An Invitation

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In this day, when there is so much attacking the truth and the enemy is ravaging families inside and outside the church, we need to get serious about prayer. It is our primary source of power. It is an invitation from the Lord.

We have an invitation from the Lord to come into His presence. He invites us to bring our praise, thanksgiving, confession, and petition before the throne of the Almighty God.

Jesus’s Prayer

The night before his crucifixion, Jesus led the disciples to a familiar place, the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. Jesus invited his disciples to pray with him. This was the most significant and powerful time of prayer in all human history.

Jesus knew that he needed to pray. He was about to be arrested and sent to the cross, and he knew that this was the hour for which he came to the earth. This was  the reason God became a man. He also knew that the battle had to be fought in prayer.

Jesus separated the group, leaving eight of the disciples while taking Peter, James, and John with him farther into the garden. Jesus went on even farther, but he didn’t completely separate himself from them. He wanted them to be with him (see Matthew 26:38).  He was about to experience great agony, but he didn’t intend to hide it from them. He invited them because he wanted them to participate with him in what he was about to take placeWe cannot fathom the agony that Jesus endured in that prayer time in the garden.

Although Jesus knew he would face a painful and slow death, this was not the cause of his greatest agony. He did not fear death; rather he was about to “drink the cup” of the wrath of his Father. Jesus would not only die for us, but he would also actually become sin, bearing our sins in his body (see 1 Peter 2:24 and 2 Corinthians 5:21). This was the unimaginable pain that Jesus endured for us.

I have often thought about the battle that took place between the Passover celebration and the death of our savior on the cross, and I suggest that the victory was won in the garden through prayer. There in the garden, Jesus fought against every attack of Satan that might prevent him from going to the cross.

At any time, Jesus could have turned back and decided not to go through with the cross, but he prayed and submitted to the perfect will of his Father. When Jesus prayed those three times, it was done. He was committed; the final battle over death and sin had been set in motion. There was no going back.

Jesus was not wrestling with God’s will, or resisting God’s will; he was yielding to God’s will. This is the victory we have received, and it was won through the prayer of Jesus.

An Invitation to Pray

Each time Jesus came back to the three disciples, he found them sleeping. In Matthew 26:40 we read, “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”

What an indictment. Today, Jesus is interceding for us at the right hand of the Father. He is praying for us, and his words might still be, “Could you not watch with me one hour?”

But Jesus didn’t simply say, “could you not stay awake for one hour.” Notice verse 41, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Jesus says to his disciples and to us, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation”. By allowing them to witness his agony as he submitted to the Father through prayer, he was teaching them a valuable lesson about prayer. And he was inviting them to follow his example.

When we struggle with temptation, there are several things we can do, but the most powerful thing that we can do is to pray. We can go before the Lord and ask for help in our time of weakness just as Jesus did in his.

What is Prayer, and Why Pray?

Some say prayer moves the heart of God. Some say prayer changes our heart and aligns our heart with God’s purposes. Some say prayer can make God change His mind.

We can discuss the theology and practice of prayer, but the bottom line is three simple words: Prayer Changes Things (see James 5:16b).

Not many people know how a microwave works, yet we all use one daily. It’s the same with prayer. We will never know this side of heaven how prayer really works, but it is powerful and effective.

Don’t stop praying, because you don’t know how it works or you don’t see results.

Jesus went back three times to pray. In verse 44, we read that Jesus “prayed the same words”. Jesus repeated his prayer.

If the Lord does not answer your prayer immediately, don’t give up; keep praying—even, repeating the same words. God doesn’t tire from hearing His children. Remember, He invites us to His throne of grace.

Before Pentecost, the people would have to go to a priest, and he would speak to God on their behalf. But everything changed when Jesus died. We read in Matthew 27: 50-51 that the veil in the temple was torn by God Himself.

The veil in the temple was a very thick piece of woven material, up to 6” thick, which separated the common man from the Holy of Holies, the place where God’s presence dwelled. This veil is what kept people out.

