The Nehemiah Challenge | Part 3 | Getting Going

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For the past several months, I’ve kept a journal of nuggets that I discovered and learned from reading about Nehemiah. The name of the journal is, “The Nehemiah Challenge.”

The following is Part 3 of The Nehemiah Challenge. 

Text: Nehemiah 2:9-20

After praying for 3 to 4 months, Nehemiah asks God what he should do. God’s will became crystal clear–knowing that the uncomfortable work was about to begin and would stretch his resolve and endurance, Nehemiah continued to pray.  It is miraculous that the king reverses years of political policy to grant Nehemiah everything he needs for the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. To be the recipient of God’s favor is an unspeakable gift!

And so, Nehemiah is getting going on the long journey (800 miles) to Jerusalem. Now as governor, he has full documented permission from the king for validation. He took three days for a sabbath rest and because Nehemiah is a man of prayer, I believed he prayed a lot during that time. During the night hours, with a few men and a horse to ride on, Nehemiah inspected the wall and devastation…broken, burned and destroyed. He was faced with an enormous and daunting task. Being sure of God’s will emboldened Nehemiah while inspiring and influencing the people to strengthen their hands for the good work. When you are doing God’s work, expect to have opposition from people who have the “gift of discouragement.” They can be noisy and abusive with mockery and ridicule.  This is the reality of opposition. We seek to rebuild what’s broken in the world (or church) but the world (or church) will not view its brokenness as needing to be repaired. The rule of action is to actively live out the gospel which gives all glory and power to the God of heaven who will make us prosper.

  1. Getting Going
  2. The Good Work
  3. Mockery and Ridicule
  4. Rule of Action

Getting Going

There is nothing easy or comfortable about what God is calling Nehemiah to. In his role as pioneer in the reconstructing of Jerusalem, we see in him the zeal for God, the love for people, plus the readiness to challenge his challengers and to oppose personal opposition. He does not choose the path of least resistance, the god of comfort. He is well aware that his faith and resolve will be stretched. Once clear on his call, Nehemiah got down to business. He was not a man who let grass grow under his feet. [1] Quietly and methodically, he inspected the different sections of the wall, gathering data, seeing first hand what is needed before he cast the vision and recruited hundreds of others to begin the good work. He has a willingness to work hard under pressure and to inspire and move others to do the same. Nehemiah unites with the people (solidarity) before he challenges them to a greater call. “Come, let us build… that we may no longer suffer derision.”

APPLICATION: Getting going requires a right standing with God, prayer, inspection and evaluation of the job, determining resources, appoint the right leaders at the right time, become united and work alongside of them while gaining their trust.

The Good Work

God is the author and creator of work. He worked for six days and he rested. He has begun a good work in our lives and he will perfect it. (Philippians 1:6) Work is the exertion of effort that aims at producing a new state of affairs. [1] Whatever our calling or profession, our work should reflect the glory of God. “So, whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV) Whatever we tackle, whatever God has called us to do, we should be conscientiously doing our best. While there is great joy in doing good work, it can also be very hard and when it becomes hard, we need to pray. Nehemiah is an example of not being self-focused, self-sufficient, self-centered…he is doing the good work God burdened his heart to do and he becomes God-focused, God-sufficient, and God-centered. The quality of his good work is evidenced by the quality of his prayers.

APPLICATION: Praying determines the quality of our working. Working reflects the quality of our praying.

Mockery and Ridicule

Surrounded by opponents on all sides. Sanballat the Horonite governed Samaria, to the north of Judah; Tobiah the Ammonite governed Ammon, to the east of Judah; Geshem the Arab governed the area south of Judah; Ashdodites, who dwelt to the west of Judah.

The world is a messy place. We are messy people with lives full of dysfunctional stuff and so we should not be surprised when we bump into each other over conflicts and disagreements and when opposition arises. Nehemiah demonstrates that humility is the key for progress. 1 Peter 5:1 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble…so humble yourselves before God and he will lift you up at the proper time.” It takes an act of humility to give thanks for the daily grind of doing the good work. Pursuing the will of God will not always be popular. Will we complain or stop the work? Or will we give thanks and experience the favor of God?

“If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.”–Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas) [2]

Because of the self-absorbed habits of our sinful hearts, the only way to anything like pure motives is to pray persistently about the things we do and ask ourselves constantly before the Lord why we are doing them and how they fit in with God’s glory and for the good of his people. [1]

APPLICATION:  When have I (you) risked rejection or failure to pursue the will of the Lord?

