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    Praying for Your Kids

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    26 Tips for Spending Time with God

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    USE S.O.A.P. – SIMPLE TIPS FOR SPENDING TIME WITH GOD.

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fear
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Fear and Leading in Albuquerque

Results.

I’ve been driven since I was a kid. Growing up I spent most Saturdays helping my dad with projects. When summer came around, I picked up jobs mowing lawns and pulling weeds. When I turned 15, I got a job bussing tables at a restaurant and held at least one job through high school. I held down a minimum of two jobs through my four years at college.

I’ve always worked hard for one thing…results. There is an unquenchable thirst in me to accomplish the tasks put in front if me. I’ll do whatever it takes to finish a job and finish it fast. This is probably one of my biggest strengths, but it is for sure my biggest weakness

The problem occurs when it sneaks into my leadership. Because the easiest way to get results in leadership is through fear. People tend to respond quickly to pain. It’s so easy for me personally inflict pain (whether physical, emotional, or spiritual) to get results.

I see this most in the way I deal with my boys. In a desire to get results, I go to punishment. I spank. I belittle. I berate.

I’m not proud of this. I’m actually ashamed. I don’t want to lead with fear…but it’s the easy way to get results.

It’s easier to spank a kid than it is to lovingly walk them through the reasoning behind why we don’t hit our brother with a ninja sword.

It’s easier to ask, “who called the wambulance?” than to lovingly engage him in a conversation to find out why he is really crying about his spoon being on the left side of his plate instead of the right.

It’s easier to yell at two little terrorists for five minutes about why they are never allowed in the kitchen for the rest if their lives after they tried to make their own second breakfast on the counter top with cinnamon, a whole bottle of almond extract, nutmeg, a can of baking soda, and…love.

Deep breaths.

Deep breaths.

….

….

It’s easier to lead with fear because it seems to get results. But the reality is the opposite. While we win the short term battle, we lose the war. We might get the results we want, but we lose the person…whether big or small.

People will only take so much before they shut down or move on. They can’t get in trouble if they don’t do anything. They can’t get in trouble if they’re working for someone else. When we lead with fear, we’re ultimately taking out our own team. In the end, we’ll be the only one left to do the work. We’ll be the only one left to get the results.

But leading with love is so much harder. You have to engage the person before the task. You have to seek the root issue instead of telling them to “suck it up.” You have to care. You have to be willing to sacrifice results. You have to think about the long term benefits instead of the short term satisfaction.

It’s not easy. In fact, leading with love is one of the hardest things I have to do in my life.

…but it’s worth it.

bathroom
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Go Before the Throne – Three ways to pray more.

This past week, I participated a five day fast. One of the reasons for fasting is to give yourself more time to pray. So this got me thinking. Are there other simple things I could give up so I have more time for prayer?

If you’re wondering the same thing, here are three things you can do to have more time to pray:

Turn off the radio.

Rather than listening to you favorite 80′s hair metal band or that crazy morning talk show on your way to work, take that time to pray. Turn off the radio and have a conversation with your father.  Just don’t close your eyes while you’re praying.

Stop Singing in the shower.

You really shouldn’t be singing in the shower anyways. You’re scaring yours kids and the dog. And if you don’t song in the shower, you’re half way there.

“But I do my best thinking in the shower!”

Then share those thoughts with Jesus.

Go before the throne…while you’re on the throne.

This is probable one of the best times to pray. It’s one of the few times you can lock yourself in a small room and nobody will bother you. Because nobody really wants to be in the same room while you’re dropping a bomb (unless you have a child under the age of five…for some reason they always want to join you). But God is a spirit and has no sense of smell. So you’re good there.

You don’t have anything else to do anyways. I know you’re planning on reading that magazine or finishing the next level of Candy Crush.

But the magazine will be there later and you can’t get to the next level anyways.

Well I hope this is helpful and not too offensive. Let me know if you have ideas for how to free up more random moments in the day to pray. Until then, I have to go before the throne.

fall
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Three Pitfalls of Fasting

Fasting isn’t easy.  But sometimes the hardest thing about fasting isn’t giving up something you love.  Over the past few days, I’ve learned there are some other pitfalls that can come with fasting. 

Piety

 It’s very easy to get self-righteous when you’re fasting.  You start to look down on others.  You either look down on them because they aren’t fasting or their not fasting “as much” as you are. 

“Oh you’re fasting from social media…I’m fasting from social media, food, water, tv, and blinking.”