By tearing the veil, God was declaring that people could now enter into His presence. We can stand before God and present our requests to Him personally, covered by the righteousness of Christ. What an incredible privilege!

And yet, we don’t pray. If we are honest, we treat prayer as if it is an added extra rather than life and breath to our souls as we commune with our God.. 

Why Corporate Prayer?

Why is it important to pray together? The early church was all about corporate prayer (see Acts 2:42, Acts 12:12–17 and Acts 13:1–3).

Every significant move of God throughout history has been precipitated by focused, corporate prayer. There are many records of revivals as a result of prayer throughout the history of the church. There is power in corporate prayer.

Do not hear this as an obligation in which I am saying, “You ought to pray more.” Rather, hear it as an invitation. An invitation to spend time with the one who overcame death in order for us to be able to pray.

Jesus invited his disciples to come and pray with him, and he is still inviting us today. Will you join him?

Intimacy to Impact

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Don’t we all desire to live a life of eternal impact and to finish well for the glory of God?

Ultimately only God defines our impact; as a result, a life of impact for God must come out of a life of intimacy with God.

Sadly, so many people who start out well in life don’t finish well. So how do we finish life well?

The Apostle Peter writes this incredible statement in 2 Peter 1:3,

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.”

If you have given your life to the Lordship of Jesus, then you have everything you need to live a life of impact.

Why then do we frequently struggle with the same familiar sins? Why don’t we see perfect Christians?

When a baby is born, that baby has all the genetic material of a fully functioning adult, but it is still a baby. It has some growing to do. In the same way, when you were born again, God gave you His presence in the form of the Holy Spirit. You received all of the Holy Spirit, not a small portion, but you have some growing to do.

Just like a baby shares the nature and genetic structure of its parents, so too, as a born-again believer, you and I share the divine nature of our God.

The real reason why we don’t see growth and holiness in our lives as believers is not because God is not in us or has failed to give us what we need. Rather, it is because we hold on to our old sin nature. We refuse to put to death the things of the world. We forget who we are in Christ. It is not the amount of the Holy Spirit in us that is in question. It is how much of us the Holy Spirit controls. As we yield to the prompting and the leadership and lordship of the Spirit over our lives, we access everything God has already given us, and we will live a life of impact. A fruitful life.

How do we become partakers of this divine nature and live a fruitful life of eternal impact? By applying the promises of God that are found in His Word. This Bible is full of hundreds of promises for us to live this impactful life (see 2 Peter 1:4). As we learn to apply them to our lives, we grow and mature as believers.

Verse 5 then begins with a key statement, “for this reason…” Peter is saying: Because you are born again, partakers of the divine nature, this is how you are to live.  He lists seven characteristics, or attributes, that we as Christians must apply to our lives.

These attributes develop and grow in our lives as we grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, as we grow in our intimacy with him.

We must understand one important thing: we cannot do this in our own strength. We cannot change ourselves in these areas. Rather, as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, He transforms us. But we have a part to  play in this cooperation. That’s why Peter writes, “make every effort to supplement your faith with…”2 Peter 1:5.

God changes us as we submit to Him. It is a supernatural work of the grace of God.

Let’s look at each one briefly:


Virtue relates to a person or anything in nature that fulfills its designed purpose. The calling and primary purpose of a Christian is to glorify God because we have God’s nature. 

True Christian virtue is not perfecting a set of human qualities; true virtue is the divine qualities that make us more Christ-like.


The Greek word here means knowledge that is growing. It is more than simply knowing things; it is discernment or practical knowledge. It is the ability to process what seems to be happening or what is being said and understand what is actually happening. This knowledge, this spiritual discernment, is only derived from the Holy Spirit.


This is more than simply controlling your emotions; it is being led by the Spirit of God to respond rightly (see Proverbs 16:32; Philippians 3:14).


This is patience or perseverance, the ability to endure the pressures and the problems of life. It’s the ability to stand firm while all around you there is pressure to quit and go with the flow. This is something we have to embrace and grow in (see James 1:2-3). 

