord planted a seed for a mission trip in our heads at the beginning of this year. In fact we made new years resolutions and one of our friends said, “y’all will go on a mission trip.” We started researching and we are so thankful that Davis Orders went to Tanzania because it was through a friend telling us about his trip that we found Young Life Expeditions Africa.

We applied in January and the Lord answered quickly and the journey began. “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I Am. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:3

To Kenya we were going, and the Lord began preparing our hearts from day 1. Between fundraising and attacks in Kenya…Satan was after us, but we persevered and come June 19th we were on our way to change the world in Kenya…or so we thought.

As we reflect on our time in Kenya and process what we experienced there were a few takeaways we wanted to share.

God is bigger than….

We discovered in a whole new way that you fill in the blank with anything and God is bigger than it…because He is bigger than everything. He is bigger than my city, my church, my problems. Bigger than any circumstance anyone in this world finds themselves in. He is bigger than fear. He is doing big things in Greenville and we get to be a part of that, and man…how prideful we were to not think He was doing big things in Kenya as well. God blew us away with His glory and love there. Young Life is expanding all over the continent of Africa and God is using this organization to do big things. In Kenya alone there are 391 leaders, 74 neighborhood groups and 125 clubs in schools. The work they are doing is incredible and the only way they are able to do it is solely through the resources that people donate through mostly America. They are reaching parts of Africa that seem to be unreachable.YL 2

Prayer life

Dependence on the Lord is so apparent in everything they do. Many of the friends we were able to meet and spend time with showed us what faith looks like. They are walking in life with the Lord having sacrificed something…whether it be a job, friends, family, traditions, culture, or even food. One of the Kenyan Young Life leaders, Martin, spoke at the first club about the sufferings and pains we cling to in life that can keep us from knowing the freedom we have in Christ. He challenged each kid to write down the pain and suffering they needed freedom from and then had them ask God to take it. They prayed about it and then came back together and lifted their papers up high while kneeling and praying. They then set a fire in a pot and each put their paper in the fire and said, “I surrender my pain and worries to Jesus.” You could feel their pain, their suffering, but also the Lord in that place. There were Muslims and children of Kenya at camp giving their lives boldly to Jesus Christ. It was powerful. It was beautiful and there just aren’t words that can describe it. Their daily prayers are outside of themselves, and their gratefulness for the mercy and grace the Lord has bestowed on them is beyond what I call thankful.

This gratefulness was extended to us when the entire camp of leaders and 200 kids surrounded us, laid their hands on us, and prayed for us. I have never felt more undeserving of their love than in that moment – what a humbling experience as 200+ voices prayed together thanking the Lord for us. I’ve never known a whisper to be so powerful. These people love us with true agape love unlike anything I have ever seen. We found it to be so unique that they invite the Holy Spirit into the presence of their prayers and where we are every time they pray. It was such a peaceful and comforting way to pray…as we know the Holy Spirit is with us, but what a humbling thing to invite Him in wherever we are…who doesn’t want to be invited in?YL 3

Eternal Wealth

America needs what Africa has. Society tells us that we are among the wealthy and they are not. Yet, we discovered they were not lacking in anything. Their wealth comes from within. When your wealth comes from within, you find that what pours out is joy and love despite any current circumstances. Their ability to “just be” was unsettling at first in contrast to the scheduled lives we normally live, but as the days went on we began to revel in every moment we got to “just be”…TIA (This Is Africa). The people of Africa focus so much on building relationships with the people around them. It is such a wonderful way to live out the gospel. God created us as relational beings and that’s what Jesus did during his time here on Earth. Jesus continues to pursue relationships all over the world with each and every one of us.

“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” – 2 Corinthians 8:13-15YL 4

Being the Same Yet so Different at the Same Time

One of the YL Leaders, James, warned us that many of the kids felt unequal to Americans or “mzungus” as they called us. They had not spent much time with mzungus so they had no idea how similar we all really are. They simply believe that America is a wealthy, well off nation and that we are better than them. We could feel and see this during an experience we had with a small group bible study. One of the boys was afraid to speak out or respond to the questions for fear that he would not sound smart. Martin, their leader, reassured and encouraged them that they were free to speak among us. As we shared more they began to open up with each other and us. The bible study was about HEALTHY friendships and the “T” in the word healthy stood for Trust. A boy named Johnte and I were partners and we began talking about what parts of a healthy friendship we struggled with. We discovered that we struggled with the same issues…trusting close friends and being completely honest with them. We were able to encourage each other and we came up with ways that we could practice this with the great friends the Lord had blessed us with. We talked about how with great risk comes great reward. We both agreed it was worth it to be honest and trust our close friends with our story…every part of our story!

The night before camp started we were spending time with some of the Kenyan leaders and we began talking to Peter. Maggie is really good at asking questions, so they began to come out as we were eating dinner and Peter answered them all. As we began learning more and more about his life, we could feel his pain from the past, the sacrifice he made for the Lord, and his joy and passion for what he is doing with Young Life. He sacrificed his friends to follow Jesus and relies on prayer to find work and to live. He spends so much of his time in prayer and in scripture. He was able to give such in depth scriptural explanations for topics like speaking in tongues and tithing. We were fascinated with his every word. He found it to be such a foreign concept that people in America could step into a church without ever sacrificing anything. We found such common ground in our conversations as he spoke of his introverted personality and him having a hard time making friends and trusting people. We found he struggled with relationships, singleness, and doubt…which all sounded too familiar to us.

