Sunday, October 30, 2011

The face-off ...

Coming out of a challenging childhood, following the death of my mother, and struggling as an independent teenager to survive, I was battered with one challenge after another.

God led me through each one of them.

Because of His faithfulness, I remember one occasion where a new challenge ... a big one ... was brewing. I was weary, alone, and without resources. But because of what I had learned about the faithfulness of God, I suddenly found great strength and courage and rose to challenge my challenge.

That occasion taught me a great deal about what it takes to achieve your greatest possibilities in life: you must challenge your challenges!

There will always be someone or something that will challenge you in going forward in life. They or it will win unless you challenge your challenges.

Psalm 89:8 says, "O Lord God of Heaven's Armies! Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O Lord? You are entirely faithful."

Psalm 118:6 says, "The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?"

These passages remind us of God's faithfulness, that He is for us, and that with Him, we can stand and challenge our challenges.What is challenging you that you need to stand and challenge? God is faithful to see you through the challenges you face. Will you trust Him to be your strength in challenging what challenges you?


Gospel shoes? Just do it ...

When it comes to athletic shoes, there's only one brand I wear: Nike.

Not because of the company's branding or marketing. Not because it's a "leading" athletic brand. The reason is because Nike is the only athletic shoe I can get some life out of.

Over the years, I've tried several brands of athletic shoes. I'm a busy guy, and it seems with other brands I have them worn out in a matter of months. But not with Nike shoes. For me, Nikes usually last at least a year or more and can take the beating I give them. They're reliable for everything I put them through, and that's important to me.

The Apostle Paul used the illustration of shoes to talk about what is reliable for our being able to stand and take the beating life will bring our way. He wrote:

"For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared," Ephesians 6:15.

In this section of scripture, Paul was using the uniform of a Roman soldier to describe the armor of God Christians have to "dress" themselves with. The shoes Roman soldiers wore were the Nike athletic shoe of the day. Not only were they a rugged sandal-type shoe, they were studded like cleats so a soldier could dig his feet into the ground for a solid stand.

There's nothing more firm we can dig into and stand on than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The peace that comes through the Good News prepares us to face anything that may come our way in life. Unfortunately, today many offer "designer" Gospels as alternatives to stand on. But they're cheap knock-offs of the real thing. They won't last long, they aren't reliable, and you'll eventually lose your footing trying to stand in them.


Friday, October 28, 2011

"Out Of A Far Country" tells a new prodigal story ... x2

Life had to get really bad for the biblical prodigal son to get out of the pig sty in a country far from home and return to his father. It had to get really bad for Christopher Yuan to make his way home as well. And it had to get really bad for Christopher's mother to decide to take her life.

"Out Of A Far Country" (published by WaterBrook Press) is the riveting story of how these two modern-day prodigals, Christopher and Angela, come to terms with their ruined lives, and how discovering God changes them and their world.

For Angela, a lifeless marriage and trampled dreams were more than daunting to deal with. But when Christopher stated emphatically that he was a homosexual, it seemed as though all her hopes were finally crushed.

Christopher initially struggled against his feelings about men, then finally embraced them. When he left Chicago after coming out to his parents, he headed back to college to openly pursue the gay lifestyle. His mother followed him to Kentucky for one last face-to-face visit before she intended to kill herself.

But it's often when you're on bottom that the prodigal looks up. Angela did, and part of this story of redemption is hers.

Christopher pursued the gay scene actively, and his life would spiral downward quickly when that eventually included drug abuse, then selling drugs, and then prison.

Would Christopher ever come home a redeemed man?

This mother/son drama is one of the most compelling stories I've read in a long time. I started reading one day, and finished it the next. The Yuans tell their stories openly, including the raw, ugly truth of hurts, despair, dashed hopes, and a broken family.

This book is easily described by it's subtitle: "A gay son's journey to God. A broken mother's search for hope." And for the reader, it's great inspiration of what God can do today in the life of anyone who seeks Him.


I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Spamming God ...

If God received prayer via a celestial email system, would He need a spam filter for your prayers?

Spam is all that electronic mail and messages we get from people who want something from us. They aren't really interested in us, they just want to sell us something or gain from us in some way. And then they are gone.

