Tag Archives: Prayer

Praying for Rocky’s Boo Boos

Don't worry Rocky. Ethan's praying for you.

Several days ago, Ethan (my 4 year old) and I watched a YouTube clip from Rocky III. Rocky was fighting James “Clubber” Lang (played by Mr. T) and he took quite a pounding. Of course, Rocky came back to win and Ethan and I cheered him on.

Later that night, we sat down to eat dinner* and Ethan wanted to do what has become a family tradition. We all say pray one thing that we’re either thankful for or we ask God to do. He also gets to pick who starts.

This night, his mom got to start, she thanked God for the beautiful day, and then Ethan displayed such a tender heart. His prayer went something like this:

Dear God, please help Rocky’s boo boos get better from the fight.

What a sweet kid. I absolutely love that prayer. He identified someone hurting and remembered to pray for them.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

1 Peter 3:8

My son reminded me that, if I’m not careful, my prayers can turn into selfish, routine acts. Today, as you pray, I hope you’ll remember people in your life who are hurting and need help, love, and hope from God.

* Please don’t picture an ideal family sitting down perfectly to dinner. I use “sit down to dinner” merely as an expression. Chaos is often a more accurate picture. Thankfully, I have an awesome wife. 🙂

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Get into the Game

My son loves sports. Only four, he thrives on hitting a baseball, dribbling a basketball, or kicking a soccer ball. Consequently, we signed him up for soccer this spring and he loves everything about it…except…the game.

The coach divides the kids into groups and my son will run through the drills, always looking back at my wife and I, with the biggest smile on his face. The team lines up on one line and races toward the other end and he sprints his heart out. He’s won 6 0f 7 races! He’ll get together with a friend and kick the ball back and forth just for fun.

But then comes the game…

Within five seconds, my little guy gets this distraught look on his face and hightails it over to us. I’m not quite sure what scares him, but for some reason, he has the hardest time getting used to playing the actual game. He’ll do the drills, he’ll do the racing, he’ll practice his heart out, but he struggles with getting into the game.

I wonder if we do that too.

Most of us excel at wanting to practice. We want rules, we want guidelines. 20 minute quiet times? We can do that. Pray for a few minutes? Sure, why not? Attend church fairly regularly? No problem, I like the people. Give some money away? Tougher, but o.k.

We have mastered these drills, but when it comes to getting into the game, we’re often unsure, scared, or both.

Maybe we’ll fail.

Maybe people won’t like us.

Maybe I don’t know enough.

Maybe certain things are for “higher up” Christians.

Maybe, maybe, maybe…

We create these barriers in our hearts and minds and find ourselves playing the majority of the game on the sideline. We’ll cheer for the success of missionaries, pastors, or “stronger” Christians, but never do much more than practice or watch.

Some may ask, “What exactly is this game you refer to?”

Valid question. I think it involves many things: sharing our faith, serving others, encouraging others in the faith, etc.

I’m not intending to denigrate discipline and “practices”, but I’m reminded of Psalm 67 .

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

We are saved by grace, through faith. Our relationship with God is essential. Prayer and scripture should permeate our lives. However, as they do, they motivate us to action. “May God be gracious to us…so that your ways may be know on earth.” Israel was meant to be a light to the nations. In the same vein, we are God’s ambassadors.

Paul, in Ephesians 2, right after he gives the Gospel, says we were created for good works which God has prepared for us to do. We practice, we run drills, we discipline ourselves, so that we are prepared to play the game.

As you study Scripture this week, as you pray, and as you attend your local church, ask yourself:

Have I been faithfully sharing my faith this month?
Have I looked for opportunities to serve in Christ’s name?
Have I built up another brother or sister in their faith?

Let us not practice for practice sake. We “practice” so that our lives may make much of Him.

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What Would Charlie Brown Do?

One day Charlie Brown was in his back yard having target practice with his bow and arrow. He would pull the bow string back and let the arrow fly into a fence. Then he would go to where the arrow had landed and draw a target around it. Several arrows and targets later, Lucy said, “You don’t do target practice that way. You draw the target, then shoot the arrow.” Charlie’s response: “I know that, but if you do it my way, you never miss!”  —  John Maxwell, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Sadly, the experience of many Christians parallels Charlie Brown having target practice. Our fear of legalism or anything approaching the idea has sent Christians headlong into the very unclear waters of ambiguity. As a subculture, Christians have created language that defines parts of the Christian walk without saying much at all. We speak of praying, love, sacrifice, etc., but rarely do the words, practices, or ideas get defined in such a fashion that one can say, “Yes, that defines my life” or “No, that’s not me.” Instead, the words take on their own meanings in each individual Christian’s mind and so everyone hits the mark because they all feel they succeeded in hitting whatever definition they have conjured up. The problem with that is if a word carries so many definitions to so many different people then it really has no definition at all.

