Three Things I Pray

Pray at all times Romans 12:12

Romans 12:12

Sometimes a verse really needs to be read in context to make sense of its message.

This is not one of those verses.  It simply reminds us to pray, pray, pray.

This verse can stand alone and offer a command in ten simple words.

We are going through an extremely difficult time personally.  My Dad is fighting the good fight with prostate cancer that has metastasized to his bones.  For any of you that have had any experience with this, it is devastating to watch.  My Dad has lost so much weight and strength.  He is in tremendous pain.  I have hesitated to talk about this on my blog because I know that my Mom reads these posts and I don’t want to make her upset, but  I know that our family could really use your prayers.

It is difficult to understand why God allows things like cancer to happen to some people but not to others.  If I am being honest I could name lots of people who are not particularly nice that I think deserve this more than my Dad.  However, while I am being honest I can also see all of the work that God has done through this illness to heal our family and be a witness to the world.

Be joyful in hope

Paul often talks about joy in his writing.  The book of Philippians is one of my favorite books because it deals so much with joy.  Joy can ultimately be found in our attitude.  If we have a proper attitude, then many of the things we struggle with can be cloaked in joy and endured.  If we have the wrong attitude, then our struggles will possibly overwhelm us.  This verse tells us to be joyful in hope.

I have many reasons for hope as we walk down this path of life with my Dad.  Not the least of which is that I know my Dad has a relationship with Jesus.  His life has been given to the Lord so I know that whenever it ends on this earth, it will continue in Heaven.  I know that my family and I will see him again–restored and made whole.

I know that none of us are promised tomorrow.  For this reason, it is so important to be joyful today.  As Christians, the world is watching how we react to the trials of life.  I want people to know that circumstances will not defeat me.  I have the power of the Living God within me.

Be patient in affliction

This one can be tough.  We don’t like to suffer.  I think what is worse is to see someone we love suffering and not be able to do anything about it.  The word tells us to be patient.  Some translations call patience long-suffering.

The fact is we live in a fallen world.  When sin crept into what God had made perfect, it shattered the peace, harmony, and tranquility that we were supposed to enjoy with him.  Now we deal with words like affliction, divorce, disease, disaster, war, poverty, etc.  These were not part of the original plan.  So we push back and try to be patient as we struggle and wait for Jesus to come back.  We do the best we can to face each day with patience and cry out to Jesus to give us strength to make it.   We fall to our knees knowing that there we can find our strength.

Be faithful in prayer

Ultimately, all I can do is pray.  I lack the strength to face the battle on my own.  I am trying to be strong for my Mom and Dad, my brother and sister, my wife, and my kids.  I can’t do it alone.  The circumstances of this illness have driven me to the Word of God and to my knees in prayer.


Faithfulness in prayer is not an option; it is a necessity.


My work here in this life is to be obedient to the One who saved me.  I am being conformed into the image of Christ. I have to be in constant communication with him if I hope to make it through the circumstances of my day-to-day life.

So I wake up and pray.  I ask for strength for my Mom and Dad each morning and all throughout the day. I ask for wisdom to make the right decisions.  I pray for our witness as the world sees how we handle this.  I ask for peace when my heart is troubled.  I pray for everyone this affects in my family.

And I wait.  Ultimately, I do not know what God will choose to do in this situation.  I do know, however, that he loves us.  He loves my Dad.  I know that he loves us so much that he provided our salvation from sin and is preparing a place for us even now.  I love the message of the passage below in Ephesians 3:14-19:

For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

I know that this world is not our home and that we will all one day stand before the Lord, renewed and restored and free of death and sin and pain.

Because I know that this is true, I will:

Be joyful in hope, 

patient in affliction, 

faithful in prayer.

 

What’s The Last New Thing You Tried?

Try a new thing!

Ah, the hula hoop.  It looks simple to operate, doesn’t it?   You just put it around your waist, start gyrating, and round and round it goes.

According to Wonderopolis.org, Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin of the Wham-O company hold the trademark on the name “Hula Hoop.” In 1958, Wham-O began manufacturing the toy out of plastic tubing.  After their second year of sales, they had sold over 100 million hula hoops!

“I just decided to try it.”

Last weekend, my son competed in a hula hoop contest in his children’s church service.  A friend of mine on staff there captured the hula hoop battle on his iPhone. It took about 33 seconds.   My son and another little girl were on the stage in front of at least one hundred of their friends twisting their little bodies and trying to out-hoop one another.  My little buddy went to town with that hula hoop. It fell to the ground one time, but then he hit his stride and was a hula hooping machine.

After I looked at the video it struck me that he has never hula-hooped before.

I asked him after church about his contest.

Hey buddy, I saw a video of you doing the hula hoop today.  It was awesome!

Thanks, Dad.

Have you ever done the hula hoop before?

No, not really.

