Faith in the Real World

By Joe Kelty, MBC Tysons Director of Men’s Discipleship

In today’s morally relativistic culture, can we really be expected to share our faith in the “real world”? Let me give you a couple real world examples of a “rookie” Christian sharing his faith.

When I was a younger man, my wife and I had only been married for two years when we were blessed with our first child, a precious little girl. I was working in downtown DC at a firm with several young men in the 20-30 age group. One of the VPs had established a tradition of taking men out to lunch for their birthday. Somehow that tradition devolved into a group of rowdy men going to a gentlemen’s club in DC to celebrate a man’s birthday.

As a Christian and new father of a little girl, I decided that I could not participate in such things anymore. So when the next birthday outing was gathering, I stood up and announced that I would not be going. The group of men unleashed a barrage of peer pressure and insults on me. But I stood firm. I explained that “it just wasn’t right” for me as a Christian man, and as the father of a little girl. The insults continued. So, I offered to help pay for the birthday boy’s lunch, and sulked back to my office. The group of men left. Then about 10 minutes later, one of the men returned and came to my office. He said, “That took guts.” I smiled. He said that he also had a young daughter, and that maybe it was a good time for him to start taking the family to their neighborhood church every Sunday. Looking back on this memory, I realize that I had successfully shared my faith in the real world—and it helped someone take a step closer to Christ.

Years later, I was the VP at a different organization. Our company had teams of IT consultants working at various large clients in the DC area. One of the clients announced that they would have to cancel our contract, effective immediately, because the government had cut funding to the entire project. The client apologized, but without funding, they could not pay us. This meant that I would suddenly have several consultants sitting idle, and not earning profits for my company. I looked at the contract terms for this client, and realized that there was a clause that prevented termination of my team without one month’s notice. I could essentially force the client to keep paying for an additional month, even though they were not being funded by the government. Not my problem, so I thought. I informed my boss and my team that we would be forcing the issue, and that our profits would still look good for the month. But all that night my conscience kept convicting me. I prayed about the  situation. The next day I decided to change my mind, and let the client off the hook. Then I had to go tell my boss, and announce this to my team. In front of everyone, the team leader asked me why I had changed my mind. I told them that I was a Christian, and that I have been striving to live my life accordingly. It would not be a godly decision to sacrifice my personal integrity in exchange for profits. I apologized to all of them, and promised to be a better leader and a man of stronger Christian character. Later that day, a few of the team members came up to me individually. They each encouraged me, and thanked me for making this decision. One of them even asked about attending my Bible study. We had a tough month in profits, but ended up with a record year, financially.

Don’t become overwhelmed by the challenges you face because you are a Christian. Remain faithful and cling to your Christian integrity. Be intentional about telling people why you believe in the Lord Jesus. They will respect you for it—they may even find salvation because of it. And one day the Lord will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Dissolving Reluctance, Resolving to Pray

By Julie Stoll, MBC Tysons Attendee

Remember Jonah the reluctant prophet? God shared His heart of compassion for the people of Nineveh, and told Jonah to go make a difference there. But Jonah went in the opposite direction, intentionally refusing to join God’s plan. Why? What prompted Jonah’s reluctance and emboldened him into rebellion?

Perhaps Jonah had bought into the cultural perspective of his nation. The Jews at that time had a nasty history with the Ninevites and viewed them as despicable. Why be involved with anything good directed toward a “bad” group who chose to be that way? I can relate to that in my prayer life. I am reluctant to pray for people I don’t understand or who don’t have direct influence on me. Only my favorites—those who deserve betterment—get face time. I sadly see my resemblance to Jonah; I am a reluctant pray-er.

Modern day Nineveh is Mosel, Iraq. The ancient ruins of Nineveh still stand on the eastern side of the Tigris River, which could remind all of God’s compassion at the time of Jonah. But instead we see it frequently on the newsa hotbed of warring Islamic factions—and chalk it up to someplace remote where God isn’t. But today I am challenged that God is indeed active.