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is supposed to put you in a place of weakness so you turn to Jesus for your strength. So it is surprising that we can take so much pride in making ourselves weak. 

Productivity

When you fast, it frees up time.  But the idea is to use this free time to pray.  The temptation can be to become more productive rather than prayerful.  This is especially true when you’re fasting from something that doesn’t have a specified time during the day.  If you fast from food, then you know that the three times a day you take a break to eat should be used for prayer. 

But if you fast from something like TV or Social Media, things can get muddy.  TV and Social Media fill up a lot of random moments and large chunks of our days.  So it is harder to designate those moments for prayer and a lot easier to just fill those moments with that tasks we are already doing.

Phariseticalness

Rules. We love rules.  It becomes so easy to act like the Pharisees and focus more on the rules rather than the heart (Luke 6:1-5).  I remember doing a juice fast (only drinking juice), and having an internal struggle as to whether or not I could drink a smoothy.

Well it is a liquid…but they took solid food and blended it into a liquid…so it techinically is a solid food…but it is technically a liquid.

It’s so easy to become a Pharisee when you are doing something that has structure and rules.

While these might be three very different pitfalls, they all do the same thing.  They take your focus off Jesus.  The purpose of a fast is to draw closer to Jesus.  When you fall into one of these traps, you either start focusing on yourself, your tasks, or your rules.  It’s all about you.  That is the biggest pitfall of all.

plow
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You’re Asking the Wrong Question – Why do we serve?

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:7-10, ESV)

 

I’m not going to lie.  I’m tired.  It has been a long year packed full of changes.  In March, we bought a new house.  I spent the rest of the month trying to remodel the house so we could move.  At the beginning of April, we moved into the house (even though we didn’t have doors on the cabinets).  At the beginning of May, we welcomed Deacon to our family (our third boy).  At the beginning of June, I started a new job doing sales for another large company.

So while all these changes are happening and I’m working 40+ hours a week, I am still serving over 10 hours a week at my church (which I changed from ministry roles in operations back to media and communications).  It’s times like this that sometimes make me want to quit.  With everything going on in my life, why should I still serve?  Why wouldn’t I get rid of some of the stress in my life?

It’s in these moments I find that my heart has three reasons for why I serve…each one wrong.

Results:

I’m a very driven guy. You have to be to be in sales.  The harder you work the more results you will have.  But that doesn’t always translate well into the context of the church. We are not always guaranteed to see the fruit of our labor.  If results is our highest calling, we will avoid, misuse, and abuse people in order to get results.  And when we don’t see the results we want, we get discouraged.

Rewards:

It’s always nice to get something in return for all your hard work.  In the volunteer setting, you don’t expect to get paid cash (at least I hope not).  So your rewards might look different. For me, I’m always looking for appreciation.  I’m looking for a “thank you.”  I’m looking for a “good job.”  But rewards are generally few and far between.  Therefore…discouragement.

Reputation:

I fancy myself an expert on pride.  It’s something that seems to creep into every area of my life.  I try to pursue humility, but pride seems to scream louder most of the time.  This is no more clear than in the desire to be respected.  I want to have a good reputation.  I want to be admired by others.  But I’m constantly discouraged when I don’t get the credit for all my hard work.

Redeemer:

So why should I keep serving?  Why should I keep putting in the hours?  Why should I sacrifice?

The problem is I’m asking the wrong question.  If you want the right answer, you have to ask the right question.  The question isn’t, “Why am I serving?”  The right question is, “Who am I serving?”   While I might be serving people at church and people in the community that don’t know Jesus yet, I’m ultimately serving the master…Jesus.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10, ESV)

When we see that we are serving Jesus, all the other reasons for serving seem….well…stupid.  They seem stupid for two reasons.  First, he has sacrificed so much for me.  He gave so much on the cross and cleansed me of my sins.  I can take great joy in serving him.

Second, I will one day receive everything my heart desires from someone far greater than those that are around me.  I will see Jesus on his thrown, and I will receive from him the results, rewards, and recognition I desire but don’t deserve (Rev 20).  And I will be able to give glory to the Master who worked through me.

Rest:

Therefore we can now have rest in our service.  We can rest in the fact that he has already done the work (John 19:30).  We can rest in the fact that Jesus came and served first (Mark 10:45).  The work is hard.  The work won’t end until Jesus returns.  But the work will end some day, and we will get to see our Master face to face, and that is where we find our rest.  That is where we find our encouragement.