Weren’t you worried about getting up there in front of all those people?

No, I just thought I would get up there and try it. And when I did, I skunked that girl!

I’m not sure where that last part came from.  The competitive nature must have skipped a generation and landed on him.

Are you a lifelong learner?

After watching my son try something new and try it in front of a large group of his peers, a few things jumped out in my mind.

  • The older we get the less likely we are to put ourselves out there and try new things.
  • When was the last time I tried something new?
  • What is stopping me?

I work in education.  At a faculty training conference a year or so ago the speaker asked us if we would consider ourselves lifelong learners.  In education circles, this is a big deal.  After all, if we aren’t learning new things how can we be expected to teach others?  Most of the hands in the room went up.  Then he asked us if we had learned a “new thing” in the last six months.  Most of the hands fell in shame.  Well, maybe not shame, but at least embarrassment.

You see, most of us would like to learn a second language, how to play an instrument, a new recipe, or even read a new book.


 But most of us don’t make the time

to do new things.


We profess to being lifelong learners, but our lives don’t really reflect that.

I would encourage you today to try something new.  It keeps you fresh and opens avenues to new paths in life. You may make new friends or discover something you never knew you could do.

You may find that this is the only time you pick up your hula hoop.  That is OK, because at least you got up there and tried.

And that is a good thing.

What is the last “new thing” you tried?


photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonythemisfit/2592267101/”>Tony Fischer Photography</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>

 

 

What If You “Facebook-ed” Your Christianity?

What if we Facebook-ed our Faith?

I’ll go ahead and admit it right now, I’m not a big Facebook fan.  (I’m sorry, I know the pun is there.  I see it too.)

Now this is just one man’s opinion.  I know a lot of good people who use Facebook and it is a great tool that makes their life easier.  My wife is one of them and she tells me I am anti-Facebook. I can’t deny it.

To me, Facebook can consume people and often times is filled with trite information that no one really cares about.  I think it can contribute to the downfall of marriages because people end up searching for people from their past that should stay in their past or having a social relationship with someone who is way too social.  It can be a race to accumulate “friends” with whom you have no contact with and no benefit from; they are just a number on a page.  Michael Hyatt rightly calls these “vanity metrics” because they don’t measure our influence; they simply make us feel good.

Does Facebook serve a purpose?

Absolutely.  My wife uses Facebook to communicate with friends from the state that she grew up in.  She also primarily uses it to encourage and uplift others.

This post is less about Facebook and more about how we portray our Christianity.

I had an interesting thought about Facebook.   What if we “Facebooked” our Christian life?

What if our spiritual life was tracked and recorded by Facebook and each place we visited was documented for all to see?

Facebook can track where you have been based on your phone’s location, you can be tagged in people’s photos, and linked to your friends for all their friends to see.


 I wonder if we would want that spiritually?


  • Would we be willing to be so forthright with that kind of information spiritually speaking?
  • Would we want people to know what we looked at in the bookstore?
  • Would we share who we were hanging out with day-to-day?
  • Would we want to acknowledge the kinds of sin that we were struggling with?
  • Would we be more careful with the words we used about others?

In a lot of ways this would be good.  It would keep us accountable to others.

The disconnect makes us vulnerable

Peter says in 1 Peter 5:8, “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

When we don’t connect with our friends, we don’t regularly attend church, and we don’t ask for assistance when it comes to struggles with sins our walk can be easily compromised.

Perhaps it is this disconnectedness that makes us vulnerable.

Then we get devoured by the enemy and our life is derailed.  We become ineffective as children of God and we can cause others to stumble as well.

For this reason it is vital that we have someone in our corner that we can trust.  We need someone who we can go to in our times of struggles and ask for their prayers and spiritual guidance.  We need someone who can take our hand and help lead us back to where we need to be.

Again, this post is less about Facebook and more about our transparency as Christians.  Perhaps it is time to be a little more open with our walk and build a strong community with other believers.

*Note from the author’s wife: I admit wholeheartedly that I spend too much time on Facebook, especially late at night. It is addicting, and I recognize that, as well. I took a year-long hiatus from Facebook to regroup, refocus my priorities, and cut my “Friend” list. I now have a very small group of friends, and I thoroughly enjoy praying with them, keeping up with their families and activities, letting them know how we are doing, and share funny stuff that my kids say and do. I also take the online quizzes to find out which Avenger I am most like or what popular song is most like my life story because that’s just who I am.  🙂


photo credit: Marco Fieber/Ostblog.org via photopin cc


What is your opinion on how we can best use social media?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Redemption: From Death to Life

Redemption: From Death to Life

The story is not about making bad people good, it is about making dead people alive.  This is redemption.

David Crowder

We tend to have a pretty dim view of sin these days.  We excuse it as a “choice” or disguise it as “what’s right for you may not be right for me” or fight back with “stop being judgmental.”


