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Chris Russell

  • A Parent’s Prayer App

    Every responsible Christian prays daily for their children or grandchildren. We pray for God’s blessing and protection throughout their days. We pray for them to be happy. We pray especially when they’re struggling or causing us concern. But you know how it is… sometimes it’s just hard to know what to pray, and we can always use a little help in that area.

    That’s why I’m grateful that a friend of mine, years ago, wrote an article that has been published countless times in hundreds of places and been translated into Spanish, Korean, Swahili, and other languages. It has appeared as “31 Ways to Pray for Your Kids,” “A Parent’s Prayer Program,” and “31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Children.” It was adapted into a prayer card that many people have kept in their Bibles or purses and worn out in praying for their children, grandchildren, students, nephews, nieces—and even themselves.

    And now that 31-day prayer plan is available as an iPhone and iPad app through the iTunes store. It gives people a way to pray more purposefully and intentionally for the kids they love, providing a Scripture-based prayer for each day of the month. The first prayer, for example, is “Lord, let salvation spring up within my children, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (Isaiah 45:8; 2 Timothy 2:10). The second prayer is, “I pray that my children may ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’” (2 Peter 3:18). Other prayers focus on Christian virtues and the fruits of the Spirit, asking for kids to develop courage, purity, self-control, and “a love for God’s Word.”

    31 Ways to Pray for Your Kids is easy to use. It features beautiful graphics and allows you to set a daily reminder so you never have to miss a day. Each prayer takes just a minute to pray and provides a link to the supporting Scripture.

    The app is only available right now for iPhone or iPad users. I’m told that the $1.99 price may make possible future Android versions and a Spanish-language app.

    We use our phones and other devices for all sorts of things these days. This is one application of technology that I think could make a huge difference in Christian families and future generations.

    You can get the app here!


    For more, visit Sensible Faith.

  • Who's Running This Place?

    Colossians 3:16-17

    16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

    Imagine a universe in which everything is completely random. There is no order; there is no consistency; there is no purpose. What a horrible place that would be! Yet those who believe in a purely naturalistic explanation for the origin of the universe find themselves in precisely such a place.

    I’m thankful that we can know that there is purpose, there is direction, and that there is order in the universe. This universe was designed, laid out, and is maintained by the Creator, the God of the universe, Himself. The laws of physics are such a beautiful picture of the great order that God gives to His creation. Not only has God created this world, but He is intimately involved in keeping everything running according to His perfect plan.

    This truth actually brings us great comfort. I don’t know if you’ve figured this out, but I have noticed over the many years that I’ve been alive that life does not actually turn out the way that I thought it would when I was much younger. As a matter of fact, life regularly takes turns that I never would have ever imagined in my early years.

    Unexpected tragedies come. We experience loss. We experience pain, heartache, sorrow, failure, and despair. But knowing that God reigns on His throne on high is an incredible comfort. We can be assured that nothing takes place that is outside of His control. Take a moment to think about God’s perspective on this universe. Consider God’s perspective on your problems. God is not stressed out. God is not sitting on His throne wringing his hands in worry about how things are going to turn out.

    As you go throughout this day, take time to ponder God’s sovereignty. Meditate on the reality that He is in control of everything. Take time to ponder His sovereignty and how it makes a difference in your life. Consider how big of a deal that is.

    TODAY’S BIG IDEA:  “God is in control, and you can relax and trust in Him.”


    For more, visit Sensible Faith.

  • How to Have a Half Day of Prayer with God

    Mark 1:35
    Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.


    Many years ago I learned about a spiritual discipline that literally changed my life: a half day of prayer. I learned about this concept through leadership training with The Navigators, and it has stuck with me ever since. One of the most dynamic experiences I have come to enjoy in life is to take a half day to get away to a place of solitude and just … pray! I highly recommend it to any who are reading this post.

    But as you ponder this concept, you are likely asking yourself something like, “What in the world would I do for 4–5 hours of prayer? What would I say to God? What would I do with that much time?” Great questions! Let me give you some suggestions!

    First of all, I would suggest that you break the time up into two key divisions: speaking to God and listening to God.

    Speaking to God

    For the first division of your time, you can take time to pray according to the acronym ACTS. Each of those letters stand for a specific theme of your prayers to God: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

    Adoration
    A great way to begin your half day of prayer is to spend some personal time in worship with the Lord. Sing. Listen to worship music. Contemplate everything you can think of that makes God so great. Write down everything you can think of that demonstrates the awesome majesty of God. And then ponder the things you have written. Contemplate the greatness of God while you are there before Him.

    Confession
    After your time of adoration, then take time to confess to God any sin you can think of in your life. David said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Ask God to show you any sin that you have in your life that is interfering with your journey with Him. Ask for God’s forgiveness, and then ask Him to help you to turn from those sins.

    Thanksgiving
    Now spend some time thanking God for every blessing you have in your life. I have found it helpful to write these items down as they come to my mind. Make a list, and make it as exhaustive as you can. Don’t leave anything out. Thank God for every single way He has blessed you and those around you.

    Supplication
    For the supplication portion of your prayer, invest time into praying for every single person who is close to you in your life.  Remember every family member, every coworker, every friend, every neighbor, every church member you can think of, etc. Again, write down the names of the people as you pray for them.  This will help you to think of others who should be on that list.

    Listening to God

    The next section of your half day of prayer will be the “Listening to God” section. This is likely to become the most important, life-changing experience of your half day with God!

    Years ago I read a great book by Bill Hybels called, Too Busy Not to Pray. One of the eye-opening suggestions for me in that book was the idea that we should actually take time to stop and listen to God. I realized after reading that book that, in my own prayer life, I had always been the one who did all the talking! I never stopped long enough to actually listen to God. Most relationships that operate like that end up failing, so we should assume that our relationship with God will struggle as well if we are the only ones doing the talking.