Schoolchildren line up for free issue of soup and a slice of bread in the Depression, Belmore North Public School
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Would You Like a Glass of Water With Your Juice? – How to survive your first fast.

 

If you’ve never fasted, it can be a pretty scary thing.  This Sunday my church will strating a five day fast in preperation for us launching five new church locations.  It’s actually been a little while since I’ve fasted.  I use to do it on a fairly regular basis.  So I’m actually pretty excited.

The idea behind fasting is two fold. The first is to deny yourself of something you like/need in order to drive/draw yourself to God. The second is to give yourself extra time to pray (which pours back into the first part).

Most fasts typically give up food for a season of time, but there are a lot of options for fasting. I hope to give you a few tips for fasting that I’ve picked up. Once again, it’s been awhile since I’ve fasted, but hopefully you can learn from some of the mistakes that I’ve already made.

Be honest with yourself

For most this will be a life changing event. We have grown up in a society that teaches us to do everything but sacrifice.  Be honest with yourself. Don’t say you are going to give up TV if you know that there is no way that you really will. You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Be honest with yourself and give up something that you know you will be able to go without.

If you’ve already started a fast and are realizing now that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew (sorry I couldn’t pass up that pun), it’s ok to edit your fast. God won’t shoot you with lightening bolts from heaven (or will He….hmmmm).

Start Small

If this is the first time that you are going to fast, don’t give up everything but water (by the way this is the hardest and most dangerous of all fasts and should only be done with a doctors supervision). Start off small. Give up meat or alcohol (for all my boozers out there). Then work your way up to harder fasts later down the road.

My first fast was a three day all juice fast. Since then I’ve done a three week juice fast and a three week fruits and vegetable fast. But the key is to start small and work your way up to more challenging fasts.

A side note though, make sure that the fast is still challenging, or else you’re not fasting. You’re just giving something up for a little while.

Check your calendar

This will happen every time you decide to do a fast. You will swear off booze for a week, and an hour later your best friend who you haven’t seen in four years will call you up out of the blue for a beer. These are the things you have to prepare yourself for.

But you need to make sure in advance that you don’t already have something scheduled that will conflict with your fast. This might mean that you are going to need to reschedule your fast, alter your fast, reschedule your event, or be prepared for the temptation that comes with your event.

People will find out

Jesus tells us that we aren’t to proclaim to people that we are fasting, but the reality is that people will find out (unless you’re giving up some obscure thing that no one would notice anyways…even you). When people notice that you turn down their offer for a Starbucks run for the fifth time in a row, they will start to ask questions. I find this is a great opportunity to share the gospel with them in a simple and humble fashion. “Oh I’ve given up coffee for a few days so I can use that time to draw closer to God through prayer.” The key is to not make a big deal about it and most of the time they won’t either.

Don’t do it alone

Fasting isn’t a glamorous or easy act. So don’t go it alone. Team up with a friend or a group of friends. This way you have someone to pray with during lunch. You can also pray for each other during your fasts too.

It’s not a contest

This happened to me on my first 40-day fast. I had given up all food for forty days and I was doing really well…too well in fact. I was getting really excited. I was half way through the fast and was really starting to get full of my self. I was starting to think about how cool it was going to be to tell people that I had gone 40 days without any solid food (I was just having juice and smoothie every now and then). I knew I needed to edit my fast mid-stream and start a fruit and vegetable fast. This kept me from being prideful, but still allowed me to deny myself and drive myself to God.
If you find yourself getting prideful about your fast, it’s time reevaluate your heart and actions. Remember your purpose is to draw closer to God and not to build yourself up.

If necessary, STOP

There are times when you will just need to stop your fast all together. Your health is a really good reason for this. Any fast where you deny yourself of food can be dangerous to your health (do lots of research before you give up any type of food).

The main reason to stop is if your fast interferes with your relationship with God. I have a friend who doesn’t fast because he says that he ends up focusing on the fast rather than focusing on God. Remember the ultimate purpose of a fast is to draw you closer to God. If you find that your fast is doing the opposite, STOP! No fast is worth your relationship with God. Stop your fast and find other avenues to draw closer to God.

That’s it for now. Until next time, enjoy your juice.

Mason Lee David Qualls
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Why do baby dedications? – 3 Reasons Why I’m dedicating Mason.