He is actually sovereign over all peoples and cares about their well-being, just as he cared about the Ninevites so long ago. Even when it seems that injustice is the rule of the day, where oppression and violence abound, God still desires His people to be messengers of hope, of His offer of redemption. Yet I find myself comfortable in my reluctance. It is startling to think that I may be acting on deep prejudice or, at best, intentional avoidance of “those” people who sadly suffer by their own choice of where to be born. Really?

The news stories of Christian refugees in Northern Iraq challenge me to pray. At the very least to pray for justice and safety for my brothers and sisters in Christ within warring Northern Iraq and now as refugees in Turkey. With Christian backgrounds, they are in positions today where God sovereignly placed them (Acts 17: 26-27). But can Christian Iraqis be embedded messengers of hope in that region without their broader global Christian community praying for the strength and wisdom they need to stand firm?

I am told to pray for workers in the harvest (Matthew 9:37-38). To pray for God’s plan to get His message to all the “Ninevites”. Whether I am prejudiced against them or not. He is going to act and my choice is whether to join Him in His work or just hear about how it was accomplished in the sweet by-and-by. I am more aware than ever of my own reluctance to engage in something that costs me so little—prayer. And that is for my brothers and sisters in Christ. That is not even to consider the majority population—people Jesus died for!

So here are five things I have decided to pray for this week as I try and dissolve my reluctance and resolve to pray:

  1. Pray for God’s gracious justice and peace to be present in the area surrounding Mosel. I think I will actually Google map the city and visualize it as I pray.
  2. Pray for laborers to be effective in the harvest fields of Northern Iraq and in the refugee camps in bordering countries. For me, I will pray for efforts of Samaritan’s Purse.
  3. Pray for Iraqi believers to be strong and effective in evangelism and planting seeds of hope among the culturally Christian Iraqi people.
  4. Pray that God’s offer of redemption be heard through brothers and sisters there (Colossians 4:3).
  5. Pray for my own heart to be renewed toward His purposes that includes a dissolving of my reluctance to pray for His work.

When Discipling Isn’t as Easy as 1-2-3

By Jaclyn Hoffman, Operations Manager for Biblical Training @MBCTysons

Growing up, Catie went to church on and off with my friend Stephanie and her family, but when Catie reached high school, she stopped attending. About two months ago, Stephanie’s mom asked if I would meet Catie for coffee because she was interested in going back to church. We met and immediately became friends. We started hanging out and playing basketball, and I invited her to start coming to my small group. She also came to church with me.

One night, before small group, she came over because she had questions about her life and the Lord. She’d been dealing with anxiety and depression, so we talked about her thought life and how her emotions and feelings seemed to fluctuate so frequently.

She was only happy when her circumstances were good.We discussed how to find hope and the only true joy in Jesus Christ despite our circumstances. I told her that believers have something to live for that gives life meaning and purpose. She said she wanted to have that purpose and more peace in her life. At the end of our conversation I asked, “Do you want to ask Jesus to be your personal Savior?” She prayed to receive Christ that night.

I had always thought that after leading someone to Christ, I would take her to Christianity 101, go through a book, and poof—she’s a  disciple! But that’s not how it’s been. She doesn’t want to go through a curriculum, and she’s not used to hanging out with Christians yet. She’s not following my neat little plan! What she wants is to live life with me, to see my messy life and realize that just because I’m a Christian, that doesn’t mean I have everything together.

I’ve learned that as we strive to be bold and share our faith, if we have the incredible blessing of seeing people come to know Christ, we can’t be disappointed if the new believers don’t seem to want to do what we think they should do. We must accept that the process may be messy.

Don’t force anything. Trust the Lord.He is now their Father too, and He will take care of them. He’s simply going to use us in His process.

Sienna’s Offering

By Kalina Kwok, MBC Bethesda Attendee

Our MBC Bethesda missions team hosted a free dinner and “Toy Story” movie night recently. It was the first project we had to do together, and by God’s grace, the event was a success. We received lots of notes of encouragement and prayers from supporters as we prepared for our trip to the Philippines.

