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.

malice, mercy, and vengeance oh my

One of my favorite parts of scripture is Matthew chapter 5. This is the beginning of the sermon on the mount. It begins with what we know as the beatitudes. If you’re not familiar with it I suggest that you go and get a bible and check it out. In them Jesus gives what could be seen as a manual for blessing. As in blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth. I don’t know about you but I need more blessing in my life so when I am studying the Bible I am often looking for these kind of instructions.

These beatitudes also apply a little bit of the law of reaping and sowing. For example blessed are those that mourn for they will be comforted. So there we see that when we sow mourning we reap comfort. That’s good being comforted in grief is nice but honestly I’d rather not mourn to much.

But read a little further and we find this awesome verse.

Blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy.

That to me is one of the very best promises in the Bible. Let me explain the way I see this. I’m blessed (a good thing) for being merciful (another good thing) and so I will be shown mercy (yet another good thing). The promise of this verse is what I like to call the trifecta of awesome.

We know that living in a state of blessedness is a great place to be. Surpassing providence to reach blessedness should be a goal for every Christian. God’s providential care is what every human being has simply because He cares for all of His creation. Jesus tells us God provides even for little birds so he is caring for people as well. Being blessed is going to the next level. This is God looking out for you in a special way, providing for you beyond the basics.

One way to be blessed is to be merciful as we see in the verse above. Mercy is a divine quality. When we are merciful we are being like God. In fact if you look to the gospel of Luke you see that in chapter 6 verse 36 Jesus say be merciful as your father in heaven is merciful. That almost sounds like a commandment to me.

But what does it mean to be merciful? Where do I start? What does it look like? Good questions I’m really glad you asked. Being  merciful means you have to give up a few things. You must give up your malicious desires. But I don’t have those you say. Really? You don’t hope that the person that cut you off in traffic drives into a ditch or some such thing? See somebody wearing his pants in a manner that you wouldn’t and hope they fall down around his ankles and trip hip or hope your favorite restaurant won’t serve him I’d say that’s malicious. It wasn’t that long ago their were men at the beach measuring swimsuits and issuing tickets if they found them to short.

Next give up your desire for revenge. Get-evenism is pretty much the opposite of mercy and that’s what revenge is right? A desire to get even.

Blessed are the merciful for they will obtain mercy. This is an area of my life that I think about constantly. This is my no going back position in the war being waged over me between Worthless and Worthwhile. I will be merciful as my Father is merciful. I will walk in this blessing and I do receive mercy in return. It is my prayer that everyone that reads this will resolve to give up malice and vengeance for the mercy and blessing that are far superior to anything that could come from them.

 

 

 

comfort don’t blame

So I’ve got something on my mind that I am a little bit afraid to write about. I have been thinking about this for a while now and have been trying to figure out just the right way to put it out there.

As believers we often get asked some pretty difficult questions about God and life and why things happen the way that they do. At times like this I have heard people say some things that are not right. Look at me still beating around the bush even now. So here it is:

“We don’t know why God took your loved one we just have to trust Him”

God doesn’t take anybody without explaining His reasons.  I’ve looked through scripture and I do see a few instances where He takes somebody but that taking is always explained. Let me offer a couple of examples.

Enoch- He walked with God and God invited him to come home with Him Genesis 5 21-24

Elija- Carried away in a chariot of fire 2 Samuel 2 1-18

Nadab and Abihu- Offered strange fire Leviticus 10 1-3

Ananias and Sapphira- Lied to God Acts 5 1-11

I know that there are difficult times and hard questions but please in these times don’t lay the blame at God’s feet. He didn’t take anyone. He doesn’t need more angels or musicians or smiles or whatever else you might think. God already has everything that he needs. He’s not going to take a loved one to fill in some blank in His kingdom. There are plenty of ways to comfort hurting people without offering this kind of twisted thinking.

Really how is this comforting anyways? At a time when someone needs comfort the most you are imputing their pain onto the one that ought to be their best comfort. As a believer you are present as His ambassador and yet you are going to put the blame on Him.