This past June, Shannon gave birth to our second boy…Mason Lee David Qualls.  While Mars Hill Church doesn’t believe in Infant Baptism, we do have baby dedications.  This Sunday (Christmas), our church will be having baby dedications.  If you aren’t familiar with baby dedications, this is where the parents present the child to the church, the church and the parents promise to raise the child to know about Jesus, and they pray for the child and family.

There isn’t anything magical about a baby dedication. It doesn’t make the child a Christian (only Jesus can do that).  It’s actually more for the parents and the church.  This isn’t to try to secure the child a place in heaven, but it’s to set in the heart of the parents and church how the child should be raised. If it doesn’t save the child, why should you do a  baby dedication?

Well here are the three reasons, Shannon and I are doing it.

1. It’s Biblical

You see in the Old Testament that God gave Abraham a sign to show that he and his family were dedicated to the Lord (circumcision).  As we entered the new covenant, we see that this particular symbol was done away with as the sign. Baptism replaced it as the sign of someone that has believed in Jesus for their salvation.  While some would now say that we should now baptize infants because of this, I don’t see enough in scripture to support baptizing children (another topic for another time).  I see baptism consistently happening when someone comes to a personal faith in Jesus.

What I do see constantly in scripture though is parents being dedicated to raising their children to know Jesus.

2. It’s Counter-Cultural

Where I live in Albuquerque, NM, it seems like you generally have three options when it comes to the subject of dedicating your child –   Abandonment, Religion, or Spirituality.  The majority of kids in Albuquerque will grow up without a dad in their house.  They will never know what it means to have the daily influence of a man in their lives.  They will grow up having daddy issues that only Jesus can save them from.  By the grace of God, my boys will not have to experience that.

To say that Albuquerque is steeped in Catholic tradition would be an understatement.  While I believe there are a lot of Catholics that love Jesus and I’ll be hanging out in heaven with, there are a lot of Catholics in this area that feel they have get in to heaven free ticket.  They will site that they were baptized as an infant and took their first holy communion at such and such an age.  There faith is based in a ceremony and not in Jesus.

If you’re not abandoned or religious in ABQ, then you’re left to be raised in some vague spiritual system.  Children are raised with a mix of various religious, spiritual, and demonic rituals.  This leaves the child finding their righteousness in anything and everything…other than Jesus.

I want Mason’s dedication to be a counter-cultural witness to the saving grace of Jesus alone.  We are dedicated to Jesus alone, and we dedicate Mason to Jesus alone.  By the grace of God, we are raising him to trust in Jesus and not religion or spirituality.

3. It’s Familial

Shannon and I want to build a legacy.  We want the name Qualls to decrease and the name of Jesus to always increase. When I hear the name Graham, Wesley, Spurgeon, and Edwards, I think of Jesus.  I want the name of Qualls to be synonymous with Jesus.  The sad thing is that it only takes one generation for this to stop.  Therefore, it is my hope that some day I will get to be at the baby dedications of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  But it must start with me.  So this Sunday I am pumped that we get to dedicate Mason Lee David Qualls to Jesus. Come join us if you are in town.

 

Sad
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Can I be content and still be unhappy?

I was having a brief conversation with Shannon this morning about an area in my life that I’m just not very happy about.  I don’t find joy in it.  It just really bums me out.  If I had a way out of it, I would take it in a heart beat, but there doesn’t seem to be any hope in sight.

This made me wonder though if I have a problem with being content with what God has given me at this time.  One of the areas that I struggle with in my life is being content.  I always notice the flaws.  I always want the bigger, better, newer, brighter, faster, cooler, etc.  The default of my heart is to be discontent with whatever I have.

So I’ve been seeking the Holy Spirit to work in my heart and help me be content with what God has given me.  But this one situation is really a crappy situation.  It doesn’t seem like God is going to rescue me from this situation any time soon.  So I need to be content, but do I need to be happy about it too?

I have joy that God is using this situation to purify me.
I have joy that God is giving me the strength to get through it.
I have joy that God is loves me enough to pursue me in this.
I have joy that God is providing.
I have joy that God has given me friends suffer with me.
I have joy that God is right here with me and will not forsake me.

I’m content to the extent that I’m not looking for other options.  I’m letting God work in His own timing.  But do I need to be happy about the situation itself inorder to be content? I don’t have an answer for that question at the moment.  So I’ll just keep seeking God and His word in the time being.

Family Prayer
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Pastor Dad: How do you pray for your kids at night?