How much more is the content of your prayer than seeking something from God before you move on?


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Going Deep" offers a nugget without going deep

I waited with eager anticipation for my review copy of Gordon MacDonald's latest book, "Going Deep" (published by Thomas Nelson) to arrive. The content of the book was supposed to be on a subject matter I consider to be critical to today's church, so I was excited someone had written on the topic.

Unfortunately, "Going Deep" only offers a nugget on the topic of the vital need for the church to disciple Christians to maturity --- to take them "deep" --- which is a great failure of the church today.

The "nugget" is found on the first page of the book. You don't even have to read through the preface or acknowledgements to get it. It's a quote by Richard Foster, stating, "The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people."

MacDonald must have found the quote to be profound (which, I think, it is) because he wrote a book around it. Unfortunately, instead of applying the message of the quote, he didn't "go deep" on the need for "going deep." MacDonald doesn't give a "deep" reasoning for the critical need to disciple believers to a depth of real maturity, or address why the church isn't doing that, or discuss how it could be done today. Instead, he picks up from his previous book, "Who Stole My Church?" and writes a fictional story about a pastor who is moved by a question and Foster's quote to develop a discipleship group aimed at "cultivating deep people."

Perhaps MacDonald thought he could provide a deeper understanding of the need for "going deep" by telling a fictional story of a church actually doing it. I can understand the thinking behind such action, but it misses going deep on something that needs much greater depth.

While I greatly appreciate MacDonald bringing attention to Richard Foster's great insight by sharing his quote, their are some things MacDonald puts into his fictitious story that are minor distractions.

For example, he has the pastor of this fictional church react to Foster's quote as if he had never considered the need to disciple people to full maturity (depth), and suggests that's not really the job of today's church leaders. It's true too many church leaders are failing to "cultivate deep people," but being responsible for discipling believers to maturity is hardly a novel idea for a pastor.

Other distractions include an obvious preference (based on numerous references) of viewing the church as a "community" instead of a body (Christ's body) or family (God's family). If you're really going to "go deep," you'll understand that the Bible does not teach that God adopted us to be a part of His "community," but, rather, to be His own adopted children. There's a vast difference between being a part of a community and being a brother or sister in a family or being a connected part of a body. The biblical view of the church is significantly more intimate than the concept of "community."

MacDonald almost seems to see mentoring and discipling as different names for the same thing. Again, there is a marked difference between mentoring and discipling. To take people "deep" spiritually, we must disciple them (at least, if we're going to follow the biblical mandate for doing so).

MacDonald's fictional pastor is also quite comfortable going outside the church for discipleship techniques, turning to a business executive and a rabbi for ideas. Perhaps if MacDonald would have focused on a deep look at the need for "going deep" he would have noted that the church's proclivity to copy business or cultural methods is a contributing reason why the church is failing at developing spiritually "deep people."

MacDonald also flirts with the controversial by subtly suggesting women should be able to serve as elders. Many of his potential readers belong to churches or denominations that believe scripture teaches the position of pastor and elder are to be held by men. Tossing in this aspect of controversy is just a distraction to his subject matter.

Finally, MacDonald's fictional pastor views being part of the "cultivating deep people" group as something that only select people should be invited to. The approach to discipleship or mentoring in this book is offered only to potential leaders. Yet every Christian, whether a leader or a follower, needs to be discipled to maturity.

MacDonald does a helpful thing in stirring our thoughts regarding the need to cultivate deep people. The problem is, once he offers that nugget, the remainder of the book is shallow territory.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Growing in confidence ...

"I'm beginning to like being challenged by trials and tests, His wisdom and knowledge floods me and then His peace, I am getting stronger!!!" was the tweet I saw from a Twitter friend today.

Now THAT is a great Christian attitude that reflects spiritual maturing.

Before you attack it as unrealistic, read the New Testament (at least). You'll see that is precisely what God wants to accomplish in our lives.