Let me take a step back. This whole notion has been rummaging around in my head for awhile, but began to take shape after reading a blog post by my friend Kevin Martineau. His post entitled 7 Dangers of Not Having Goals does exactly what it sounds like. He lists the 7 dangers as:

  1. We can become passive.
  2. It is impossible to do any real evaluation.
  3. We can fall into the trap of doing something just for the sake of doing something and it is difficult to state why we are doing this or why we are not.
  4. We lose motivation because we are not challenged.
  5. It becomes easy to settle for a maintenance mode instead of development mode.
  6. It is easy not to plan ahead.
  7. The emphasis becomes upon activity rather than output.

If those 7 dangers do not sum up many struggles in the Christian experience, I do not know what does. I see myself in almost every one of them. As a whole, Christian culture has become afraid of setting goals and standards for fear of seeming legalistic or not “free”. As a result, many of these dangers define us.

This is to our downfall.

While I agree that numbers and progress should never become our idols, why should we lack discipline in the one area we claim is most important? We set a budget because we want to monitor how we use our money. We set goals in diet and exercise. I’ve even heard of people who set “serving” goals: they try to serve a certain amount of people in some way throughout the week.

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. – Apostle Paul

I realize everyone’s life will look different to some degree, but it is essential that we take the Apostle Paul’s advice. If we say we should live a life of love, we need to flesh that out. What does that look like? What does Scripture say about it? How do I put that into practice? Then, when we meet each other we can definitively say whether we have been loving well or not. The idea is not to create standards to beat ourselves up over, but to spur us on in our race.

Think of the average Christian’s prayer life. I have read the average Christian prays (including at meals) 3 to 7 minutes a day. Reading through the New Testament, we cannot come away thinking that’s a good thing. But here’s the rub: How does that change?

The model we have now would implore people to pray and we’d cover a new topic the next week. People would leave church, pray a time or two throughout the week, feel better, and gradually slip back into their old lifestyle of 3 to 7 minutes. Maybe I’m being cynical, but that is the common experience many Christians face. It may be difficult, but it’s a difficult reality.

Honestly, I’m only a writer on a very small blog. However, I deeply want to honor God with my life. I have no visions of being perfect in this life, but I know it honors God to begin intentionally, sacrificially giving up more and more of my life to him. Setting goals is an invaluable asset to that end.

Look at Kevin’s 7 dangers flipped around a little. What if they read:

7 Realities of the Christian Life

  1. Christians are active.  (Hebrews 12:1-3)
  2. Christians do real evaluation.  (Acts 6, Luke 8:9-14 )
  3. Christians do not fall into the trap of doing something just for the sake of doing something. They have a purpose and know why they do what they do.   (2 Corinthians 5:14)
  4. Christ challenges us to be His ambassadors and His death and resurrection motivates us.  (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
  5. We are constantly asking God to examine our hearts and refine us.  (Psalm 26:2)
  6. We plan ahead because we know our mission.   (Matthew 28:18-19)
  7. The emphasis is on giving God glory and not the activity.   (Philippians 1:9-11)

We set goals because we want our lives to honor Him, not to achieve our own personal glory. I’ll leave you with this. Do not be afraid to set goals. Goals are healthy. We must stop impersonating Charlie Brown.

If you struggle with evangelism, ask God to help you, and set a goal of sharing your faith with someone this month. If you struggle with prayer, start out praying 5 minutes a day and work your way up.

As I’m still thinking through this, I’m sure there may be more to come. Until then,

Do you feel goals are an important part of the Christian life?

What goals are you currently setting for yourself?

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Why Finding a Church is not about You…

So you’re looking for a church…

Sounds easy enough, but what exactly do you look for?

Churches come in all shapes and sizes and if you want to find one to fit your style, all it takes is a little shopping. But should looking for a church engage the same decision-making process as ordering a burger? Consider the enormous amount of choices we have when finding a church.

Exegetical preaching v. Topical preaching
Contemporary worship v. Traditional worship
Sunday School v. Small Groups
Big Church v. Small Church
Lots of people who look the same as me v. A more diverse crowd

And that doesn’t even begin to look at different denominational differences…

We have this concept of the church that we want and then we go out and find it. I want to challenge that paradigm. Look at who matters in that last sentence.

We have this concept of the church that we want and then we go out and find it.

It’s all about…….US.

I understand there are certain doctrines we should not waver on and we should run from heresy, but when it comes to personal preference, how strongly should our desires weigh into the equation?

If you’re single and there aren’t many singles at a church, does that mean you flee?
If you’re one race and the church is majority another, do you look elsewhere?
If you want your kids to be in a vibrant children’s ministry and the church is just starting, do you write them off?
If a church seems big, do you ditch it for a smaller one?
If a church is not active in missions, do you help begin a missions vision or ship off to an already established missions program?

I’m not saying I have all the answers, but when the primary consideration becomes about our comfort and preference we miss the boat.

Choosing a church in the area where you live is one of the most significant decisions you make. I am not arguing that we can not ask questions. I am advocating that we ask the question: God, where do you want me?

The answer may not come easy. The answer may need to come through much prayer and searching of Scripture. But, we must ask the question.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

1 Corinthians 10:31-33

I’m convinced that many Christians have missed opportunities where God called them to serve, sacrifice, and lead in order to find a church that “fit” them better.