Instead of assigning blame make an offering of yourself. Give a hug, cry, and if you must speak offer condolences.  An “I’m so sorry” at a time like this can go a long ways. If you pray pray for peace and comfort and don’t say ” we don’t know why” in your prayer because that’s not comforting or helpful. Often the best comfort is silent presence and support.

It is my prayer for every believer in these times that you will be led by the spirit to say and do what is pleasing to God and comforting to those that need comfort.

Romans 12:15 reminds us to rejoice with those who rejoice and cry with those who cry. Empathetic sharing is powerfully comforting and the very best kind of fellowship. Give it a try.

 

 

 

are you #addicted to rebellion?

So last time I was talking to you about the difficulty of doing good. As I was thinking more about this topic I came across this quote from Charles Spurgeon that really got me thinking. What does he mean when he says that? You can go and read the whole thing yourself if you’d like. I’ll put a link to the full sermon at the end of this post

We think, if we read Scripture rightly, that no work can be good unless it is commanded of God.

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 16, 1856, by the

REV. C. H. Spurgeon

Ephesians 2:10New International Version (NIV)

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

When I read these two things together I am struck by one very powerful thought. Doing good works is not just a suggestion or a good idea. Good works aren’t just the things that I included in my last post. Look closely at the verse from Ephesians. It tells us that God Himself prepared for us the good works that he want us to do. It sounds to me like these things are pretty important to Him if that’s the case.

So when my selfishness or my lack of courage or confidence causes me to pass up an opportunity to do good works that puts me into a pretty bad spot. Follow me here if I don’t do the good work that is presented to me I am being disobedient. As I sit here thinking about that my heart is sinking. I know without a doubt that I have done this many times in my life.

I remember a few years ago I was in a prayer meeting and we got to talking about disobedience or as we’re calling it that day rebellion. We talked about it and prayed about it and decided that what we were was addicted to rebellion. We called ourselves rebellion addicts and decided to attack the problem from that direction. But I must admit that until I started to think about it terms of good works there wasn’t a lot of urgency about it for me. It seemed to me to be a personal problem between me and God.

Guess what though it’s not that way at all. When I am rebellious for whatever reason in this regard I am depriving the people around me of the very good work that God planned for them to receive by my obedience. How dare I do that. Who am I to decided who has good happen in somebody’s life or circumstances because of my own junk interfering. How much blessing has been missed in my life and the lives of those around me because of my rebellion?

I encourage you to be on the lookout for these prearranged opportunities because they will present themselves. When they do consider carefully how you are going to behave. Will you be obedient or will you cave in to your addiction to rebellion? Ask Him for help in these situations and he will provide it. God is always on the lookout for people who will be obedient and there is abundant blessing for them and for those around them. Be that person I pray.

Here is the link I promised.

http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0070.php

The difficulty of doing #good

It’s not always easy to do the right thing. Oftentimes it just plain gets in the way. Here you are just trying to live your life and bam opportunity for good rears its ugly head. O the inconvenience. Don’t get me wrong it’s not always hard, sometimes it’s really simple. The guy in front of you in line drops something and you pick it up and give it back to him congratulations you’ve just completed a good work. Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back. Now let’s try something that is a little bit more difficult. You see a stray dog in a place that isn’t very safe.  It has a collar so you are pretty sure that it is somebody’s pet.  Do stop to catch it? You know it’s the right thing to do but so inconvenient.

Well the things that the Bible asks you to do can be even harder. We are commanded over and over to do good, to do what is pleasing to God. This good that we do is the fruit that we produce  out of the faith we have in Jesus and out of thanksgiving for all that he has done for us. So why then is it so hard to continually produce the good fruit of good in our lives.

I don’t know what the answer is for you but for me there are two main things that I see holding me back. The first is that really ugly word:selfishness.  Yeah I often won’t do the good I know to do because I just don’t want to, it’s just to much whatever. I used to tell people that something was just too much fuss, that I wouldn’t do it. What a great attitude eh? I can say that I have worked on myself in this area and have improved somewhat but I still find myself battling here on occasion. My own needs still want to come first and I must actively put them down in order to produce the good that God expects of me.