We've degraded to the point we find it "natural" to complain when we are the least bit inconvenienced. Griping rolls off our tongues and out our mouths faster than lightning strikes! But that's behavior from the old nature. It is God's intent to shape us more and more into the likeness of Christ. As that happens, we absolutely can respond to tests, trials, difficult circumstances or anything else life might throw at us with a Christ-based confidence that is free of fear and ready for the challenge because we know God has something good in store for us!

"So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image," 2 Corinthians 3:18.

"This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ," Ephesians 4:13.

"My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me," Galatians 5:20.


All play and no work makes Johnny ...

Most of us have a favorite place to "just be."

Some prefer to be wrapped in a blanket on a cushy couch, by a blazing fire on a rainy day.

Others love the view and sounds from outdoors on a deck.

There are some who revel in the dryness, stillness, and surprising colors of the desert.

Still others prefer the crisp, cool sharpness of mountain air amid towering pines.

For me, it's the beach. Any beach. Let me watch the water, hear the crash of the waves, and it feels as if I'm in the presence of God Himself. The world melts away and peace pervades me.

It's a blessing when we have those moments to just "be."

But simply "being" isn't what God has created us for.

From the start of this world, with the first two human beings, God designed us for relationship, for interaction, for socialization, for work. His creative work wasn't meant to be static.

That includes you and me.

Yet we consistently strive against this design of God's by constantly looking for and longing for just a chance to "be." We curse Monday mornings and praise Friday afternoons in celebration of pursuing "being." By pitting our minds against our activities and our work in desire for "being," we miss possibilities and blessings that come in all the stuff we're enabled by God to "do."

"Doing" is a big part of living. There is an aspect of fulfillment in what we do when it flows from being involved in this world the way God designed for us. But "doing" is not the source of our fulfillment, that comes from "being" in relationship with God.

Do you see the cycle?

God wants us to be fulfilled in who He made us to be, in relationship to Him first, and then to others. Then He designed for us to deepen and enrich our "being" with plenty of opportunity for "doing." And all that "doing" generates a need to have times simply for "being." It's a rewarding cycle.

Especially if it includes a beach.


Do I have to?

The Facebook post stated: "What to do today? Gotta do something."

Doesn't sound like a statement from someone with a very full life. If you're having to scrounge for something to do so you will have done something with your day, you might be lacking somewhat in initiative.

Busy people aren't exempt either. We tend to think that just because each day comes with a fairly loaded template --- care for the kids, go to work, household chores, etc. --- that we get a pass on initiative because our day already has demands that must be met. So we have a built-in excuse for not doing anything more with our lives. After all the regular requirements of the day, we're simply ...

[... now insert one of the most common excuses for doing nothing more with your life and failing at even a start at real dreams ...]

... too tired to do anything else.

If you want more in your life than what it takes to eat, make a living, have a reasonably clean home, and provide basic care for children, you will have to push yourself.

You may have to get up earlier, stay up later ... yes, you might have to lose some sleep. Perhaps for years.

You might have to learn something new.

You might have to read, exercise, forgive, discuss, listen, attend, study, practice, try again, labor, try again, write, persuade, lead, try again, follow, grow, change, improve, mature, apply diligence, try again, practice discipline, prioritize, and any number of things to go from where you are to where you would like to be in order to really do something.

That is, if you want to do something with your life.

Do you?

Are you?


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Adding some flavor to life ...

People are so rushed today not many people take time to cook a whole meal. I mean really cook, as in prepare food and actually use a stove.

Many of us shop for food where you simply add hot water, stir, and viola! You have a meal in a cup. Or plastic container (we don't do dishes much, either).

One problem of these just-add-water instant meals is they lack taste. But never fear! Many of the makers of these meals are now including a "flavor pack." After pouring in the boiling hot water, just tear open the flavor pack, pour in the ingredients, stir vigorously, and now you have a meal that has some flavors!

As Christians, you and I are like that flavor pack included in that bland food product. Jesus describes us in Matthew 5:13a this way:

“You are the salt of the earth ..."

Life without Christ is bland. It's actually lacking life. Jesus has us here as His packets of flavoring.

So here's the question: if an unbeliever (or anyone, for that matter) "opens you up" and adds you to his or her existence, do you add the flavor of life?


Saturday, October 22, 2011

A great book for taking care of yourself ...