Rule of Action

It’s a wonderful thing that God has you doing. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It’s fully beyond you. But the God of Heaven will enable you to prosper because this is the desire that he has placed upon your heart.

APPLICATION: First Pray, then act, then pray again.

[1] A Passion for Faithfulness, Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah, page 69, 72, 73, 80  by J. I. Packer; [2] The Village Church Nehemiah Guide

You may enjoy reading:

The Nehemiah Challenge Part One: When Walls are Broken

The Nehemiah Challenge Part Two: A Radical Trust in God

There is an Amazon link on this page. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small stipend.

The Nehemiah Challenge | Part 2 | A Radical Trust in God

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The following is Part 2 of The Nehemiah Challenge.

Text: Nehemiah 1:11b -2:8; Isaiah 62:6ff; Philippians 4:6-7

  1. Pray and Wait
  2. Waiting is not Wasted Time
  3. A God-given Calling will Result in God-given Enabling
  4. Give God the Glory

Pray and Wait

Chapter one reveals that Nehemiah has a heart that follows after God. He is a man of prayer and compassion and within a few verses of reading, I notice that he is also a man of character and integrity. Nehemiah sensed God calling him to act, and his radical trust in God is evidenced by his courage to pray and wait for God to unfold the right plan.

Application: A radical trust in God gives courage to wait and not to act hastily. God’s timing is everything. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Waiting is not Wasted Time

Nehemiah identifies foremost with the quest of God’s glory and praise and is accompanied in prayer with godly friends–“servants that delight in honoring God’s name.” (Nehemiah 1:11) They waited on God to answer their prayers today and nothing happened; at least not what they expected. Through their persistent prayers,  God was strengthening their faith and Nehemiah’s resolve for the incredible task before him. This was a God-given call in Nehemiah’s heart and along with his loyal band of prayer warriors, would not rest in praying. Wrote Isaiah: “You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.” (62:6-7)

Application: A time of unrest and waiting is not wasted time. Courage to wait on God’s timing is also strengthened through the prayers of others. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

A God-given Calling will Result in God-given Enabling

As cupbearer, Nehemiah had the important job of tasting wine before it was served to the king, to see whether it was poisoned or not. It was an important job that granted him access to the king but it was also very risky. If the wine happened to be laced with poison, the cupbearer would pay the ultimate price, give up his own life, for the king to live. It was a good idea not to look distressed or sad in front of the king at any time, but especially after tasting the wine, yet Nehemiah did. The king noticed the sadness and asked Nehemiah, “Why are you sad, when you are certainly not ill?” That one question was the catalyst God used to launch his plan for renewal and change. For Nehemiah the waiting was about to end.

For months, Nehemiah has been asking God to answer his prayers today.  I imagine a rush of adrenaline pulsing in his chest, knowing all to well that his answer to the king’s question should be crafted well.  So here is Nehemiah, a man who puts his life at risk on a regular basis for the king yet becomes very much afraid at this moment to answer a question about the mission he has been praying over for months already!

God worked through that fear and rush of insecurity, giving Nehemiah confidence to honor and show homage to the king and with that same confidence, to speak boldly on behalf of his people and a city in ruin.

Application: Always expect God to answer prayers today. A God-size calling will result in God-size enabling.

Give God the Glory

Once again, there is another question from the king for Nehemiah to answer: “What are you requesting?”  Nehemiah’s immediate response was not fear but to pray to the God of heaven. A “flash prayer”…a silent prayer lasting a few seconds. Oh, how Nehemiah was depending on God to enable him for this mission. And without fear or hesitation, Nehemiah humbly asks the king for everything on his long and well thought out, prayed over and memorized plan.

And the king said, “Yes!”  For the good hand of God was upon Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:8) That’s where the glory is to land…not on Nehemiah but directly upon God. Nehemiah humbly acknowledges the gracious hand of God upon him, and the gracious kindness of God in using him, rather than conceitedly supposing that the result is due to his own skills and talents and wisdom and gifts or experience. [1]

Application: God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things for his glory. It is not about me, it is all about Him!

[1] A Passion for Faithfulness, Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah, page 68, by J. I. Packer 

Part One: When Walls are Broken: The Nehemiah Challenge Part 1

There is an Amazon link on this page. If you purchase the book using that link, I will receive a small stipend.