If you’ve read my other posts then you likely know what’s coming next. Yes Worthless is a force in my life even here. He tells me things like what is the point you have done so much selfish evil in the past it’s just to little to late for you. You’ll never get to balance the scales anyways why even try? Or why bother there’s nothing in it for you? Or whatever good you’re trying to do is meaningless just forget about it.

Dear reader I tell you this if you face the same forces in your life don’t listen to them. I’m committing to do the same. I am going to remember that whatever good I am appointed to do was prearranged by God himself. Who am I to put myself in His place? The good you do has a purpose always, so do it. Doing the will of God is it’s own reward don’t look for any other just know that your good fruit pleases Him. That ought to be all the motivation you need.

#goodworks

 

A resolution of sorts

No matter who we are it is an understood fact that we all play a lot of different roles in life. For instance I’m  husband, a father,  chaplain etc. If you think about it there are probably dozens of different roles that you play in your life. One of the harder lessons that I’ve had to learn over my lifetime is that you won’t always be the best at every one of these various roles that you have.

In the ongoing battles that happen over me between Worthless and Worthwhile is the idea that if you aren’t the best at something then it’s not worth doing at all. Over and over again Worthless has told me that I’m not good at a particular role and that I really ought to give up and quit. To my credit I’m not really a quitter but I am sure that in a lot of ways I have left myself and others down because I haven’t given my best because I believed that voice.

I understand intellectually that I shouldn’t believe my best isn’t good enough for the people around me but when you are a punching bag inside your own head you don’t always think so clearly.

Worthwhile has been telling me that I ought to really pay more attention to being the best I can be rather than comparing myself to some other standard. That seems like good advice. So I have resolved to put my best foot forward in whatever I try to do and to evaluate my performance on its own merit rather than some unreachable level. I’ll bet though that if I do that before I know it that unreachable place will get closer. Maybe I’ll even manage to get there. One thing’s or sure though if I take Worthless’s advice it’ll never happen at all. I have accomplished things before and I will again one victory at a time.

It is my prayer for you and me that we listen to the voice of truth. That we each understand the value that we have. Each of us have places where we are starters and places where we are want of a better term second string. But you that’s okay no team ever got to the championship without many of those “second stringers” stepping up when called and giving their all.

I’m giving my best from now on what about you?

Get over yourself

Has anybody ever told you to get over yourself? I got told that the other day and I really had no idea what it meant. I mean on the face of it the words seem pretty simple but I had the feeling that there was a lot more going on than just the obvious meaning of those three little words.

So I did what any smart guy does now when faced with something that you don’t understand. I googled it of course. The most common usage was as an answer to someone that is complaining about their circumstances or lot in life and those complaints being rooted in some kind whining.

I didn’t think that this applied to me. I’m not trying to say I’m all that special but I don’t really do very much complaining. With that in mind I started to think about how the phrase could be applied to me during the conversation that I was having. Maybe I do think that I am all that special after all. Do I let my ego get in the way but without complaining? Do I think in my quietness that I am superior to those that like to put voice to their feelings and thoughts?

Maybe I’ve been fooling myself all this time. Just because I keep quiet doesn’t mean I don’t complain after all. I can spend a lot of time complaining and murmuring in my head. My thought life isn’t as pure as my verbal life.

Since I started thinking about these things I have been trying to examine my thoughts more critically. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Don’t get me wrong I know how important your thought life is. The Bible tells us many times how we ought to think and how we ought to examine our thoughts. But until now I hadn’t thought of complaining thoughts to be something that needed to be held captive like impure or immoral thoughts.

I now realize that keeping my complaints bottled up,in my head may be even worse than voicing them. I have allowed these thoughts to sort of poison my thinking. It’s a slow poison to be sure I’m still pretty good at putting that kind of thing behind me. But I can see over time how the sheer amount of time and energy I’ve put into those kind of thoughts has taken it’s toll on me.