How many people do you think refuse to accept the reality that our physical bodies are one of the greatest stewardships God has entrusted us with?

I don't know the actual number, but I think the real digits would be staggering!

I've heard all the excuses of, "We only have one life, you have to enjoy it ..." Blah, blah, blah. That particular argument usually is offered by the unfit, unhealthy who try to justify their terrible care of their physical fitness and health.

Here's what Jesus said, as recorded in John 10:10: "The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life."

Jesus wants us to enjoy life. He also understands that does not mean being consistently indulgent, gluttonous, or lazy. Yet, when you look at the growing obesity and health issues due to poor fitness in our country, that is exactly the case for many Americans.

I've pastored and counseled many people who faced serious illness, and through their journey to death. I've never once met someone who thought the terrible way they ate, and their entire lack of exercise was worth it, especially when their neglect of their fitness and health directly played a role in the onset of serious health issues. Each one of them struggled with real regret, thinking they were stealing years away from the ones they loved because they had allowed their bodies to fail.

We really do have a direct and primary role in the state of our fitness and health. And one of the best books I recommend for those who really want some excellent insight into taking good care of their bodies is, "Body By God" by Dr. Ben Lerner.

I have previously posted about this book, but because of its value, and the ongoing request for such information, I'm highlighting the book again.

The nutritional information Dr. Lerner delineates makes up the nutrition plan I have had hundreds of my personal training clients follow, with excellent results. Dr. Lerner also speaks to exercise and stress management as well.

If you want to improve your physical stewardship, I encourage you to check out this book. I believe it could be a positive and beneficial resource for you and your family.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Making friends with tree people ...

Gym members were almost running to the front desk to complain about the young woman on the squeaky eliptical machine.

It wasn't an ordinary squeak. It was so loud, the noise could be heard (painfully) in the far corners of the large, busy, noisy gym.

Everyone noticed the grating sound ... except for the young woman on the eliptical. She had her ear buds firmly planted in her ears and was oblivious to everything and everyone around her. Including the horrible noise she was generating.

When a couple members tapped her shoulder and explained the eliptical machine she was on was squeaking rather loudly, she smiled and explained she only had 10 more minutes left, then turned her attention back to her workout.

The young woman didn't give any consideration to what the members told her, or even think the noise may be annoying to others. Or consider there were several other eliptical machines around her no one was using, so making a change would be easy. But since the loud noise didn't bother her, she wasn't going to let it become a bother to her.

Some people live loudly ... and not in a good way. They're focused on what they are out to accomplish for themselves, and don't give any heed to how that may affect others.

But how we move through life does affect others. Our lives cross the paths of more people than we ever give attention to, but many of them notice us more than we would ever guess.

A few years ago, I had a lunch meeting with a businessman who was oblivous to our server. When she brought our food, freshened our water, and generally took good care of us, he never looked at her or said a word to her. She was a non-person to him, someone not to be bothered by because she wasn't significant to his life.

The team of baristas at the local Starbucks here say they dislike working Sundays the most. Why? They say the "church people" are the most rude customers they have all week.

Jesus was uniquely aware of the people around Him, especially those just on the fringes. How much more on the fringe can you be, than to be up a tree? Such was the case of Zacchaeus ...

"Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way," Luke 19:1-4.

It would be easy to miss some guy sitting in a tree. But Jesus didn't miss him. Not only did He notice him, He made him the focus of His attention:

"5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. 'Zacchaeus!' he said. 'Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today',” Luke 19:5.

Simply by taking notice of a man in a tree, and having dinner with him, a life would be saved:

"8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, 'I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!' 9 Jesus responded, 'Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost',” Luke 19:8-10.

Having an awareness of those who come into our lives can make a huge difference, for them and for us! In fact, Hebrews 13:2 says, "
Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!"

Do you give any notice or attention to the people who cross your path, even for a moment? What kind of impression and impact are you leaving behind? How can you better notice those on the fringe of your lives and touch them for Christ?


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The value of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs ...

He's a short video that, with great simplicity, illustrates the value of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs to a society ...

Thanks to David Brown Britton for sharing this.


The Voice ...