Ask yourself the question:

God, where do you want me?

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Ignorance, Indifference, or Unbelief: Why Don’t We Pray?

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

1 John 5:14-15

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

John 14:13-14

Ignorance, indifference, or unbelief. I can only think of three options.

The disconnect between these verses and our lives expands like a great canyon. The mark of our churches includes many good, even great things, but rarely desperate, concerted prayer. We have the power of heaven at our disposal, yet, if your life looks anything like mine, we live as if we have plenty of power on our own.

Three reasons why we may not pray:

  1. Ignorance: I’m not calling anyone stupid. Ignorance is simply not knowing any better. Sure, people know verses about prayer exist. They even know they should pray. However, many Christians have not grown up in churches where there are men and women with a heart for prayer. Prayer is generally assigned to a Sunday or a morning devotional and so people treat it that way. We need leaders who will mentor the next generation. We need churches where families gather to pray not because they were told to, but because they have a passion for prayer. Church leaders, we must begin to live out biblical preaching on prayer!
  2. Indifference: Indifference is an epidemic that plagues the church today. Unfortunately, our convictions are such that we act as if our beliefs are no more significant than choosing which shirt to wear. Jesus directly tells us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” Yet, when it comes to the many people in our sphere of influence who do not know the Good News, we hardly feel the need to pray for them. I have begun to pray that I would feel Paul’s urgency when he wrote:  “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…we implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
  3. Unbelief: I have the hardest time with this one. I want to say we all believe God answers prayer, but do we? I feel like we sometimes try to cover for God by not praying. We just aren’t sure if He will answer the way we want. I don’t know. One of my best friends in the world was going through a difficult time recently and there were days I would neglect to pray for him. Sure, we’ll never be perfect, but I think there is also a time when we have to be real with ourselves and ask: Is what I believe just up in my head or has it sunk into my heart?

Ignorance, indifference, and unbelief. Which one do you struggle with?

 

 

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Death in Nigeria

A child in Abuja, Nigeria

My small little world is being expanded these days. In earlier years, world news didn’t matter much to me. It was distant, foreign, and seemed irrelevant. Lately, though, my soul just hurts when I read some of the news reports from other countries. We have had the earthquakes in Haiti and Chili. There are always people dying of hunger and thirst (that alone is crazy and sad). Then, there are news stories like I read today.

According to the article, there were over 200 dead and 32 injured in Nigeria last night. From an earthquake? No. Drought? No. Hunger? No.

It seems these people were killed by a machete-wielding group who set fire to houses and businesses and hacked people to death with the machetes. That’s hard to even process.

Can you imagine waking up at 3am to attackers in your village? Then, for 2.5 hours, seeing people you know and the place you live terrorized? Unimaginable.

You can read the article and form your own opinions as to why this happened. It just befuddles me that events like this happen.

There’s no word on how many kids were hurt or left orphaned by the attacks. Where would the orphans? Do they have anywhere to turn?

It’s time like these that I really esteem those who sacrifice their lives in America to go and help people in need in other countries.

As you get back to work this Monday, take time to pray for these people. Pray for those whose family was killed. Pray for aid to arrive in that town. Pray for safety for those people. Pray that the violence would stop. Pray for those who commit such atrocities, that their hearts would be changed.

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Becoming Last – Day 11 – Great Afternoon

It’s been a great afternoon. I’ve started a study of 2 Corinthians today and it’s been blowing me away. First off, I’ve found a phrase that has to go into my Top Five favorites. When describing the Apostle Paul, the commentator called his life “permanently redirected.” Is that not awesome? Permanently redirected.

Does that describe our lives as Christians? Have we been permanently redirected? It’s not that our lives are supposed to look better than others or that we’re supposed to be nicer people or do so many church things. That’s not what it’s about. Christ comes into our lives and permanently redirects them. He changes the hard-drive. He rewires us. He gives us a new vision for why we exist. I told you that’s an awesome phrase. Permanently redirected.

The only other part of my study that I’ll share for now is the part on prayer. Paul makes it clear in 2 Corinthians 1:11 that he believes prayer helps. What if this conviction were to take root in my heart? If we really believed prayer changes things, how much more would we be people of prayer? Talk about Becoming Last! How much more of my time could be used petitioning God on behalf of others. I think about my friend’s brother who is having a tough time in his marriage. Where is the burden on my heart to labor in prayer for him and his wife? I think about the woman I heard who lost her partner. Should I not be praying steadfastly for her in her time of grief? What of the many I know who don’t know God’s love or of the people suffering throughout the world. I pray God would give me a much greater burden and desire to be in prayer.

Finally, the last part of my great afternoon deals with our challenge for the week. I had an amazing conversation with my apartment complex manager. She was pumped about the idea of gathering food. She asked me if I could make flyers and put them around the complex. Um, YES! Then, we had a great talk about other ways to serve and love people. Is that not awesome? And to think I almost forgot to go over there this afternoon because I was too busy! You can bet I’ll be making some flyers tonight. I’m excited to see if her passion is contagious throughout our apartments.

Have you Become Last today?

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