Are you like me? Do you slog through life with your mouth shut and your mind buzzing? If you are then you like me you need to find a way to put voice to your thoughts without resorting to mormuring and complaining. Don’t let the slow poison of bitter thoughts eat away at you.

For me then I’m going to treat complaining thinking just like any other errant thought. I will capture it and bring it into obedience to Jesus. I will then use it for my betterment by examining it to find out where it comes from so it can be dealt with.

Furthermore and harder for me I have to find a way to express these thoughts to the people involved but without complaining. I mean at the heart a complaint is an expression of the desire for change. These things can be expressed in a positive way. When people are complaining they are just telling you that they want things to change. If you just complain on the inside no body will ever know that you want change right? Then circumstances will not change or when they do you won’t get much of a say in how they do.

So recognize your complaining thoughts. Grab them and transform them into a positive desire for change then express that desire to those around you in a way that will allow an open dialogue. Everybody wins.

Congratulations you’ve just gotten over yourself.

 

How do I forgive?

This past weekend the ladies of my church had their annual retreat. From all the reports that I’ve heard it was a success. The women had a great time. They got to know one another better and the various speakers were informative and inspirational. But I’m not writing this to report on the event. I want to write about a question that got asked during it.

My wife came home after the first night and we talked a little while about how things and gone. She seemed really pleased by what had happened. She concluded our discussion by telling about a woman who was there that was really new to church and the gospel. At some point during the evening this woman asked one of the others at her table this question:

“How do you forgive?”

We talked a little while more and went to bed. But the question has been plauging me ever since. You see I’ve been a Christian as long as I can remember so I am very familiar with the idea and the reality of forgiveness. I know all about the commands to forgive as well as the consequences of unforgiveness. But I’d never given the “how to” of it a lot of thought. It’s just something I do. For the most part it comes pretty easy to me as long I’m not trying to forgive myself. I’ll write about that another time as that will definitely fit into my general theme of the battle between Worthless and Worthwhile that is my main topic.

But that other people might not know how to forgive is a pretty new thought for me. I would have told you that someone living in unforgiveness was just being stubborn or vengeful or something like that. I now realize that that may not be the case.

So just how do you forgive? Do you just let it go? What would that look like. I remember a few years ago at another church that we were attending the topic of forgiveness was being preached. The pastor asked us to write down something that we wanted to forgive ( in this case it was to forgive ourselves for but the principle will apply here) as we left the sanctuary we were to toss the paper with our note on it into a fire that was there outside and by so doing be able to somehow purge ourselves of unforgiveness as our paper burned up. Maybe that helped some people but to me it just was a little bit weird and not really practical.

Then there was a time many years ago now that I was talking with my mother in law about this topic. If you ha done pleasure of knowing Joyce then this story will recall her perfectly to you. Her advice was to just put whatever it was you wanted gone into a balloon in your mind and then just let go. That balloon would carry that thing away never to return. I liked that imagery sometimes I even use a modified version of it for myself. Again though not really practical.

So what’s the answer? Because there is one.

First you have to decide that you want to. If you haven’t done that then no amount of other techniques will help. Why you want to is up to you. But that is the very first step.

Second understand that forgiveness is a process not an event. It’s something that you’ll likely have to do over and over until it sticks. That’s ok it’s not a failure it’s how forgiveness works for us humans.

Third know that forgiving and forgetting are not the same thing. Just because you’ve forgiven someone doesn’t mean they get a free pass to hurt you again.

Next get help. It’s ok to talk about it with somebody you trust. I suggest going to God with it. There is nobody more capable of walking you through the process of forgiveness than Him. He has more experience and more wisdom than anybody else you know.

Finally pray for the person that you are forgiving. Jesus tells us this very thing at the end of Matthew chapter 5. It is not possible to stay in unforgiveness with some that you are asking God to bless.

If you are in unforgiveness right now I urge you to end that state. You are really only hurting yourself. Whatever you are holding onto is really only hurting you.

Oh and that balloon thing. I just picture my balloon going up to God as I pray. I know that he will take care of whatever it is. He’s faithful like that.