Memorial Day is to Remember

“Above all, we must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”

~Ronald Reagan

I have wonderful childhood memories of the 1960’s. To mention a few: my parents renting a small carousel and having it delivered to our backyard for my birthday party, eating Jiffy Pop Popcorn while watching black and white movies of Tarzan, Jane and the chimpanzee, Cheeta, on a Saturday afternoon with my Dad and brother…so excited to have our brand new TV in amazing black and white “color.”

A most significant memory I have of the ‘60’s is being at elementary school when my teacher announced to us that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. School ended early that day. I remember my mother picking me up from school, tears streaming down her face, crying and crying; sitting in front of that black and white TV with my family, listening and watching Walter Cronkite retell the sad and terrifying news.

A lighter memory is watching The Ed Sullivan Show…a family favorite until the Beatles where showcased. My parents thought the Beatles were “long-haired rebellious punks” but I thought John, Paul, George and Ringo were the grooviest!

This Memorial Day, I am thinking about 1966. One of my friends, that lived on the next block in my neighborhood, rode her bike to my house to tell me her father was home from Vietnam. I was young and didn’t understand what the war in Vietnam was about but I had several friends whose fathers were soldiers in the Army. I knew that their fathers were brave and heroic.

My friend’s father had been home for just a few short hours, and she wanted me to meet him. I remember that he was bigger than life to me. Still dressed in his army fatigues, sitting on a kitchen stool with his beloved wife snuggled in his lap. He was so happy to be home with his family. I remember his kind smile, his military hair cut and his big black army boots and again, I wondered what Vietnam was like and wanted to ask him…but I was afraid to. Everything I had heard about this war sounded horrifying. Why stop their happiness to ask questions.

And then the day came when I learned the sadness of war; the day that the war in Vietnam hit close to home. My best friend, Janet, and I were inseparable while in the fifth grade. One day in March of 1966, the principal of our school came to our classroom and asked Janet to come out in the hall. Her expression was scared and I was too because when the principal called you out in the hall, it meant bad news. Janet did not come back to class and this troubled me. Our teacher told us that Janet’s father had been killed in a helicopter crash. I remember crying.

Years and years go by…while on vacation in Washington, D.C., with my husband and children, we visit The Vietnam Veterans Memorial—The Wall. I wanted to find the name of Janet’s father, Harlow Gary Clark, Jr. I found it! My fingers gently touched his name etched in the marble and remembered his sacrifice and the loss that Janet felt…probably continues to feel.

 LTC Harlow Gary Clark, Jr., is honored on Panel 5E, Row 128 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

This is just one of many memories to honor today. Many of my adult friends, Moms and Dads, have lost a son or daughter in war. Friends have lost a spouse in combat for our freedom and their children have lost a parent.

137 years later, Memorial Day remains one of America’s most cherished patriotic observances. The spirit of this day has not changed – it remains a day to honor those who died defending our freedom and democracy. ~Doc Hastings, U.S. Representative

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you?’ ~William Arthur Ward

So, I end this post with, “Thank You” and the memory etched in my mind as though it were marble, never to forget.

The Swan Story

Childhood friendship

The Nehemiah Challenge | Part 1 | When Walls are Broken

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For the past several months, I’ve kept a journal of nuggets that I discovered and learned from reading about Nehemiah. The name of the journal is, “The Nehemiah Challenge.”

Text: Nehemiah 1:1-11

Sometimes we need a hero, a person to challenge us in prayer, leadership, faithfulness, bravery, humility, and how to thrive in our everyday work and calling. A hero is just an ordinary person who God extraordinarily works through, yet by God’s grace, must continue to pray for a persistent obstinate quality of belief, to keep-keeping-on, grounded in faith and theology.

I discovered a hero in the pages of history, whose life continues to teach all of us who will become engrossed in his story. Just an ordinary guy that exemplified the art of empathy, so much so that empathy propelled him to take action. This hero’s name is, Nehemiah. The first 11 verses of Chapter One illustrate the character of Nehemiah through his action and words.

Nehemiah seems larger than life with which he defined his goals and the energy with which he pursued them. Yet, Nehemiah’s life story is a testament of what God has done in and through him, not to anything Nehemiah might claim as a personal achievement. [1]

Here are three things (nuggets) to do when walls are broken.