God allows these testing times to grow us and to produce in us a life that gives Him glory.


Godliness means “godlikeness”. The Greek word means to “worship well”. To worship God is to value God above all things, putting God first in every decision of life.

Godliness is intensely practical because godliness, lived correctly, affects every decision you make.

Brotherly Affection

There is probably no single attribute that is more visible than this one. This is how we love each other in the church. It’s having sincere care and love for one another even in disagreements. This is sacrificially thinking of others first and putting  one another first (see Romans 12:10 and John 13:35).


This is the supernatural love of God. The sacrificial love that took Jesus to the cross to die for our sins. The love that God shows to those who are not saved, drawing them into repentance. This supernatural love can also be translated as charity, sacrificially caring for one another.


These seven characteristics are founded on faith, and the culmination of them is love (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-2). Our effectiveness, our impact, is negated by a lack of love.

These seven attributes are crucial in our fruitfulness as believers (see 2 Peter 1:8). These characteristics of the Christian life will keep us from being ineffective and unfruitful. This is true Christian life impact.

There is a glorious promise attached to these Christian attributes. Verse 10 says that “You will never fall…”.

Remember, these character qualities already exist in us because we have the divine nature in us. The reason we often don’t see growth in these attributes is because we are holding on to familiar sins: pride, bitterness, unforgiveness, and the like. These all prevent us from living the life of impact that comes from intimacy with Christ.

But make them part of your life, by means of a developing intimacy with Christ, and you will finish well (See 2 Peter 1:11).

Do you want to live a life of impact?

Intimacy to Impact part 1

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Do you want more of God’s power in your life this year? More fruit, more holiness, more transformation?

The limiting factor is not God’s ability. Most times, our “ask” is too small. So, why do we find it so difficult to ask for big things from our Heavenly Father? 

I believe one of the reasons is lack of intimacy. We don’t trust our Heavenly Father because we don’t know Him. We have access to the throne room of God, but we wander around in the courtyard hoping to get some scraps. 

Our effectiveness as Christians is directly proportional to our relationship with the Lord. As we walk with God, we will have an impact in our community. 

God’s priority for our lives is that we know Him and glorify Him with our lives. Our intimacy with God determines the impact of our lives.

Jesus modeled intimacy with the Father. Then he took twelve men and built an intimate relationship with them before sending them out (see Mark 3:14).  

Fellowship with Jesus is essential if discipleship is to be effective. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, enabling us to have a daily relationship with our Lord. The Holy Spirit is never unavailable or busy; we have free and instant access to the Spirit of Jesus. 

There are two aspects to intimacy with Jesus: 

1: Fellowship with Jesus

In his time on the earth, Jesus trained twelve men to go out and train others. He was equipping and sending them.  He started by building a close relationship with them. 

In our busy culture, we wrestle with this. In our minds, busyness equals effectiveness, but that is not the way of the Kingdom of God. Fellowship comes before effectiveness. 

Your effectiveness for God is based on your fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not based on your eloquence, training, finances, or title. 

No one is fit to serve God unless they have learned to fellowship with him. It might sound good to speak for Jesus, but if it is not coming from a place of intimacy, it will have no impact. 

It is essential for every believer to have a time set aside each day for the purpose of meditating on the Word of God and prayer. The greatest need in a Christian’s life is intimacy with Jesus. 

2: Fellowship with his church

Fellowship with Jesus is primary, but we also need to prioritize fellowship with one another, the Body of Christ. 

Jesus modeled this. It may seem strange to us, but Jesus needed relationships (see Luke 22:15). Jesus loved his disciples and demonstrated the importance and value of relationship in the body of Christ. 

Sadly, we don’t always value our church community. In fact, many people don’t see the need to gather. Gathering as the church is seen as a convenience or a social construct that is helpful—but only if it is convenient. 

So why don’t we make fellowship a priority? Because we don’t believe that intimacy leads to impact. 

For Jesus and the disciples, the purpose for fellowship was preparation for ministry as we read in Mark 3:14-15, “…and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons”. 