Success breeds copy cats.

The overwhelming success of the show "American Idol" is one example. Dominate TV ratings for this show has spawned multiple new shows aimed at discovering the great undiscovered singing talent in America. "The Voice" is just one of these "Idol" competitors, but with a twist.

Like the other shows, "The Voice" features four vocal stars who serve as judges for the competition. But what is unique about the show is the judges must decide whether they would like to mentor a singer to potential stardom without seeing them ... they must make their selection only by hearing the voice of the singer.

The judges sit in high-backed chairs with the backs of the chairs turned toward the stage where the singer is performing. If, based on the voice alone, a judge likes what he or she hears, they turn their chairs around to view the performer. The idea is that the competition is all about the voice, not how the person looks or their physical performance.

Our growth in Christ is all about a Voice as well, a lesson given to us through John the Baptist.

John's job was to be "the voice" declaring the coming of the Messiah:

In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, 2 'Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.' 3 The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, 'He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, "Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!"'" Matthew 3:1-3.

It's probably a good thing John's job was focused on being a voice, rather than including things like fashion and social etiquette of the day ...

"John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey," Matthew 3:4.

It didn't matter how John dressed, it was what he said that made a difference, and it was making a very big difference with many ...

"5 People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. 6 And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River," Matthew 3:5-6.

Shortly thereafter, Jesus arrived on the scene. John the Baptist knew that whatever he had to say paled in comparison to the message Jesus came to deliver. He summed it up this way:

"26 So John’s disciples came to him and said, 'Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.' 27 John replied, 'No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. 28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, "I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him." 29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less," John 3:26-30.

God has given us a job similar to John's, one of being a voice for Christ. Our role is to be a voice that draws people to Jesus. Then our voice is to decrease as Christ's voice increases. Jesus described this in a very simple sentence:

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me," John 10:27.

Are you a voice for Christ? Does your voice result in the increase of Christ in the lives of others? Are you tuned in to the voice of Christ?


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Feeling good at First Church ...

When Jesus arrived somewhere, so did the huge crowds.

Then He taught pure truth. Undistilled, nothing watered down. Straight to the point.

After teaching, He left the people to accept and then act on what He taught, or reject His teaching to do their own thing.

Then He moved on.

We don't do that.

Instead, we act like we care more about people walking away rejecting Christ than Jesus did Himself. We don't want people to leave, so we coddle them so they'll stay.

"Welcome to the First Church of Coddle, where your comfort is our first concern! Please enjoy the free espresso and croissants this morning at our guest services boutique. We won't bother you with the gospel, and we go light on any other scripture. We dummy down our teaching, make sure sermons are very short and loaded with props because we don't think you're intelligent enough to get anything very deep."

"We won't create the odd sensation of biblical worship that could make you feel uneasy, so we'll treat you to a concert complete with colorful lights and fog machines. Yes, fog machines!"

"Your babies will be cared for in a state-of-the-art nursery, your children will be busy with games and crafts elsewhere, and your teens will be entertained so you can have this time uninterrupted."

"You won't have the slightest idea of our doctrine, theology, or other deep stuff. Instead, this morning will be like a conference on your 'felt needs' where we'll provide you with 3-5 steps of how you can feel better."

"So welcome to the First Church of the Coddled, we hope you 'friend' us on our Facebook page!"

That's not far from the average church today.

A recent radio ad for a local baptist church hit home on what --- if truth be told -- many people really want in a church. The radio commercial featured the voice of a woman saying:

"When I go to church, I don't want it to be like another Stephen Covey seminar on how to feel better. I want to know what the Word of God says about how to live."

Wow, so simple!

I really don't care about all the excuses many church leaders could list for why they do church in such a non-biblical fashion. I care about the church being the church, about the Word of God being preached, taught, lived and modeled like the early church did, and the result of that being lives reached for Christ. I care about the Bible being the primary guide for our faith ... we say it is, but how we live out our faith and do that as the body of Christ often doesn't look anything like the New Testament church.

That can only be done from a biblical perspective that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and undergirded with prayer.