#forgiveness #unforgiveness #howdoiforgive

 

Something New

I don’t know about you but there are times when I’m in conflict that I forget to really listen to what is being said to me. Especially if it’s a rehash of something that has happened before. Oh I try to pay attention because I understand that what is going on is important but as often as not the mind starts to wander and then the old tapes start to play. You know how that goes when you are trying to guess which part is going to come next or you’re formulating your response in you head and just waiting for an opening that never comes.

But it’s important to pay attention because sure enough just when you think nothing new is happening bam it does. This happened to me just the other day. I thought I knew where a conversation was going when something new happened. I was told that I am emotionally unavailable. I’m glad I was paying attention.

This was something that I didn’t understand. I thought about it for awhile trying to figure out just what was meant by that. Finally I did what any reasonable person does when faced by a new term that sounds ambiguous and bad at the same time. I googled it.

Well that was a good call. There is an abundance of information on this topic and it runs through a spectrum of thoughtful commentary to vitriolic hate. A lot of it seemed like afternoon TV man bashing to be honest but as I read more and more a core of truth started to reveal itself to me. I’m not going to go into detail about what the term emotionally unavailable means because that’s not why I’m here. I’m here to see how this applies to me and the ongoing battle for my mind.

So the question remains am I emotionally unavailable? You’d think this was an easy question to answer but like most things in life it’s more complicated than that. The answer is both yes and no. A lot of being emotionally unavailable has to do with a lack of commitment to relationships and I don’t think that applies to me. But where I find myself answering yes is the part where I hide myself emotionally from people. I am very guarded with my feelings and I usually keep them to myself.

As I continued to think about this I asked myself a question I like to avoid whenever possible. I asked myself why. Why do I keep my feelings to myself? I mean I have them I just keep them hidden inside never to be shared with anybody else. I think Worthless is at work here once again. Why would anybody care how you feel anyway he’d ask. Feelings are dumb just squash them he’d tell me. Or here is one of his favorites if you share that feeling it’ll come back to get you. You’re just giving out the ammunition that everyone needs to attack you.

As I read the tweets and blogs and articles over the past week or so I saw over and over the hurt caused by people doing just what I’d been doing. I never occurred to me how hurtful not sharing feelings could be both to myself and to those that I claim to love and care about. There is good news though. Being emotionally unavailable is not a medical condition it is something you learn. That being so it can also be unlearned and so I am on the path of unlearning.

To those of you that I’ve hurt in the past by doing this I apologize. Mostly I say this to the important women in my life. To my mom, my sister, my daughters, and my wife I’m sorry.

If you’re doing this yourself I implore you to think about how your actions are hurting those around you. Be honest with yourself and get help if you need it. I can overcome this and so can you.

His favorite meal

So we’ve been talking about the battle going on for supremacy in my mind. You know the one between Worthless and Worthwhile. As I think about these things I think I’ve figured out what is Worthless’s favorite meal. I mean that thing that really fills his belly and keeps him going all day long.

I’m not talking now about the kind of doubt we need in our lives. You know the kind of doubt that keeps us out of harms way. That’s really just using good judgement to discern an unsafe situation or circumstance. No I’m talking about the kind of doubt that stops you in your tracks and keeps you from trying to do something with your life. This is the meal that makes Worthless strong.

I don’t know about you but lived a life that’s been crushed with doubt. I’ve doubted myself over and over again. I look back on my life and see so many coulda shoulda’s that it makes me sick. Even now I sit here with my iPad in front of me writing these words and I doubt. “Why bother “,Worthless says, “nobody’s going to read this and if they do nobody cares”.

But you know what that’s not the point. This isn’t about who’s reading it’s about who’s writing. Simply putting these thoughts down here is defeating doubt. I know that I can do this but knowing is only the beginning. In order to take the battle in the direction that I need it to go I’ve actually got to do it.

If there is something in your life that you know that you can do and that you ought to be doing I encourage you to get started. I heard once that there are two great times to plant a tree. The first is fifty years ago the next is today. It’s not to late to get started on whatever it is. Do it for yourself with passion and the rest will follow.