SienneOnce the movie was over, a little girl named Sienna asked us if she could donate money to the missions trip. Of course, we welcomed the thought. She opened a handmade zebra print piggy bank decorated with smiley face stickers and poured out all of its contents into the box. Based on the large amount of money for someone of her age, it was clear she was a saver. To see her sacrifice all of her money for our trip was overwhelming. It reminded me of Luke 21:1-4.

The Widow’s Offering
And He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”

Faith Like a Child
Jesus was touched by the widow’s offering because it was given out of her poverty. Those two small copper coins were all she had. For little Sienna, all she had was the money in her piggy bank, a collection of gifts and probably well-earned rewards from chores. I’m not sure if she had other plans or dreams for her money, but if she did, she was willing to let them go for God’s purposes: To reach the unreached and to glorify His Name. It’s no wonder that Jesus constantly reminded the disciples—and us today—to have faith like a child, faith like Sienna, to trust in Him with everything and to pour out offerings of sacrifice because He is Worthy.

The team left for the Philippines Saturday, Aug. 16 and returned Aug. 24. Please pray for their encounters with those that did not yet know Jesus and the encouragement of those that did.

The Wonder of Talking with Jesus

By Joe Henriques, Campus Pastor @MBCTysons

One nice part of being a child is that awesome things are still a wonder. I’m guessing that you’ve experienced children in your own family jumping up and down like grasshoppers with incredible energy and excitement, as they drag you along to see the smallest of things that adults don’t notice or think amazing anymore. We say, “Oh, yeah, that’s nice.” Kids exclaim, “Wow! Look! That’s so cool!”

Do you and I still think of the statement below as an awesome, amazing wonder?

“God intently listens to me when I speak to him,
and he personally answers my prayers
as he sees best, because he delights in me.”

Why not take a walk today and ponder that thought? Prayer for the work of the Lord, we naturally do. But, I’m slowly getting it that prayer is the work.

Imagine sitting across the table from Jesus and having a personal talk about your life, work, and ministry and asking him to provide this or that. Imagine that your meeting with him is literally the direct cause for every effect—everything that happens. Imagine it, because it’s true.

Thankfully, Jesus—the Sovereign Lord, Ruler of the Cosmos, and our Personal Savior—has his own agenda and makes sure that the universe, earth, and our personal lives move on per the counsel of his own will and for his good pleasure, all without us even thinking about it. Part of the mystery of how things work on earth, however, is that he makes much room in his plan to accommodate the “fervent prayers” of his followers, listening and answering every day. Surely, this qualifies as a wonder.

Getting to the Heart, Part 5

By Mike Kelsey, Campus Pastor @MBCSilverSpring

The Heart Is Always Trusting Something
In addition to our desires, we are also motivated by our beliefs. In fact, our beliefs usually dictate how we handle our desires. This is clearly seen in the account of the Fall in Genesis 3. Eve desired the nourishment, beauty and divine wisdom that would come from eating the fruit of the forbidden tree (Genesis 3:6). But she didn’t eat it until she believed the serpent’s proposal to be more reliable than God’s promises (Genesis 3:1-5).

The same dynamic is at work in our hearts. Our minds are filled with thoughts that have been accumulated from and influenced by different sources: media we’ve consumed, advice we’ve received, stories we’ve heard, classes we’ve taken, experiences we’ve had, sermons we’ve listened to, etc. In the midst of these swirling thoughts is a constant battle for our hearts—a battle for what we will believe, a battle for who or what we will ultimately trust.

This battle is so important to understand because the biblical picture is one in which we are much more vulnerable and susceptible to deception than we often realize.

