You’ll never catch up if you don’t get started

As I came to the end of 2017 I checked my stats and saw that during the year I had published 21 blogs. I felt ok about that because when I added that to the rest of the writing that I had done I felt that my output was adequate. But I challenged myself to increase my blog posts to reach a minimum of 30 for 2018. I felt good about that number. It seemed like an achievable goal.

But of course life has its own ideas and they don’t always coincide with mine. So now I find myself in the position of being behind having posted exactly zero blogs for the current year. Looking at my situation I began to despair of posting anything at all. Of course upon further reflection that notion is ridiculous. I have plenty of time to write these short reflections if I do just a little bit better managing my time.

Do you find yourself in a similar spot? Did you tell yourself that you were going to accomplish some goal during this year or month or week or whatever? Maybe you’ve missed the mark so far. I know that I have and Worthless is having a field day with me but as usual Worthwhile has come in with a last minute save and here I sit writing my blog. Post #1 for 2018. At least 29to go right?

Don’t beat yourself for getting behind. Instead set your thoughts on the goal that you originally set and start doing whatever you need to do to move towards it. Goals are a great thing to have. Reaching one will give you a sense of accomplishment and help you towards the next one. Evaluate your goals and make sure that they are reachable. A few posts ago I told you to look to your expectations if you were feeling unhappy. I wanted you to be sure that you were being realistic in them and I want the same thing for you now. Set goals that are reachable in the time frame that you set them in. Then as you reach each one you will feel good about yourself and be in a better state to reach the next one.

If your goal is big then try to break it down into smaller more achievable segments. That way you won’t feel overwhelmed when you think about it. But the most important thing is to get started. If your goal is to be able to ride your bike 20 miles go out ASAP and air up the tires and oil the chain. Then tomorrow put on your helmet and ride around the block. You get the idea.

If you are doing great at reaching your goals that’s awesome please pray for those of us that have struggled so far. If you are one of the struggling then my prayer is that you will see this as the encouragement you are looking for and I further pray that you will do what ever you need to do to start reaching your goals. Remember that you set them for a reason and the reason was probably important.

I can get caught up and so can you.

don’t let Worthless win

Worthless oh Worthless why do you vex me

Why do I let you hold me back

A voice in my head mighty and strong

Quick to point out all that I lack

Worthless oh Worthless I hate what you say

You’re downbeat and hateful

Each and every day

But I continue to listen

Although I know better

Your trap is perfect

You know me to the letter

Worthless the lion Worthwhile a sigh

How do I feed the good voice inside

Worthless oh Worthless you think that you’ve won

Worthwhile bounce back and the battle’s begun

How can a sigh beat a lion you ask

The sigh’s not alone he has help with the task

The helps name is Jesus Savior and Lord

He wins the battle with just a word

Worthless I’m saved, redeemed, and empowered

Worthless return to your den you’re a coward

I can do all things through Christ he’s my strength

He never gives up He’ll go to any length

Worthwhile he listens and changes a sigh to a roar

He listens to Jesus and wants to know more

We open our bible our mind and our heart

Me and Worthwhile we make a new start

It happened for me it can it can for you too

Jesus can make all things brand new

I have a feeling that we all struggle with inner voices that tell us we are failures or we are inadequate in some way. This has been an ongoing struggle in my life. I find that when I’m feeling bad about myself that it impacts just about every area of my life. Relationships feel strained or empty, pleasant things seem to lose their appeal and tasks become harder. When this happens if I don’t become aware of it soon enough it feeds itself and becomes stronger and stronger, continually getting harder to bear.

I thank God for the Holy Spirit who will always remind me that the failure Worthless says I am is a lie. I thank Him for the Word that speaks truth to me and teaches me who I really am and what I am truly capable of accomplishing.

It’s a cliche I know but breakthroughs only come after you hit an obstacle. So when you feel disempowered or out of favor, when your prayer life seems listless don’t quit. This is the time when your Worthless is pressing in, press back. Your breakthrough will come and you’ll look back at that previous time and all you’ll see will be the broken bits of what ever it was that was holding you down.

The Bible tells us that every battle is spiritual. I believe this is true. If you are going to win spiritual battles you are going to need spiritual weapons and defenses. You need a robust prayer life, the Word of God, and the indewlling power of the Holy Spirit. If you are a believer you already have the latter of those if you’re not winning your battles go and get the rest. You never have to fight alone.

I pray for all of you my friends that you get this. The Word tells over and over that God will never leave you to fight alone. He leads you forward, He’s got your back. You are fully equipped. Go fight, go be victorious, give glory to God.