    So, then, how do we go about “listening” to God? Bill Hybels gave some recommendations for that, and I have expanded on those a bit in my own practice of listening.

    When I get to the listening portion of my prayer, after spending time going through the vital sections of ACTS, I then take out a notepad and write these questions on the tops of separate pages:

    “What is the next step in my journey with God?”

    “What is the next step for my family?”

    “What is the next step in my ministry?”

    “What is the next step in my career?”

    “What is the next step in my finances?”

    “What is the next step in my education?”

    “What is the next step in my relationships?”

    Sometimes I will add more pages with headings like these, and sometimes I will have fewer pages. After I have these pages ready with these questions at the top, I then just stop talking. I stop asking God for things, and I just let Him do the talking. You will find that if you stop to listen to the Lord, He will speak. He will begin to flood your heart with ideas around each of these questions. He may focus on just one or two of these areas of your life, or He may broaden to many of the subjects you’ve listed.

    Of course, sometimes God will not speak as you want. There have been times when I haven’t heard Him say much. But more often than not, He has flooded my soul with myriads of ideas, thoughts, and impressions about how I am to move forward in my life. This is epic. It is life changing. In today’s fast-paced world of technology, we rarely take time to just stop and let God speak to us.

    Furthermore, I must warn you to be aware that not all ideas come from God. Occasionally my flesh will start talking, and sometimes it might be Satan himself who is chattering in my ears. That is why it is so important to take time for worship, confession, and adoration before you begin your time of listening. It is also good to check the things you have heard with the Scriptures to make sure they are not in conflict with any biblical principles. If the ideas go against the Bible, then that was not God speaking. I have also found it to be helpful to check my notes with godly friends who can help me to make sure I am hearing God.

    With all of that in mind, I have to say that the biggest step forward for me in my Christian journey was when I stopped talking and started listening to God! It’s one of the greatest experiences of my Christian journey!

    The first step for you to experience a half day of prayer will be to put it on your calendar. Set aside a day, and then go out into a place of solitude to meet with God! You will never be the same afterward!


    For more, visit Sensible Faith.

  • Rock Star Pastors

    I hate to speak against the Church or various movements within the Church, but I have to admit that it has always bothered me to see the way many pastors seem to set themselves up as “rock stars” within their congregations and within the Christian world. And sometimes it’s not that they set themselves up as rock stars, but it’s their churches or Christians in general who elevate them to that status.

    I am happy that these pastors and ministries often win souls to Christ. At least the message of the good news of Christ is being proclaimed (Philippians 1:15–18). That is why I normally don’t speak against others or write blog posts like this.

    However, in the past few weeks we’ve seen the sad events unfold around the indiscretions of Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and this has renewed my concerns about this approach to Christianity. Let me say here that I am not trying to say that Mark has sought that rock star status. I have no way of being able to discern his motives. He has clearly done many great things for God’s Kingdom and has rescued many souls along the way. And I don’t believe the last chapter has been written for his ministry.

    I just feel like pastors, ministries, churches, etc. that have a rock star mentality are extremely vulnerable to Satan’s attacks, and there is a huge risk of hurting a lot of people who are watching. The rock star model for ministry leadership is certainly not a healthy, sustainable approach.

    Jesus never set Himself up as a rock star. If anyone could have done so, it would have been the Son of God. But that was not his approach. No laser light shows, no smoke machines, no tour buses. Jesus modeled servanthood, humility, and sacrifice.

    Consider the most amazing sermon that has ever been delivered on this side of the universe: The Sermon on the Mount. Here are a few snippets that contrast greatly with the rock star mentality that we see so often today:

    Matthew 5

    3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

    4 Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 

    5 Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 

    6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 

    7 Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 

    8 Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 

    9 Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 

    10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

    11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 

    12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 

    13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 

    14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 

    15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 

    16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

    Later in the same sermon, Jesus rebukes those who do their spiritual work in order to be seen and honored by men. Ponder His words here:

    Matthew 6

    1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 

    2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 

    3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 

    4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. 

    5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 

    6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 

    7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. 

    8 Therefore do not be like them.

    Likewise, Paul also echoed this humble approach.  For instance he made these statements to the believers in Philippi:

    Philippians 2

    3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 

    4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 

    5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 

    6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 

    7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

    8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

    My hope is that pastors and churches and ministries will work to make Christ the true Star of their ministries. Self-promotion needs to go. Celebrity status should be rejected.

    Pastors, resist the seductive lure of fame and popularity. Do not allow people to lift you up, and certainly do not engage in self-promotion. Work to become invisible so that others can see Christ through you.

    Church members, avoid the tendency to elevate Christian leaders to rock star status. They are simply people, just like you.

    For another interesting twist on this subject check out this podcast by Brant Hansen here (Brant and Sherri).

    By the way, I’d love to hear your comments about this subject. Do you agree with me here? Disagree? Let me hear your feedback!


    For more, visit Sensible Faith.

  • About Chris Russell

    Chris Russell has spent the past 25 years actively involved in ministry through pastoring, church planting, writing, Christian radio, and special speaking around the country and in seven different countries. He is passionate about communicating the truths of God's Word in a creative, highly-relevant way.

    Chris has three kids and happens to be married to his best friend, Leigh. He currently pastors a church on the north side of Cincinnati. When he's not pastoring or blogging (www.SensibleFaith.com), he runs a real estate company in his "spare" time (www.PlumTreeRealty.com). He believes that A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder) is one of his 'spiritual gifts.'