Deception is Satan’s primary strategy for influencing us (Genesis 3:13; John 8:44). The supposed “wisdom” of people around us can deceive us (Ephesians 4:14). And, because of our sin nature, even our own hearts and desires can deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9; Ephesians 4:22). Practically speaking, we need to become adept at evaluating the beliefs that drive us. Where did a belief come from, and is it true? Even if it is true, does it reflect the whole truth given in God’s Word? What do we believe about ourselves? What do we believe about the things we desire? What do we believe or fail to believe about God? As we begin to ask those questions, we will see that our behavior is an expression of what we really desire and what we really believe.

Here’s one example. A man begins drinking alcohol excessively [behavior] because he is depressed about his prolonged unemployment [circumstance]. What is happening in his heart? Well, we know that he desires a job. But his desire for a job is likely a mixture of more fundamental desires like financial security and self-worth, etc. Let’s go with his desire for financial security, which is partly a desire for peace. He doesn’t want to worry about whether he’ll be able to meet his needs. What might he believe? One possible belief is that without a job, the most reliable way to have peace is to get drunk. Is this true? No. Rather than trusting God for peace (Philippians 4:6-8) and obeying Him (Ephesians 5:18), he trusts alcohol.

God’s Word is always the most reliable source of truth. In every circumstance, God wants us to trust Him by relying on what He has revealed to be true. That means the time we spend reading, memorizing and hearing God’s Word preached is not just religious routine. Our minds need to be constantly saturated with the wonderful truths of God’s Word so that those truths become the predominate influences in our hearts.

Fighting The Darkness with The Light

By Angel Turbeville, Director of Small Groups @MBCBethesda

As I look around at the world we live in, some days it feels like it is totally falling apart. One of the most devastating losses is death due to suicide. Can there be enough hope to break through to those souls struggling to hold onto life itself? I believe there is. I think the church needs to understand a little more, and I hope taking my mask off might help. Depression and the overwhelming darkness and despair that it brings strikes those who claim their salvation in God, just as hard, maybe even harder, as those who do not profess faith in Christ. I know that many in the church want to help, but they do not understand the complexity of how to be in transformational community with those who battle depression. Here’s my take from a heart that knows.

In many ways, I believe the battlefield of the physical darkness of the mind, is compounded for the Christian. Satan knows that if he can make us lose hope, we are rendered powerless from God’s kingdom. Depression is not foreign to me. I have watched many I love battle and even more devastating, stop fighting. I battle. I am a believer. I KNOW Christ. I know His love. I know the power of the cross. I minister to others. I share His hope. I speak truth even on the days when my heart is dark with despair. In the past, I’ve battled waves of anxiety and panic attacks. Thankfully, those have lessened. Because of the devastating depth of how broken my heart is, my past has even included begging God to take me to heaven. I’ve let a few close to me know the level of my pain, but for the most part, I’ve painted on the face I know I’m supposed to have and soldier on. Healing has occurred, but I still have days/weeks of struggles. In those times, eventually God’s light does break through. I’ll go from a heavy cloud of oppression to a realization of the hope that is at work within me. However, despite my constant prayer, God has not totally healed me.

God, in His gentle sovereign way, has taught me how to fight this darkness. I have taken practical steps—I have been in counseling for six years. I have tried medication, but unfortunately for me, aside from helping me through crisis points, this has not been a good ongoing solution. I know the battle is easier if I manage my diet, exercise and sleep. I try to do that.

Spiritual transformation has happened in the light of community. The few who know my battle are the dear friends who consistently love me through the dark. In the past couple of years the most healing has happened because of those within the church that I have been able to trust. They are the ones who persist. They know my patterns. They recognize when I am going into hiding or not being honest about my heart. They call me out. They sit in the despair with me and pray. They check in with me, text me verses, email me and are not afraid of my dark. Some of them have their own struggle and those who know deep pain have been able to penetrate to places that others can’t. However, the friends that most amaze me are those who don’t share this or a similar battle, but still schlep into the dark completely relying on God to navigate the right words or actions.

What are some practical actions you can take if you have people in your life who are battling depression, or for that matter, any pain that you have no idea how to relate to?