 

 

Be the answer to someone’s prayer

Do you ever think about how God answers our prayers? I know that I do. I do so because I get asked quite often to pray for or about a person or situation. After I pray for something or someone I will monitor the situation or circumstance as at I am able because I really like to know how my prayers are being answered. I think that is reasonable and I think also that lots of other people do,the same thing. We all ought to be looking for our prayers to be answered because that is one of the best ways we can build up our witness.

God uses people to answer prayers.

A lot of times my prayers are for people or situations that are far away from me and so my prayers are often a request that God move someone “over there” to act on behalf of whatever I am praying about. It occurs to me that there are likely people far from me making the same kind of prayers about people or situations near to me. In that case there is a possibility that God may try to move me to be the answer to that prayer.

God uses people to answer prayers because it build faith and testimony in three different people. In the one praying, the one answering, and the one for whom the prayer was offered.

For the believer being a co-laborer with God in these situations is privelage that is not to be taken lightly. Being an answer to prayer may take courage or boldness. It may include the possibility of persecution or danger. It could expose you to difficult circumstances. It could even lead to emotion or spiritual stress. But along with these come certain blessing and great joy a well.

If you want to be used by God as the answer to someone else’s prayer (and you should) there are a few things you’d better know because while He is sovereign and can use anyone he prefers to use the qualified. So what makes one qualified?

First you must be available. If you are self absorbed paying attention only to yourself and your concerns it will be hard for you to be used purposefully by God. Selfishness is a barrier to a meaningful prayer life. It is something that God dispises. Paul reminds us in Romans 12 that we are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice as our duty to God. We are to lay ourselves on the altar and by doing so we become ready for his use. The word to use here is holy, that is set aside for his purposes. Again Paul says in his letter to Timothy that a vessel that is to be used for honorable purposes must be clean.

Second you must be listening. God speaks to us in any number of ways so in order to be used we ought to be paying close attention to Him. We need to be praying. Remember that prayer is a two way conversation with God. All too often we get so caught up in our requests that we forget to be listening. We forget to pause and give Him a chance to say something to us. He also speaks to,us through His word so keep reading scripture. This is the best way to understand His mind and ways. He will also speak to you through the people around you so pay attention and be sensitive when talking to others. Be a good listener.

Finally you must be willing. God is a gentleman. He won’t force you to do things. He may make it difficult to refuse. He may use circumstances or hardship to help you understand His will but you always get the option to opt out. Like Malachi told Ester you if you refuse God will find another way for His will to be achieved but you will miss out on the blessings that would have been yours.

What an honor we have as believers to be workers in God’s kingdom. Don’t be so self-interested that you miss the opportunities out there to be His answer to someone’s plea for help. Don’t miss the blessings that are to be yours because you are unavailable or unwilling to answer the call when it comes to you. Your testimony is your best witness and your testimony comes by answered prayers.

 

 

expectations = pain

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about happiness and of course it’s opposite unhappiness. I’m interested in writing about this because I think that these two things are a parallel to the twin forces that battle constantly in my mind. I am referring of course to Worthless and Worthwhile. I general I would say that the former equates to unhappiness while the latter to happiness. My mind wanders as I consider this idea and I wonder just what does Worthless do to my thinking that would lead me be unhappy. As I thought about this one word kept coming back to me over and over again. Expectations. Let’s explore this together ok?

Just what is an expectation anyway? It’s a strong belief that something will happen or that someone will or should achieve something. I was preaching out of the book of Romans a few weeks ago and this very thing came up. I asked people to think about something that would immediately set them off. What button could be pushed that would immediately make them angry or upset. As an example I told them that I expect my devices to function all the time every time and that when they don’t I find it very difficult to keep my composure, especially if I am alone. For example if I want to weed eat in my yard and I can’t get the weed eater to start I will have a temper tantrum and rage quit my chores completely. I expect the device to work and I expect to be able to use it to complete my chore. An unfulfilled expectation has altered my mood for the worse. A silly example but you get the point.

I think it is quite natural to feel disappointed when your expectations are not met, and I’m not suggesting that expectations are in and of themselves bad or to be avoided. In the above example my expectation was quite realistic and pretty much in my control. The true danger lies in expectations that are either unrealistic or out of your control or possibly both. When your expectations fall into these categories you really are asking for trouble. I want to focus right now on what I think are the places where these expectations are the most damaging to our overall state of unhappiness. That is in our relationships with ourselves or with others.

I’ve established that I think failed expectations open the door to unhappiness. I think that it follows that expectations that are unrealistic are by definition going to be unfulfilled. The question now is how can we apply this knowledge to our lives so that we can avoid this source of unhappiness.

