Month: October 2017

For What Are You Asking? A Lesson on Praying Specifically

2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.   (James 4:2-3)


For What Are You Asking?

You won’t see specific answers when your requests are so vague. Do you ask for anything outside of what God’s good character already provides?


Me: God, be with Sally today.

God: I already am. I’m omnipresent and promised never to leave you or forsake you.

Me: Lord, bless the Smith family.

God:  They are blessed. They woke up breathing today and ate breakfast. They have clothing and shelter. Is there anything else you’re thinking about?


A great example of specific prayer is in Mark 10:46-52. Let me summarize it: a blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside in Jericho. When he heard that Jesus was walking by, he cries out twice: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

Jesus called Bartimaeus over to him and asked this question, which could greatly change your prayer life:  What do you want me to do for you?

Do you see how Jesus pushed Bartimaeus beyond vagueness to specificity? Have mercy on me is not a bad prayer, but Jesus could have easily said: I already am merciful: you’re not in the pits of hell suffering for your sin right now. Instead, you’re still on this earth.

Specific prayer forces you to consider your situation and fine-tune your request to God’s will.  It forces you to consider the desires of your heart and align them with God’s will.

Look how Bartimaeus fine-tuned his request: Rabbi, let me recover my sight.  Now we see what mercy really meant to him. This request must have been in line with God’s will because he healed Bartimaeus, resulting in others praising God (Luke 18:43).


Tips for Praying Specifically

  • Consider Jesus’ question: What do you want me to do for you? Don’t be tempted into selfishness (James 4:3 is clear about our motive), but let it push you beyond vagueness.
  • Keep a prayer journal of specific requests, and then record specific answers. I keep a black Word notebook in my back right pocket so I can write down requests as I think of them or are asked to pray. Looking back over what you were praying and how God has been answering prayer will help you fine-tune your requests to His will.


What helps you pray specifically and consistently?

Five To Focus 06. Encourage Unity

I wonder how many people are deterred from serving the Lord because they see division in the church? As this series on encouragement continues looking at Barnabas, see how he and Paul teach us to encourage unity.


If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

Pastors: How I Use AirTable To Record Shepherding Interactions

Pastor, you should be interacting with church members, attenders, and guests frequently since you are their shepherd. Shepherding comes in many forms:  hospital visits, “checking in” phone calls, home visits, meetings in the office, texts and Facebook messages, lunches, coffee meetings, and others.

My question:  do you record those interactions?  

My encouragement:  do it!

Why Record Shepherding Interactions?

  1. You will learn details about someone or their situation that will help you minister in the future to that person. It’s easy to forget unless you record it somewhere.
  2. In a more negative sense, you have a record in case you are ever challenged. Someone complains that you never visited with them–what do you do?  Unless you have a record, it is your word against theirs and probably will not build much unity as you flesh it out. If you have a record, you can either say, actually, I did, or you can honestly say, you’re right, I didn’t. And then minister to that person accordingly.

How To Record Shepherding Interactions

I have found AirTable to be very helpful for this task and many others (maybe I’ll write about those later). If you have never used it, it is a web-based spreadsheet tool that is pretty simple to use, has accompanying apps, and is sharable with a team if needed.



After an interaction, I record that information. Most of the headings are self-explanatory, but let me explain some:

  • STAFF. If you have multiple staff members, elders, deacons, etc., who might have access to this table, then you can put each person’s name and select one or more who had the interaction. Bonus: AirTable has nice sorting options and you can save different “views.” So, you could save a view that makes it easy to see what interactions each staff member has had.  
  • INTERACTION TYPE. Phone call, contact from member, encouragement card, visit, meeting, text message, etc.  All can be set up as options to choose from.
  • NOTES: I record a simple summary of what was discussed or any important follow-up items so that I don’t forget…
  • ATTACHMENTS. There might have been a picture or document pertaining to that interaction that you’ll want to remember.


Why do you record shepherding interactions and how do you do it?

Five To Focus 05. Encourage Perseverance through Rejection

Have you ever faced rejection?  Maybe even blindsided by it? So did Paul and Barnabas, Nehemiah, and Jesus. You’re in good company. Now find the encouragement here to persevere.



If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

Why Jesus’ Yoke is Easy and His Burden Light

Don’t miss the simple, obvious truths when you read the Bible. Matthew 11:28-30 says, 28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


Some might ask: how is Jesus’ yoke easy and his burden light? They might equate Jesus’ yoke with unattainable religious rules that restrain their freedom.


Here’s the simple, obvious truth: Jesus’ yoke is easy because you are yoked to Jesus.


One alternate yoke is religious regulations.

The context of the passage in Matthew 11 is Jesus talking about salvation. At that time, Jewish people sought salvation and the pursuit of righteousness by keeping God’s Law. The Pharisees had deceived people into playing the part of being outwardly religious while being morally rotten on the inside (Matt. 23:27-28).