 It seems that the further we get from the Cross the less clear we are about what transpired there.


I like the quote above because it is a great reminder to believer and non-believer alike how serious the consequences of disobeying God are.  It also reminds us how great His love for us is and what a wonderful gift he has given us. It reminds us that we need redemption.

Ephesians 2:1-7 is rich with meaning:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

The world tends to focus on whether a person is good or bad.  In a way it makes sense, because we can quickly qualify and categorize a person in our minds so we know how to deal with them.

But God looks at a person much deeper than that.

Because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we can’t even stand in his presence without first acknowledging that sin.  No matter how many “good” things I do, it does nothing for the stain of sin in my heart.

We are souls in need of redemption.

God knew that we would be eternally separated from him and there was nothing we could do about it.  In fact, we were so clueless we didn’t even know that we needed to be redeemed.

Do you see evidence of this in the world today?

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

But, God.

Anytime you see these words in the Bible, it is usually followed by God doing something that helps his children and saves them from a fate that they deserve.   Because of God’s rich mercy, he sent Jesus to die for us.  When the penalty for our sin was death, Jesus paid the price.

Because of Jesus’s obedience to the Father’s plan, I now am alive!  It is no longer my sin within me that rules who I am and how I live, it is Christ in me.   I am no longer a dead man walking, I have been raised to walk in the newness of life.

I have had two birthdays in my life: the day that I was physically born and the day that I was born again spiritually.  Of the two, the second one was the most important, because it is the day that I was reconciled to God and set free to walk the path that he planned for me.  It was there that I received my marching orders to carry out the ministry and the mission that he gave me to bring glory and honor to his name through my life.

Remember, if you have been redeemed,  you are no longer dead!  You are alive because of what Jesus did for you.

I believe that it is time that we stop living like dead men and women and wake up to the power of the Holy Spirit that is alive in us.  It is time to stop focusing on becoming good and focus on becoming Christ-like.  It is time to get angry about sin, but love the sinner, just as God hates my sin, but loved me enough to do something about it.

It is time to stand up and be noticed and to point people to the foot of the Cross.

It is time to recognize our Redemption and start living like we are redeemed.


photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/rikomatic/3417188914/”>rikomatic</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>

 

In Your Work, Are You All Things to All People?

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To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  1 Corinthians 9:22

I am celebrating a birthday this coming weekend.  While I won’t tell you my age, I will tell you that I am right in the middle part of life.

It used to bother me that I didn’t have a very specific calling and place to serve in ministry.  For me, I wanted to have a “ministry job.”  You know, work in the church or for some big para-ministry organization.

I’m not sure if it was the prestige that I assumed went with it or just the fact that if I was working in such a place I would be on the same team with other believers moving forward toward a common goal.

But lately something struck me.  Perhaps it is being solidly in the middle of my life, but it stopped me in my tracks.

I realized that I have been given a wonderfully diverse variety of places to make my relationship with Christ known and to minister to so many people who I otherwise would have never come into contact with.

Where do you work?

My resume is an interesting document.  I look at all the types of work I have done and it is kind of funny.

I have had the privilege of learning how to work with my hands doing carpentry work. My Dad taught me all that he knows on the subject.  Because of this, I grew up swinging a hammer.  All through high school and college, I earned a living by the sweat of my brow and the strength of my back.

If you have never been to a construction site, let me assure you, there are plenty of opportunities to witness and share the love of Christ there.

I have been in people’s homes working, in their backyards building things, and in office buildings tearing down and building up.  I have witnessed by my words, my actions, and my interactions.

I have worked in the business world in sales for a Fortune 500 company.  There I had clients and customers and vendors that I interacted with.  I was able to show them the ethical and dignified way to conduct myself.  I was able to minister there as well.

I worked in a thrift store for a local non-profit ministry helping get the store up and running.  I was able to minister to people there often at their deepest point of need.  I was able to empathetic and provide a listening ear to those who had no one to talk to.

I owned my own construction business and was able to show how an ethical, godly businessman conducts himself and provides the service he promises with pride in his work.

I have taught countless students on their path to improving their education and futures while pursuing their GED.

I have had these students come back to me and tell me how something that I don’t even remember saying touched their life and made a difference.

I have officiated weddings and ministered to people as they joined their two lives together to become one.

I am a writer.  I am trying to be obedient to the plan God has for me by sharing these words as he lays them on my heart.

When you look at it this way, I have already had a pretty impactful life doing the work I was called to do; even if I am already in the middle.

You may have heard the maxim “bloom where you are planted.”

It makes a lot of sense.  If you look at each day as an opportunity to help someone out, share a kind word, show the love of Jesus, and make a difference in the world, then it really doesn’t matter what your “job” is.

You can be like Paul and try to be all things to all people for the purpose of drawing others to Christ.

And that is not a bad day’s work.