Jesus gave them authority and power from being in his presence. Many people want a shortcut to spiritual authority, but there is no such thing apart from intimacy with Jesus. God won’t give power to someone who by-passes the fellowship with Jesus. 

As we look at the state of Christianity in America today, why are churches dying? I believe it is because we have substituted activity for the one thing that is essential: being quiet before God (see Psalm 46:10 and Matthew 6:33). 

As we serve the Lord in our daily lives, we need His strength and power to accomplish what He calls us to do. However, often we just go ahead and do “things” because we have the natural ability to do them. That can lead to us being ineffective as followers of Jesus. 

We desperately need daily time with the Lord to live the life that He calls us to. You will never meet a person who is effective for God who doesn’t have daily time set aside with God. 

Walking with God must be fueled by being still before God. 

Sitting and being quiet is counter-intuitive, but it is the most effective thing we can do with our time. Everything in the human mind repels this; we feel that we need to do something!!

To the carnal man, sitting and listening is a waste of time. That is why our prayer meetings are so poorly attended. If we are brutally honest, the reason people don’t gather for prayer is that they don’t believe that it accomplishes anything. 

If we realized the power of prayer, our prayer meetings would be filled to capacity each week. But we have misdirected our priorities. 

In Luke 10 we read the account of Jesus’ interaction with Mary and Martha. Truthfully, we are more like Martha than Mary. We are so busy getting things done. We tell ourselves we will spend time with Jesus after we have all the projects done. But the fruit is irritation because we are doing all the work by our own strength and power, and perhaps not even the work he has called us to! 

If we put fellowship first, we will be less likely to get irritated in our service to others and to the Lord. 

When you get so active that you don’t have time to spend with Jesus, your problem is not your circumstances; it is your priorities. We were created to be in fellowship with Jesus. 

The more we know and love Jesus, the more effective our service will be. The closer we draw to God, the more impact our lives will have. 

At the beginning of the year, I want to challenge you to commit to prioritizing fellowship and intimacy with the Lord. 

Intimacy leads to impact.

What is of First Importance?

As I type this, I am sitting in a small cabin at Shalom retreat center near Mound City, KS. I try to begin the year with a time of prayer and fasting, asking the Lord for refreshing and His wisdom for the year ahead. This has been a particularly good time with the Lord, and I feel excited to jump into the new year. If only I can get home…the snow seems to have blocked all the surrounding roads.

As I was reflecting on what is the most important thing that the Lord wants us to focus on in 2024, I was reminded of two seemingly competing scriptures. Let me explain.

In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked by a lawyer, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” To which Jesus responds, ““You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40.

We understand that this is the Great Commandment and as Jesus says, it is the most important law for us to obey. But in reading 1 Corinthians 15, Paul seems to have a different priority. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”

Paul gives the most succinct declaration of the Gospel that we have in the Bible, and he says that it is, “of first importance.”

So, does Paul’s exhortation supersede Jesus’ teaching? Or is the Great Commandment the most important thing for believers?

Almost ten years ago now, the Lord gave our church at Grace Point a picture of four pillars on which the foundation of the church rests. Worship, Word, Mission, and Compassion. You may have seen the slightly faded prints behind the coffee station. If you haven’t already, take some time to read the scriptures and inscriptions below the pictures.

As I was reflecting on the four pillars, I realized that the instructions of Jesus and the letter of Paul are not competing, but rather complimentary.

To Worship is to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37).

The Word of God is what Jesus was talking about when he said, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40).

The Mission of the church is to proclaim the Gospel to the lost world around us, and this includes loving our neighbor and sharing what Paul declares is “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The Church is called to acts of Compassion, and we do this by obeying Jesus when he said,  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).

As we enter into this New Year, many of us are making new year’s resolutions. We tend to spend time refocusing and committing to things that we value, things that are important to us. I want to challenge us all to prioritize our lives and our commitments around the things that the Bible teaches are of First Importance.

My prayer for this year is that we will grow together in love for God, love for our neighbor, and passion for the Gospel.