Be honest with yourself. If you are unhappy check your expectations to see if they are realistic. Are you asking to much of yourself or of those around you? Are you responding to failed expectations with mercy and forgiveness or with anger and frustration? Do you have the same feelings over the same failed expectations over and  answers to these questions will help you understand better your condition and help you put together a plan to regain happiness.

There is one more thing I’d like to tell you about today. Definitions usually include a handy list of synonyms and expectations is no exception. There are two that I’d like to focus on right now: assumption and hope. Both synonyms for expectations and at the same time wildly different. One of them is toxic and the other a source of life. When you assume something you are laying claim to it. You are taking ownership when it’s not yours. I have made assumptions in my life often to my detriment. Hope on the other hand is something that is nearly essential to life. Hopelessness is one of the worst places a person can find themself.

If your expectations are founded in assumptions you will probably find yourself disappointed more often than not but when you hope even if you fail you can continue on because hope is one of those things that gives life and strength rather than sap it away.

I pray that you will keep your expectations realistic. I pray that you will face failure with mercy and forgiveness. Finally I pray that you will live a life of hope and leave your assumptions behind.

 

short answer to a hard question

I saw a meme the other day that made me stop and think. It went something like this.

The key to happiness

Let those around you do what they need to so they can be happy

Do for yourself what you need to and be happy

Mind your own business 

This provoked some thought in me. Some questions came to mind. What does this mean? Can it really be this simple? Where does unhappiness come from? What do you mean “mind your own business”? I want to pick at this a little and see what bubbles out.

What does this mean? To begin with I think it means that happiness is individualized. That happiness is a state that each person must decide for him or herself. I don’t know if any two people would give the same answer to the question “what is happiness”? In broad strokes you might find similarities but the particulars would likely be different possibly very different.

As a simple example there are many people that you could play hip hop music for and it would please them and make them feel happy. I would not be one of those people. But who am I to judge somebody because they have different tastes than I do. If someone goes against your preferences and it makes you unhappy you’re the one that needs to make some adjustments. It’s ok to dislike a particular thing but don’t let that ok dislike to crossover into dislike of a person.

Most of the last few chapters of Romans is devoted to these issues. Basically (very basically) Paul tells us that in regards to unsure things don’t argue with people. Further don’t let your differences in these matters lead to judgement.

Where does unhappiness come from? This is a loaded question. In the context of this particular writing I would say it comes from a couple of things. Maybe in another blog I’ll get more deeply into the idea of unhappiness, what it is, what to do about it.

Two things come to mind in regards to this particular meme however. First is unmet expectations or to high of expectations. The second is comparison. I can’t tell you which is worse because both are Spirit crushing and will lead to a state of unhappiness.

Probably the most damaging expectation is expecting someone to be like you. Yet I think it is the habit of the unhappy person to do just that. Expecting someone to think like you, or agree with you, or even like you is a toxic place to put yourself. It is an easy trap to fall into though so be wary of it. If there are people in your life that “make me unhappy” maybe it’s because you expect them to be like you instead of letting them be like themselves. There is only one you after all.

Comparision is the other road that will lead to unhappiness. We’ve all heard the old saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. That is a warning about the danger of comparing yourself to somebody else. Remember that to a lot of other people you are the other side. This is especially true now in the age of social media. We get to peek into people’s lives and see just how awesome they are forgetting that peeking rarely tells the whole story.

Mind your own business is probably pretty good advice. Jesus tells Peter to mind his own business and follow his own instructions. Paul repeatedly tells us to mind our own business and live peaceably with each other. We are warned over and over about the danger of gossip and meddling in the affairs of others.

Are you unhappy? If not great go live your life you are blessed. If you are have you done any of the things above? Are you punishing yourself with impossible expectations? Do you compare yourself to idealized versions of others around you?

It is my prayer that you realize that real happiness begins with loving yourself. Be your own best friend.

 

 

the pain of wasted pain

Have you ever felt like a fool? Have you ever had your world turned upside down? I’d bet that most of you have. I know that i have for sure. It’s a pretty bad feeling isn’t it? I know for me I kind of wobble between slight dizziness to queasy feelings in the pit of my stomach. The mind races as you try to make sense of what is happening and you have to deal with that pesky fight or flight thing to boot. Sometimes it happens slowly like the proverbial frog in the pot. Other times it happens all of a sudden like a sucker punch you didn’t see coming. The worst though is when it happens and you realize that you should have known all along that something wasn’t right and that you could have at least tried to prevent it.