1. Be there
Be a consistent presence in their lives. This does not mean lecturing them on how to change their thoughts or refocusing them on “positive” thinking. It does mean pointing them to Scripture that affirms the despair of their hearts. Wrestling through where they are with God and praying with them and for them. My deepest “knowing God” moments have been the times when I have been able to apply the truth of His character to the depravity of my heart.

2. Persevere
In the worst times of despair, we disconnect. The pain drives us into hiding because “no one understands.” We believe many lies including that we are “totally alone” and “no one cares.” Even as believers, these thought patterns creep in. Outside of crisis points, have honest conversations to find out what is helpful when this level of despair hits. Open yourself up to be available via text or phone—anytime day or night. Does this level of care scare you? It shouldn’t. For the believer who is truly battling and seeking God’s work of redemption in their lives, this will not turn into co-dependence. It will be a mark of authentic community and the bearing up of one another’s burdens.

3. Be willing to ask the hard questions 
Understand specifically the trigger points that ignite moments of despair. For those you are in close community with, make sure they are keeping safeguards in place to manage their reactions.

4. Affirm and love
At our deepest levels, God created us for intimate relationship. We need to be free to let go of shame and be embraced by love. Shame comes with this struggle. Satan is whispering the lies of “where is your God right now?”, “you are serving Him and ministering to others, look at the fraud you are right now” and any other lie he can think of in attempt to disable God’s redemptive work. Do not add to the shame with a spirit of condemnation. Identify the lies and answer them with Truth from God’s Word.

5. Pray and rely on the Holy Spirit
Those who deeply struggle with depression and mental illness have needs and thirsts that are insatiable. We can only be redeemed through His Living Water. Our community must be built with those who will not retreat in hurt, but will strive to understand and love through the power of the cross.

6. Recognize when practical help is needed in addition to spiritual
For those who battle this deeply, there is a need for professional counseling and other resources. However, even in those cases, the five points above STILL apply. A counselor is not community for the Christian.

The body of Christ MUST take steps to understand how to engage with one another so that we are living the Gospel victoriously. 1 Thessalonians 5 is a beautiful picture of what the church should be doing. We need to realize that we have not been lost in the darkness of this world, and we need to encourage each other to live as children of light. In vs. 14 the command is given to comfort the “feebleminded”. The word actually means “small-souled” and in context indicates one who is despondent. Are we in close enough community with each other to know the size of our souls?

Are our lives prioritized around our agendas or knowing and loving others in a way that is transformational and exhibits a taste of the love we have received through Christ on the cross. Let’s get there. Let’s be patient, know each other at the soul-level, and love deeply as Christ has loved us. Simple statements that call for bold living.

Getting to the Heart, Part 4

By Mike Kelsey, Campus Pastor @MBCSilverSpring

The Heart Is Always Seeking Something

For the most part, our behavior is our attempt to attain what our hearts desire.[1] Christian counselor and author David Powlison explains, “My daily behavior is my attempt to get what is important to me in various situations and relationships. My choices and actions always reveal the desires that rule my heart.” These can sometimes be inherently sinful desires, but usually even those can be traced to legitimate desires that are not necessarily sinful but that can begin to take the rightful place of God (approval, companionship, success, respect, etc.). In fact, this is what the writers of the New Testament mean when they use the word “lust.” Lust is often used in reference to sexual desire in particular (which is how we most commonly use the term today), but throughout the New Testament, the term “lust” is a generic term that basically means any “controlling desire” (James 1:14-15). It is almost as if these desires become mini-kings (or in religious terms, mini-gods) that demand our attention and obedience. For example, the Apostle Peter writes about conforming to our lusts (1 Peter 1:14), and the Apostle Paul mentions being enslaved to and obeying our lusts (Titus 3:3; Romans 6:12; also “appetites” in Romans 16:18). These controlling desires have profound significance because as the 19th century Puritan preacher David Clarkson said, “Every reigning lust is an idol.”

“Every reigning lust is an idol.”

So how do we know when we have allowed a desire to take the rightful place of God? How do we know when natural desires have become sinful desires?