  1. Ask the right question
  2. Start praying
  3. Bear another’s burden

1. Ask the right question

The words of Nehemiah, the son of Hacaliah.  Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 1:1-2 ESV)

 Nehemiah received a visit from his brother and men from Judah.  After greetings and salutations, Nehemiah asked them a question about the condition of his extended family (concerning Jerusalem.) Nehemiah lived in a lifestyle of security and peace, far away from the hardships of his covenant community, yet he ventures to know more about the people in need.

 Even though Nehemiah suspected the answer would not be encouraging, he proceeded to ask the right question. The answer Nehemiah received about the status of his people and the security of his home and his community was very sad and grievous. The answer to that question propelled him to start. Nehemiah empathized.

Application: Don’t ask a question about a need unless you are willing to be part of the solution.

 2. Start praying

And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3 ESV)

Nehemiah absorbed the answer into his soul, words that quickened his spirit to move, albeit overwhelmed and weakened by the news, he immediately sits down and begins to pray, to cry and mourn the loss of a city in ruin, a broken community. Nehemiah is passionate to do something, yet instead of reacting about the situation, Nehemiah responds in humility with mourning, fasting and praying for days.

Nehemiah is more God-conscious than self-focused.

“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4 ESV)

Nehemiah models an example for us to learn that it is prayer that changes things and that without praying there is no prospering. Nehemiah’s walk with God was saturated with his consistent, habitual and petitionary prayers in devotion to God.

“And I said, ‘O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night…” (Nehemiah 1: 4-6 ESV)

Application: Constant private conversations with God keep us God-conscious and not self-focused.

3. Bear another’s burden

O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. (Nehemiah 1:5-7 ESV)

Empathy is costly because it requires that we step into another person’s situation to meet a need. [2] Nehemiah’s response to the broken walls of Jerusalem was a broken heart. He loved the people of God and the glory of God. He was in anguish because God’s special people were unprotected, shamed and humiliated. [3]

Empathy for others begins when we see ourselves rightly before a holy God. [2] Those walls had been in ruins for 141 years. And likely this wasn’t the first time that Nehemiah heard that there had been no real progress in rebuilding the walls. So what explains Nehemiah’s response to the news about the walls of Jerusalem? The only real explanation is that God was at work in Nehemiah’s soul. He felt God’s heart toward the shame and weakness of God’s people, and he wept. [3]

When we understand our state of utter desolation without God’s grace, we are free to empathize with those who are hurting. [2] If we love the glory of God, than we will be people who care about the well-being of God’s people. When God’s Spirit begins to move among his people, they see the broken walls and begin to care. They turn from indifference, and their hearts are broken over that which does not glorify Jesus in his church. They take ownership of their own compromise. They cry out to God and ask him to intervene. [3]

Application: Bearing one another’s burden will result in greater empathy toward brokenness.

Here’s a question for you, when you know walls are broken, where do you begin first? 

You may enjoy reading:

The Nehemiah Challenge │Part Two│A Radical Trust in God

The Nehemiah Challenge │Part Three │Getting Going

 
 
 

There is an Amazon link on this page. If you purchase the book using that link, I will receive a small stipend.

Starting as a Way of Life

Starting as a way of life

When our kids were young, we took them to Washington, D.C to explore the history and visit the museums. Our son was at a very inquisitive age, eager to explore the places that were not on the map or noted on the guide given to us. It was great whenever an exhibit was “kid friendly” and had a button to press to begin listening to a recorded message about the exhibit or perhaps some of the figures behind the glass became animated with movement.  Naturally, he began to look for a button to poke at every exhibit… just to see what would happen. He quickly learned, If I do this, that happens. He noticed another button on a wall, away from the exhibits. He poked the button to see what would happen. We were all surprised to hear the sound of a loud buzzer emitting a warning and people began to scurry about. Our son, however, was delighted that a poke at this particular button started a chain reaction of people responding to the noise that created a movement.

We need to do that. We need to poke a different button. We need start a movement. Like a child that is not afraid to see what happens. We need to start. We need to stop being afraid of starting something different and new. We are afraid of a possible ruckus, we are afraid that our ideas are not valuable, we are afraid to start. We will never know what will happen if we never start.

To never take a leap or never risk is a sad existence.

We can start to bloom wherever we are planted.