No matter how it comes though your life will not go back to being the same as it was after an event of this kind. You have a window of opportunity to respond and how you do that will critically affect all of the people involved. Try to be thoughtful about the situation don’t trust your gut as it is likely that it was your gut that got you into this spot in the first place. Don’t go to your standard playbook either because that’s another place where you’ll find you’ve missed the mark. Get creative but don’t be foolish and for heaven’s sake don’t bury your head in the sand and ignore it.

I look in my Bible and I read about many moments where people had to respond to a quickly changing situation, to situations that were desperate or seemingly hopeless. Thankfully the reactions we can read about vary from the spectacularly successful to the completely disasterous so there is a lot we can learn by studying them.

We can read about Saul who was battling the Philistines and was hard pressed and looking for help and advice. So he turned to a medium to speak to the dead for him. It didn’t work out for him. Later on we read about Hezekiah when the city of Jerusalem was being besieged. He went and prayed about it. Things went a lot better for him than they did for Saul.  Over and over we read about people who trusted their own counsel that fell while those that trusted God were successful.

Be mindful though of this. In personal situations, in times of personal distress you certainly ought to pray and seek God’s advice. Look for the power of the Holy Spirit to help you through your trial, but do something with the knowledge He gives you. In your own life prayer without action is powerless. If you pray for change but are unwilling to actually do the work of changing you will fail. God wants to help, he wants you to get through whatever is happening to you. He will never abandon you to your own devices but he expects you to participate in the experience. But not only that he expects you to learn from it, to grow from it, and to be able to use it to help others that may go through something like it. With God no experience is ever wasted if you are willing to learn.

Sometimes failure and pain are the very best teachers. I pray for you that when you experience these things that you will turn to Him for guidance and empowerment, I pray that you will put action to the answers that you get. I pray that you will seek out those that may have been through what you are going through and allow their experience to help you. I pray that you will be able to put your pain to good use on the other side of it because you will get there.

He doesn’t need you but we do

I lead an evening service at the church I attend. I habe been doing it for several years now. I’ve taught my through the books of James and Jeremiah. I taught a nice series on great prayers in the Bible, at least I thought it was nice. I did a series on Extreme Faith.

We get together on most Sunday nights at 6 PM and sing a few hymns out of the old hymnals that have been there since Gutenberg ran his printing press. Ok they’re not that old but you get the idea. After that I preach for 30-40 minutes, we pray and dismiss. It’s a very typical baptist Sunday evening service. We started it because there was a demand for a traditional type of service in the church. Despite the so called demand I have to say attendance has been consistently abysmal.

This has been one of the fiercest battlegrounds in my life between Worthless and Worthwhile. Regular readers will know that the struggle between thee two,has touched every aspect of my life and that one of the reasons for this blog is in response to this war. It’s a way for me to actively participate in my own mind. I have had to continually make myself do the work of preparing for this Sunday night service. Worthless has been relentless in his pressure to quit and if I were to measure success by attendance I would.

I have come to an understanding though that all of the work of being prepared is not for those that attend but rather for me. Yes if you choose to be there I believe that you will be blessed by the teaching. I know that I have become a better teacher over the years that I’ve been doing this. But regardless of whether you come or don’t I am learning more and more both about myself and God.

The series I’m in right now is the book of Romans. This has been a very long series as you can imagine. It seems like just about every verse contains some life changing power. It has been extremely powerful for me. I have become a better preacher and a better student as a result of this study. I have reached chapter 12 and of course in God’s kingdom the timing of reaching this chapter has been perfect.

I have been able to see the transformation that God has led me through by the power of the Holy Spirit. I have been led to examine the spiritual gifts that I have been given and evaluate whether or not I am using those gifts in a way that is useful to the kingdom. I understand better that the gifts that I have are not for me but for those around me. If I’m not using them as intended I’m not really hurting God, he doesn’t really need my help after all. No if I’m not using them I’m hurting you. Let that sink in for a minute.

Every believer has been given spiritual gifts. Those gifts are for the benefit of the people around you. They are for the benefit of the church. The church is the body of Christ. Your gifts are the way you participate in the proper functioning of the body. If you are not using the gifts that you have been given you are hurting the people that need you the most. If you take your gift and go home you are abandoning those that need you.

Youre not abandoning God, you can’t really do that. You are abandoning us.

 

A good farmer knows what to grow

Let’s talk about music for a minute. I mean the blog is called prayers and power chords after all. If you don’t know what either of those things are leave a comment and I’ll teach you.