Romans 8:3 tells us that God did what the Law could not do–sending His Son to condemn sin in the flesh so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled. So, while the Mosaic Law had its purpose, Jesus’ work on the cross is necessary for us to become righteous.


Some people are religious but are relying on their own strength to get by in this world. Man-made rules cannot fully restrain your sinful desires and can not fulfill or satisfy you. That’s a burdensome yoke.


Another alternate yoke is sin’s bondage.

All people are born into sin; therefore, all are in bondage to sin until they trust in Jesus to save them. John tells us that God’s commands are not burdensome because everyone who has been born of God (saved) has overcome the world (1 John 5:3-4).


In other words, if you are saved by Christ, you now live free from the bondage of sin and live in the freedom Christ offers to pursue righteousness. It’s like John is saying, you already know a burdensome yoke–the bondage of sin in the ways of this world–and Jesus frees you from that!


If you think God’s commands are burdensome, then you do not understand the futile burdens of the world’s ways. Yet we open ourselves and willingly yoke ourselves to them. That’s a burdensome yoke.


Jesus’ Yoke Is Easy

He did the work to make us righteous and He enables us to live in freedom from sin through the Holy Spirit. A yoke was used to keep animals in step together to accomplish a purpose. You are always moving closer toward eternity as you navigate life. The question you need to ask is what yoke am I wearing to find eternal significance in my life?

You can choose difficult yokes: religious demands or the world’s ways. Or you can choose Jesus, who accomplished what you could not (your redemption from sin) and who gives you what you do not have (strength from the Holy Spirit), so that you can navigate life in freedom and with a great hope lying ahead. That’s an easy yoke.

Five To Focus 04. Encourage Devotion to God

Barnabas is our example of encouraging others. This episode discusses Barnabas and Paul’s work with believers in Antioch, where they were first called Christians (Acts 11:25-26). Are people more devoted to Jesus because of your influence?



If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

Five To Focus 03. Encourage By Supporting

Athletes perform better with coaches who support them; someone trying to lose weight will have better success with people supporting them, cheering them on. The same is true with our faith. How can you support others to encourage them to serve God in big ways? Follow Barnabas’ example as you listen to this episode of Five To Focus.



If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

5 Ways To Strengthen Your Faith During Your Commute

  1. Enjoy silence. This idea seems crazy in such a busy world, but it might be the most peaceful time of your day! Sure, you’ll hear vehicles and other sounds, but let silence be a calming morning mercy to help prepare your mind for a productive day. On the way home, let it help you digest the day’s activities, or prepare for being present at home or ready for evening activities.
  2. Pray and/or meditate. It is kind of like Jesus’ getting away in the mornings (Luke 5:16); we just do it in a vehicle. Talk to God while you drive (this might help with your road rage too!). Or use this time to meditate on a passage you read recently. Justin Taylor’s article at the Gospel Coalition summarizes Donald Whitney’s methods of Scripture meditation—try this.
  3. Listen to the Bible.  The YouVersion app (and others) have audio versions of certain translations. Imagine how much of the Bible you could hear while driving! Hearing it will help store it in your heart (Ps 119:11) and will never return void. Many newer vehicles have bluetooth connectivity that would allow you to listen through your phone, or you can find Bibles on CD, maybe even at your library.
  4. Learn with podcasts and audiobooks.  If you’re in the car for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, why not challenge your mind with new information or be encouraged by leaders in different fields? In your podcast app, look up a topic that interests you and explore the options. Again, with bluetooth connectivity, you can listen through your phone in your car. Of course, you’ll want to make sure you are listening to Five To Focus! But search through the Christianity category and you will find many options. Bonus tip:  Most podcast apps allow listening at 1.5x or 2x speed, and you usually can hear every word still while taking less time to listen to a podcast. Audiobooks are very popular now with services like Audible and even OverDrive (free options using your public library card account).
  5. Make Phone Calls. Maybe you’re in a sales position and need to speak with your clients. Maybe you need to talk with a family member or church member. Or maybe you’re a pastor and just need to check in with some of your church members. Imagine if you just made one call a day during your commute. That’s 4 to 5 more contacts with church members every week—and it’s effortless and helpful.


Of course, be safe and pay attention to the road!


What do you do during your commute?

3 Questions To Ask on Mondays

  1. What is happening this week for which you need to be prepared?
  2. What is happening in the next month for which you need to be prepared?
  3. Who do you need to contact this week?

Pastors, ask yourself or have an assistant ask you these questions as you start the week. I have found them helpful to be better prepared and less forgetful.

What keeps you organized and prepared?

Five To Focus 02. Encourage By Being Generous

We look to Barnabas again to teach us how to be an encouragement to others. How does generosity connect to encouragement, and how you encourage people with your generosity?  Get practical in this episode of Five To Focus.



If you have a suggested topic for an episode of Five To Focus, simply fill out this form. If you would like to discuss this episode, you may comment on this post or interact with @rstro on Twitter.

Scroll to top
WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By :