 

I must say one of my favorite things to do is to pray for my boys before they go to bed every night.  If you don’t pray for/with your kids every night, I would highly recommend it. I thought I would take a moment and share with you what I pray with my boys every before they go to bed.

Father,

I thank you so much for my boys and the blessing that they are in our lives.
I pray the you help him to fall asleep quickly and to sleep the whole night through so he can get the rest that he needs.
I pray that you keep him safe through the night and send your angels to protect him and keep him safe.
I pray against Satan, his demons, their works and effects, and in the name of Jesus I demand that any demons that are in the house or in this room leave immediately and go to  pit for which they destined for all eternity.  I pray this by power and authority of Jesus Christ.
I ask Father that you would send your Holy Spirit to enforce this.  I pray that you would fill our house and hearts with your Holy Spirit. I ask that your Holy Spirit would work in my boys’ hearts; changing it and drawing him to You.  Make him a child of yours.
Make us men that love Jesus, love your word, love your church, and love being on mission to share your gospel.
I pray the same thing for his future wife, and that the two of them would stay pure til the day they are married.  I pray that they would become parents and grandparents and great-grandparents who raise their children to be lovers of Jesus.  Save our family past the tenth generation.
I pray the same thing for me and Shannon.  Fill us with your Holy Spirit and give us wisdom and strength to raise our family to be lovers of Jesus.

We pray this all in the name of Your Son Jesus.
Amen

Shannon and I have developed this prayer over the past year-and-a-half.  The words aren’t always the same, but the general concepts are.  We’re constantly adding and changing it.

Do you pray for your kids every night?  Do you have a regular prayer, or do you play it by ear?

library
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A Random Thought on Generosity

 

I was sitting in my office and thought I would share this quick thought.  A few months ago I had the opportunity to hang out with a close friend.  At one time he was a pastor for a church and had a large library for preparing his sermons every week.  He is now working a “regular” job and doesn’t see himself being a pastor ever again.

I remember coveting after my friend’s library.  I remember going into his office and thinking to myself, “I want a library like this some day.”  I remember just staring at his books and taking note of his collection.  I even remember the distinct smell his office had from all the books and wanting my office to have that same smell.

When he heard that I was going through Re:Train, he wanted to help me with my expenses, but due to life circumstances he wasn’t able to. While I was visiting with him, he took me into his garage where he had his library stored.  He humbly pointed out the boxes and told me to take whatever I wanted/needed.  I left his house with more than 500 theology, commentary, history, cultural analysis, and linguistic books.  The total cost has to be over $3000 easily.

While he couldn’t help me pay for my flights to Seattle or the cost of my laptop, what this friend did in my mind was priceless.  From his gift, I’ve been able to do all the research for my papers.  I’ve been able to loan/give books out to friends.  My library has more than doubled.  All these things are great, but the greatest gift this friend gave me was a lesson in generosity.  I had to ask myself if I would be willing to do the same thing…and I don’t know if I could have.

This makes me ask you the question:  What do you have that you don’t need (or do need) that you need to give to someone else to bless them?  Do you have a treasure that you need to pass on to progress the kingdom for Jesus?

Abandoned House and Rusted Iron Hand Pump on Land Which Used to Be Covered by Tallgrass Prairie in Johnson County Kansas near Kansas City.
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Why is the grass always greener on the other side?

It’s kinda become a tradition of sorts now with a few friends of mine. After church on Wednesday nights, we all go to a local bar and get a drink. We talk about sports (well they do and I listen), theology, politics, popular figures of our day, life experiences and the sort. It is one of the highlights of my week. It’s just a great time to hang out with friends and relax.

Last night my friend Donovan made a really profound statement about life.

You know why the grass is always greener on the other side?! Because they water it.

It struck a chord with me. There are so many times in my life that I look at my friends lives and wish I had what they have. I wish that had their job. I wish that I had their car. I wish that I had their __________. You get the idea.

The reality in life is this. We could go move into our neighbor’s house and have their nice green lawn. But it will eventually turn brown. Because there was an original reason why their grass was greener than mine. They watered and cared for it. They pulled the weeds out. They mowed it on a regular basis. They put down fertilizer. They were patient and waited for the results to show.

If we want to have greener grass in our lives, the answer isn’t to move into our neighbor’s house. The answer is to start taking care of our own lawn. So take some time today to water your lawn and pull a few weeds. Cause the only way your lawn is going to get greener is if you start focusing on it and stop staring at your neighbors.

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