The following are a few quotes from, Poke the Box by Seth Godin. Poke the Box is a small book packed with a lot of kick. It’s worth reading more than once and sharing with your colleagues or a college student or with your ministry teams. I highlighted these sections in the book and I thought it was worth sharing with you. The above story about my son is true. We can poke a button or poke the box. Either way, we need to begin to start…to make starting as a way of life.

I believe that if you’ve got the platform and the ability to make a difference, then this goes beyond “should” and reaches the level of “must.” You must make a difference or you squander the opportunity. Wasting the opportunity both degrades your own ability to contribute and, more urgently, takes something away from the rest of us. ~Seth Godin, Poke the Box

Innovation is mysterious. Inspiration is largely unpredictable. But it’s obvious from all the success we see in the marketplace that we can rise to the occasion. ~Seth Godin, Poke the Box

Once the habit is ingrained and you become the starter, the center of the circle, you will find more and more things to notice, to instigate, and to initiate. Momentum builds and you get better at generating it. If you go to bed at night knowing that people are expecting you to initiate things all day the next day, you’ll wake up with a list. And as you create a culture of people who are always seeking to connect and improve and poke, the bar gets raised. ~Seth Godin, Poke the Box

If you’re not making a difference, it’s almost certainly because you’re afraid. Some of us hesitate when we should be starting instead. We hold back, promise to do more research, wait for a better moment, seek out a kinder audience.  This habit is incredibly common. It eats up our genius and destroys our ability to make the contribution we’re quite capable of making. ~Seth Godin, Poke the Box

Today, not starting is far, far worse than being wrong. If you start, you’ve got a shot at evolving and adjusting to turn your wrong into a right. But if don’t start, you never get a chance. ~Seth Godin, Poke the Box

Art is hard. Selling is hard. Writing is hard. Making a difference is hard.

When will you start?

There is an Amazon link on this page. If you purchase the book using that link, I will receive a small stipend.

Plan Today to be Productive Tomorrow

Plan Today

“If we don’t start, it’s certain we can’t arrive” –Zig Ziglar

How often do you ask yourself at the end of the day, “Where has the time gone?”  You realize the day is over and you didn’t carry out what you had planned to get done. Did the “procrastination shadow” follow you all day? Ever feel like you’re the foremost expert on the subject of putting off until tomorrow what you should do today?

Granted, some people are better at getting things done more than others. For those of us that are easily distracted, perhaps the simplest thing we need to do, and probably the most challenging too, is to learn to manage our time better. One of our biggest challenges when it comes to capitalizing on time is that we don’t really know how we spend it.

The best thing I’ve done for myself is to plan today to be productive tomorrow, otherwise I lose track of the time and do very little.

One way that I plan today to be productive tomorrow is to make a check list of things to do. A check list is a simple tool that helps me focus on tasks and it’s also a record of how I’ve spent my time. The items on the list are not jotted down in order of importance. If I think of something I need to do, I add it the bottom of the list.  After completing tasks, I check it off the list. At the end of the day, I look over the list and feel a sense of accomplishment.

However, what really bugs me is that several tasks stay on the list day after day. Those tasks are the ones that I dread starting; the ones that take more mental energy to begin. It’s the fault of the “procrastination shadow” following me all day. The only way I will lose that shadow is do the worst task, or the one I dread the most on my list, first thing.

To help with that, I give myself a dose-of-motivation–the night before–so that when tomorrow arrives, I’m more inclined not to procrastinate. An example of a dose-of-motivation is a short phrase and easy to remember, like this quote from Zig Ziglar:

If we don’t start, it’s certain we can’t arrive.

Here are four things I do today to be productive tomorrow:

1. Nurture my spiritual life:

Bend the knee and read the greatest history book ever written. Establish a daily rhythm of starting the day off in prayer and bible reading. In other words, I prioritize the daily time I spend devoting my attention exclusively to the glory of Christ and receiving the satisfaction he gives. I love Matthew 6:33 where Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.” It’s true, I am more productive when I keep God first and by doing so, I become a better steward of time, especially with taking care of those things that I procrastinate.

2. Take care of my physical needs:

Exercise and don’t skip eating breakfast. This is something that is a non-negotiable. If I’m unable to run or walk outdoors, there is nothing stopping me from finding a motivating workout routine on the internet. I have to wake up earlier to exercise or else I will miss the window of opportunity.  Breakfast has become a favorite meal of the day. Often the night before, I will make a “yogurt-to-go” cup. Layering yogurt, nuts and fresh berries in throw-away cup. I grab it and go! It’s so easy to miss breakfast in the morning, especially with rushing out the door to take children to school and to make it to work on time, but you’ll soon feel the pangs of skipping that meal once the morning rush of adrenaline comes to a halt.