These two relationships were just a small glimpse at how we discovered we are all the same yet so different at the same time.YL 5

Finding Joy in the Small Things

For entertainment at camp, in Nakuru, at the orphanage, or just every night with our team, we found such joy in a whole lot of dancing and games that required no materials. We played music as often as we could. One of the most moving moments was when Kelly turned on “Carry your Candle” and the children at the orphanage began singing it. It was as if the heavens opened up and the choirs were singing! We had a dance party at every stop we made and sometimes just in the van on our way to the next stop. We played games such as, “This is so much fun”, which simply requires 2 people and a lot of laughter. At camp we jumped our hearts out as we shouted, “Do you have rubber shoes?” or as we played, “Balance the ball”…with no ball. It’s amazing how much fun you can have with no props, no iPads, no toys…just our imaginations.YL 6

Experiencing God

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” – Romans 8:18

This verse is so much more real to us after having experienced the country of Kenya and God’s wonderful creation through the Kenyan people and the African animals. The presence of God is noticeably strong in Kenya as you gaze upon the landscape and interact with the people. The Christians there have faith in God’s promises so unwavering. God definitely has not forgotten Africa! This sums it all up for us…as we come home, humbled that the Lord allowed us to go and experience what He is already doing in Kenya. He did not need us to go. We got to go and be a part of what is already in place. We thought we would go and change the world, and oh how humbled we were.YL 7

Go be part of what God is already doing anywhere in this world, because He is everywhere.

“Do Something” by Matthew West

I woke up this morning

Saw a world full of trouble now

Thought, how’d we ever get so far down

How’s it ever gonna turn around

So I turned my eyes to Heaven

I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”

Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of

People living in poverty

Children sold into slavery

The thought disgusted me

So, I shook my fist at Heaven

Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”

He said, “I did, I created you”

Big thank you to Maggie Aiken, Caroline Reynolds, and Kelly Martin for sharing their experience in Africa with us! Y’all are awesome and I know this will inspire and encourage others to go join in where God is already at work in their life!

Marriage: Love Over Compromise

Posted: June 26, 2015 in Faith, Stories

Marriage - Love Over Compromise Picture

Quick Note: We received this blog in an email earlier this morning…before any of the Supreme Court rulings had taken place. This was not written with any of that in mind. So, we hope this honest story is just the encouragement someone needed today because God’s timing is better than our timing!

I overheard some guys having a conversation in the gym today where one of the guys was asking the other for some advice about his relationship with his wife. The man that was looking for advice asked, “Was the reason I married my wife MY OWN will or was it GOD’S WILL?” He admitted that he did not have a personal relationship with God at the time they got married, but has started to develop a relationship since then. He seemed to be questioning the current relationship with his wife saying that they weren’t seeing eye-to-eye on some things and were going through a rough patch. His friend gave him some relationship advice to try to compromise and said, “If that doesn’t work then you will know you did all that you could…”

When I heard this, it got me thinking…COMPROMISE……..THAT’S IT????????????

I have been happily married to my wife for 2 and 2/3 years now…and they have been the best years of my life thus far! I will be the first to admit that I do not know everything there is to know about marriage and I know that I mess up all the time, if not daily, in my marriage. But what I have learned in these years is our marriage is not just a series of compromises. Our marriage is built first and foremost on the love for our Savior. It is built on our love for each other. It is built on the love of our family. It is built on trust. It is built on understanding. It is built on patience. It is built on vulnerability. It is built on communication. And yes, it is built on compromise…

I recently did a book study with the guys in my small group. We read and discussed the book What Radical Husbands Do by Regi Campbell. This book is a great read for anyone going through a rough patch in their marriage and even for those people who are just trying to be better husbands! The book really challenged me to change the way I looked at my marriage. I am here to SERVE my wife, which is radically different from the way the world tells us to live as a married couple. My job as a husband is to show my wife the same love that Jesus showed the church. My job is to lead her through serving her!

So back to the story…What advice would I give this man? I obviously don’t know all of the details of his relationship, but here is what I would say…

First, I would try my best to answer his question about his will versus God’s will.

  • Although you may not have been close to God when you started this relationship, He was close to you! God had this planned for you since you were born. HE has brought you two together to bring Him glory. Take comfort in the fact that you can now be the Godly husband that your wife deserves!

The advice I would give about his relationship is:

  • FIGHT! Fight for your wife! Show her the husband that God wants for her. Cherish her. Love her. Laugh with her. Cry with her. Talk with her. Surprise her. Buy her flowers for no reason. Binge watch Netflix with her. Throw away the back up plan! SERVE HER!!!!

Video Summary

Many of you have probably read the story of The Good Samaritan in the Bible. A man, beat up, stripped of his clothes, and half dead was on the side of the road. Three men were walking down the same road, a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. The priest and the Levite passed by on the other side of the road, but the Samaritan took compassion on this man…”he took pity on him” the Bible says. So much pity that he took him to an inn and as he gave the innkeeper two denarii he said, “Look after him and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”

We are called to love on others…even when it is hard or inconvenient. “Love your neighbor as yourself” Jesus said.

Is there anything else you see about this story?

Try putting yourself in the shoes of the man beaten and stripped on the side of the road.

I know I have been that man on the side of the road before…beaten up by life and just broken. It was Jesus who picked me up, brushed me off, and helped me get back on my feet.

So, when it becomes hard to love on others…remember what Jesus did for you at that time in your life. Remember the people who He put around you that showed you love no matter the circumstances. Jesus is the ultimate example of love and He is the reason we are able to love…His love pours out of us.

Another takeaway from this devotional is to not get so caught up in making your devotional time something you can check off of your list. Really listen in on what God is trying to tell you during that time. We all get caught going through the motions every once in awhile and sometimes we just in need of a little wake up call! So, if anything, we hope this devotional will cause you to refocus that time you are spending with God and open your heart to ALL that God is trying to tell you.