When I listen to recorded music I have a particular kind of thing that I like to listen to. I can and do listen to a variety of music styles but there are particular genres that I prefer over others. There are also kinds of music that I don’t particularly care to listen to for whatever reason. I talking here about recorded music not a live performance.

Listening to recorded music is a lot different to participating in a live event. Think about it for a minute and follow along. When you are at a live performance of music you are a participant. As a participant you will get out of the performance exactly what you put into it. If you have decided that I am not going to s experience and I am not going to put any effort into it then guess what, you won’t.

Let me give you a couple of examples. A few years ago I went to a club in Chicago where there was a jazz singer and her small band performing. I don’t particularly like that kind of music and don’t listen to it. I could have decided that there was no way I was going to like her performance and so,have been miserable. Instead I bought in to the performance put energy into it and so was rewarded with a great experience. I don’t remember what her name was and it doesn’t matter because I wouldn’t buy the recording but I have a great memory of something amazing that I will never forget.

Not only will your attitude in participating affect you and your level of reward from the experience but it will also have an impact on the people around you. Why would you want your bad attitude make other people feel bad too? Don’t be that person who messes things up for the people around you. You’re there you might as well get into it.

As a performer of sorts I can attest to the truth of the idea that the audience is participating at all times. If that participation is energetic, or thoughtful, or disgruntled it affects the entire performance. As performers it is our responsibility to be properly prepared so I am not talking about a poor performance here. That’s a different story, but hey if you’re at a music recital for ten year olds you expect a few sour notes right so give those guys a break.

So why am I talking about this you might be asking. It’s called reaping and sowing folks. It’s a law that can’t be broken or escaped from and it applies to a lot more than musical performances. It touches every aspect of your life. It’s so pervasive that it even crosses over into the lives of those that are around you. Just about everything that you do is planting a seed of some kind and a lot of times you have no idea when you might have to harvest that thing. Plant good seeds folks so that your harvest will be fruitful not miserable. Remember that your crop affects the people around you.

Let’s go back to music for a second. That person next to you may have had a terrible week. She may really need to escape for a little while. Do you want to be the one next to her with the sour face rolling your eyes or do you want to be the one standing and singing and just enjoying the moment? She may need your help to make that escape.

Dear reader I pray that you understand how in control of your life you can be by getting this idea. Be a good farmer. Be a hero.

the miracle of not needing a miracle

I want to talk to you a little bit about prayer today. I’m going to try to be reasonable but I may come across as a bit of a Pentecostal. That’s not to say that Pentecostals are unreasonable but sometimes they are misunderstood. I’m not into the prosperity gospel or  one of those name it and claim it types either. Stick with me and I think you’ll get my point though.

You are probably familiar with the phrase: “it’s not what you know but who.”

I’ve heard this saying many times over the years. Sometimes it’s used as a put down against somebody that got something that was desired by another. Sometimes I’ve heard it used as a reminder that there are times that a relationship is more important than an education or a particular kind of knowledge. When we use it it will undoubtedly stir up some kind of emotion or reaction.

So how does this relate to prayer? That’s a good question.

So can we agree that prayer is talking to God? That’s what I believe it is. There are a lot of different ways to pray but in the end they are all ways for us to get our thoughts and feelings and needs expressed to Him. While we are praying (talking to God) we are building a relationship with Him. I believe this is an important part of prayer this relationship building. While we pray we ought to find our will coming into alignment with His. The more we do this the stronger the relationship will be. I think this I the reason we are told over and over to be in constant prayer. But don’t do all the talking. I’ll talk about that in another post.

I want you to understand how important this relationship building is. I have a lot of opportunities to pray with and for many people. All to often when people come for prayer they have waited until the last minute. Many times people have come to me asking for me to pray for somebody that has been diagnosed with some terrible condition that will likely lead if not to that person’s death at least to some catastrophic problems or side effects. They come asking me to pray for healing or salvation or both. I pray as requested but sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to have been praying before things got so bad.

I guess what I’m saying is don’t wait until things are going sideways to pray about something. If you’re healthy talk to God about that. Thank Him for it and ask that you continue to stay healthy. That way when you are feeling bad you’ve established a relationship and have something to talk about. Build some momentum in your prayer life and you will see more victories. Victory builds faith which is key to effective prayer. Remember to that the glory for answered prayer needs to go to the right place. If you are praying for good health and taking vitamin C don’t tell people that you’re healthy because of the vitamin but give the glory to God for the answered prayers.

My prayer for you today is that you begin building a better relationship with the one that matters most. Let Him provide for you in all the little ways. It really is better to never need a miracle than to rely on one.