We can usually tell that a desire has taken control in one of two ways:

  1. When we are willing to sin in order to get it.
    (In order to get approval, I gossip. It feels great to be the one “in the know.”)
  2. When we sin in response to not getting what we want.
    (When I feel I’m not getting the respect I deserve, I retaliate with harsh words.)

However, outward and obvious sins are not the only places where sinful and controlling desires lurk. Sometimes, these subtle desires can also be found underneath our seemingly righteous behaviors. We must be careful that our good deeds are being done with holy motivations. Jesus was very critical of Jewish religious leaders who were doing “good” things in public but were motivated by impressing people rather than serving God and people (Matthew 6:1-18). In other words, they were using religious piety as a way to attain what their hearts truly desired, which was praise and admiration. That is not true piety in God’s eyes. True piety is doing the right thing with the right motives. It is ironic and yet true that idolatry can motivate our Christianity. God doesn’t just want us to do good things; He wants to be the true ruler and treasure of our hearts.

Practically speaking, we have to understand that our choices, attitudes, words and behaviors are being driven by the reality that our hearts are seeking something. Our deepest and most controlling desire should be to please God and enjoy His presence. This is what it means to love God with all of our heart, soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5; Mark 12:29-30). In His love for us, He created things for us to enjoy, but those things become idols, God-replacements, when we desire them more than we desire God (Romans 1:25).

Read @MikeKelsey‘s first, second, and third posts from this series!


[1] Desire includes what you value, crave, treasure, long for, set your heart on, hope in, cherish, worship, love or seek.

Truth Literally Saved My Life

By Stephanie Green, MBC Staff Applications Analyst & MBC Tysons Attendee

In a recent discussion with a close friend, I realized why I get so concerned about “relational sanctification” (as I would label it). I’ve found that relationships I’m in now can have a way of resurrecting the past, and all of the hurts that have been hiding under its webs. Previously in my life, these flashbacks have been so painful that I didn’t know how to deal with or face the reality of the hurt. For example, in high school, after being stood up on the day of my boyfriend’s prom, I began cutting. Several years later, while in a disastrous relationship with a college boyfriend, I tried to take my life.

These acts of brokenness were fueled by my deeply rooted insecurities. My dad left me waiting a lot, and my mom made me believe that God was going to send a replacement father who wouldn’t abandon me. I was raised by three orphans, two of whom had deep fears of abandonment. My own fears of relational pain and abandonment grew deeper, and my ability to trust faded away.

God is Different
God is faithful to keep His promises and says in His Word that He will never leave me nor forsake me. I’ve been to Christian therapy, and it has helped greatly, but there is nothing else on this earth (or beyond) that can fulfill the promise of God’s eternal love. When I first heard that God’s love was unconditional and everlasting, I was drawn to this message of hope.

Prior to committing my life to the Lord, I heard truth from His Word, but it wasn’t until my last suicide attempt (shortly after leaving college) that I surrendered my life completely to God. I didn’t feel comfortable trusting or believing anyone at that point, but I knew I needed help and prayed: “God if you are real, please help me.”

God Heard Me
He did help me. God brought me away from all that I clung to in order to teach me to trust and know Him as my Heavenly Father.

I wasted a lot of time focusing on Satan’s lies such as “you’re not good enough,” “you have no value or purpose,” etc. But I was literally rescued by Truth. If I breathed my last breath today, and I had to give my final words of advice, with no doubt I would say: “Cling to the Truth of His Word—God is faithful. Believe in the Lord Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He literally saved my life.”

The Truth Will Save You, Too
Not all of us have traumatic life stories, but we all face the same battle of believing lies from Satan and being deceived. Fight strong, not by trying to control circumstance but by clinging to Truth—God’s amazing truth found in His Word.

If you or someone you know is struggling with similar emotional pain and would like to speak with someone, please call The MBC Counseling Center at 703-770-8670 or the reception desk at McLean Bible Church at 703-639-2000 and ask to speak to the “Staff of the Day,” Mondays-Fridays, 9 am to 5 pm.