3. Create a to-do-list

If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time. There are several time management apps that are useful for managing a to-do-list. A paper and pencil work too! I like setting time limits to work on a task…set a timer on my iPhone to buzz after 30 minutes. This helps me to stay focused on finishing the task. Setting a timer reminds me about making chores a fun competition with my children. We can race each other to see who will beat the clock.

 4. Guard my family time

At the end of the day, the one thing that matters most are the people in my family. The work day is over and now it is time to lean into my family, forgetting everything left in the office and those many details still left undone on that to-do-list.

If I manage myself well throughout the day, I will be a better leader for my family at the end of the day. And when the evening has become still and quiet and my family has settled down for the night, I reflect on the events of the day and consider how it will impact tomorrow.

“Motivation gets you going and habit gets you there.  Make motivation a habit and you will get there more quickly and have more fun on the trip.” -Zig Ziglar

You may find the following posts helpful:

How to Break Bad Habits

The Joy of Running

Four Ways to Make Your Personal Worship Habit Forming

In Pursuit of a Gospel-Centered Community

For an added dose of motivation:

6 Unintended Casualties of Mismanaging Your Time

Trick Your Lazy Brain Into Being More Productive

How to Set Yourself Up for a Productive Day

Zig Ziglar Quotes

Draw the Circle : The 40 Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson [Book Review]

Draw the Circle

This is a review on the book, Draw the Circle : The 40 Day Prayer Challenge, by Mark Batterson, pastor of  National Community Church, in the Washington, DC metro area.

Draw the Circle is a devotional book on prayer, a sequel of sorts based on the New York Times best-selling book, The Circle Maker. I have not read The Circle Maker, but I have read, Praying Circles Around your Children, a good book for parents to read! What I learned from that book is this:

You don’t become a praying parent by default. You do it by design by desire, by discipline and determination. It’s imperative to distinguish between your will and God’s will. God is not a genie in a bottle, and your wish is not His command. His command better be your wish.

After “praying circles” around my children and grandchildren and experiencing God answer many of those prayers, I looked forward to using Draw the Circle as a challenge to establish a prayer habit that would continue on day 41, day 75, day 365.

In Draw the Circle, we are encouraged to make a daily appointment with God by setting a time and place to pray. The author chose the time of 7:14 AM, based on 2 Chronicles 7:14. The “If” at the beginning of this verse convicted him to become a man of prayer and to lead his church through a revival of prayer. Having a set time and place created tremendous synergy and accountability.

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Batterson reiterates that there is nothing magical about physically circling something in prayer. Drawing prayer circles is a metaphor that simply means “to pray without ceasing.” It’s praying until God answers. It’s praying with more intensity, more tenacity. It’s not just praying for; it’s praying through. “Praying with the same kind of consistency with which the earth circles the sun.”

I appreciate the exhortation and challenge from Mark in the introduction to “find out about prayer… for each day of prayer to yield a new discovery that will change the way I pray…and when I change the way I pray, everything else changes.” (the quote was personalized)

The book is an easy read, with mini-anecdotes to illustrate the point of each chapter. On Day 4, I was pulled into the story of John and Tricia and their precious son, Eli. You need to read it. “Sometimes the purpose of prayer is to get us out of circumstances, but more often than not, the purpose of prayer is to get us through them.” I can relate to that!

By Day 40, I was in a rhythm of praying very specifically for a number of significant things. The devotional book ended in part with this exhortation:

“It doesn’t matter what you do; prayer is the key to your business, your practice, your career. If you’re an entrepreneur, you need innovative ideas. If you’re a physician, you need the discernment to diagnose. You may sell homes or teach classes…whatever you do, prayer is a critical part of what you do and who you become. Turn your classroom, boardroom, locker room, operating room, courtroom, and conference room into a prayer room!”

It takes watching and waiting to see how God will answer prayers. I recommend that you read, Draw the Circle…read a chapter each day to remain committed to the 40 day prayer challenge. There is scripture woven throughout each chapter. Take time to read the verses and explore the historical facts of God’s word. Engage with God in prayer using the bible verses as a guide. Ultimately, the book is a good lesson in persistent and faith-filled prayer.

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