PURSUING CHRIST

By Rachel Thomas, Director of Discipleship for Women & Ministry Teams @MBCLoudoun

Many of you may be aware of the Alcan Highway. It was built during World War II to connect Alaska with the lower 48 states. Up until the 1960’s, it was all gravel and a challenge only a bold driver with a tough truck would want to tackle. The difficulties of the Alcan Highway in those days are captured in a story told by Ray Stedman, an evangelist in the Bay Area. He told of crossing the border into Alaska and seeing a sign that read, “Choose your rut carefully – you’ll be in it for the next 200 miles.” Choose your rut carefully.

That’s good advice for any four-wheel-drive road, and it’s wise advice for life, more generally, because it reminds us that our actions and decisions are not independent of each other.

Every thought we entertain, every step we take, and every choice we make influences the choices we make in the future. What we do and think in this moment is not just about the “now,” but it influences what we will do and think, and who we will be tomorrow and the next day. Repeated thoughts and repeated actions create ruts in our lives that become the path of least resistance; with enough repetition, habits make our decisions for us. Left to ourselves, our habits will master us, and they will be driven by our desires and shaped by our fears. Only Jesus can set us free from those; and once he’s done so, he calls us to follow and serve him. He went hard after knowing us so that we can go hard after knowing him!

We all know we should pursue Christ. But, HOW do we pursue Him? First of all, start getting to know Him. The Gospels and the New Testament epistles are a great place to learn more about Christ.

Prayer is also key! The great reformer Martin Luther once wrote, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” It is how we communicate with the Lord of the universe. It can be done anywhere. Anytime. Why not try turning off the radio in your car on your way to work each morning and spending time in prayer as you’re sitting on the beltway? Or if you take your kids to school each morning, pray out loud with them before they get out of your car.

Journal about what you see the Lord doing in your life. Write down what He has revealed to you through a passage of Scripture. Record prayers that have been answered so you can look back and reflect on the Lord’s faithfulness and goodness in times of trial and hardship.

Be intentional. It doesn’t just happen. Like all good relationships, you have to be proactive in love, word and deed. Spend five minutes reading Scripture from a Bible or an app on your phone. Think about those words. Pray those words. Write them on a card so you see them throughout the day. After you have been consistent with five minutes, try 10 minutes, then 15 and 20.  Pick the best time of your day to give to God. Your quiet time with the Lord doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning. I’m not a morning person; so to give God my first waking moments would not be best. I wouldn’t remember a thing about my prayers or any passage of Scripture that I read. My handwriting would be indecipherable—even to me. Reserve the best time of your day on your calendar so that it is set in stone and trumps all else.

Find accountability. I cannot stress this point enough. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Hebrews 2:13 says, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘today’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Ask someone from your discipleship group to text you to ask if you spent time in the Word and prayer that day. Do the same for them!

Find a resource that guides your reading, reflection, prayer and application. With all the books, devotionals and apps out there, make sure that the ones you use are grounded in Scripture. Many “inspirational” quick-reads never offer a Bible verse of any kind. You are to know Christ, not a human author’s opinion or feel-good God verbiage. Stay connected to the source—Jesus Christ!

Lastly, don’t get caught up in the snare of compare. Your relationship with Christ will look different from the next person’s. Our standard is not our neighbor or small group leader, but Christ. When we measure ourselves against Jesus, we will always fall short and must continue to strive, as Paul says, “in order that I may attain to the resurrection” (Philippians 3:11-12). This translated literally means “if somehow,” meaning it is not attainable to actually arrive at the final destination here on earth. Paul, this great hero of the Christian faith who wrote the majority of the New Testament and who taught some of the greatest doctrine of evangelism and the church says, “not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect.”  He knew this would be a lifelong process and that he had to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God” (3:14).

Press on to make your relationship with the Lord the most important thing in your life. Getting to know Christ is worth every bit of your intentional pursuit!