Then we have to let people make decisions. And we have to expect something from those who claim to make their decision for Christ. We also have to disciple them, not for a while, but unto maturity. And we have to equip them for ministry. Being connected together in one body, we also have to love and support one another during all this.

Wow, living this way would take a real commitment. It would require us to think differently, feel differently, and act differently. It would require us to be different, more like the church we read about in the New Testament.

It's much easier to be coddled.

Which version of Christianity are you settling for?


What can you learn in three and a half days?

The "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrators have not been very effective at stating why they are demonstrating, they simply say they are. What does the world look like when we become too comfortable with our success?

Bill Whittle provides some perspective in this video episode of "Afterburner" ...


Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's a leadership thing?

Supposedly what's happening on Twitter and Facebook is a new leadership thing ...

Several leaders have developed a platform of many thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook, and recently started dumping the majority of them, choosing to "follow" or "friend" just a small portion of those they got to "follow" and "friend" them.

It appears some of these leaders were more interested in developing a platform from which they can be listened to, rather than one requiring so much real interaction. It's taking the "social" part out of their "social media."

That's not "leadership."

Leading people requires more than being in front of people, but being among them as well. The shepherd cannot shepherd his flock from his easy chair, but only from the field where the sheep are. He has to be among them.

But some see leadership as only a platform from which their words should be powerful enough influence that their presence and interaction isn't necessary.

Not even the Holy Spirit leads that way. He lives in us!

It's one thing to have a momentary profound moment with someone by sharing a thought. That can be done from a platform. But to take people deep, and make a life changing impact, you usually have to get in among them, interact, and be one of them.


Renting, owning, and living ...

"I miss renting ..." was the comment a first-time homeowner made a few days ago. She's discovering that, while home ownership has some blessings, it also has some challenges!

As a renter, you enjoy the dwelling, and maintain it, but when something breaks, you call the landlord for the repair. As a homeowner, you enjoy the dwelling, maintain it, and arrange and pay for anything that gets broken. And, of course, you pay the property taxes. But it's yours! And if the housing market ever settles down, you might even earn some equity from your investment.

Renting is about getting all the benefit, without the risk or cost. Ownership is having even greater benefit, along with all the risk and cost.

Some people live their lives as if they are renting. They want all the benefits without any of the risks or costs. These people don't get off the couch much.

Some people live their lives as if it's a stewardship: while it actually belongs to God, what we do with it could yield unimaginable reward.

When it comes to life, are you renting, or being a wise steward?


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Can you find the mistake?

The past couple of days, several of my friends have been posting the puzzle above on Facebook, and asking if others could find the mistake. I think I know what it is, but no one has posted the known answer yet, so I'm not sure if I've got it right.

There are a lot of puzzles like this that people pass around. Some people are good at spotting the mistake, they see it right away. Others become frustrated when multiple reads and examinations fail to solve the puzzle.

Some people are just better at spotting problems.

We need to be thankful for those people!

Platitude lovers would tell you likewise. They would tell you that only positive things should flow from your mouth. They believe that hearing only positive things are good for life.

That really isn't true!

In fact, each of us need people in our lives who are good at spotting mistakes.

I'm not talking about a pessimist who never sees the good that exists. I am talking about someone who can acknowledge the good, but isn't willing to pass by the fact that a mistake is in our midst.

The people who only see the glass as half full often are the ones who will lead the rest of us over the cliff. That's because they dismiss signs of danger and detour. The fact is the glass is both half full and half empty! When you start with the reality that comes from truth, you can see opportunity as well as potential pitfalls. That greater understanding helps us make wise decisions.

So consider yourself blessed if you have someone in your life who is good at spotting mistakes, they're one of the people who can best help you grow.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to ruin a meeting ...

I was in a Starbucks recently when I observed a man come in to order coffee. After being greeted, he started complaining!

His complaints had nothing to do with his service that morning, but what he thought was poor customer service from previous visits. Too much "air" in his coffee, not getting a full cup, and other gripes were highlighted.

The guy set the tone for his current visit to Starbucks by walking in the door with a pre-conceived attitude loaded for his current encounter, based on past experiences. Even though he received good customer service that morning, he left as grumpy as he arrived. That's because his stance toward Starbucks was already established and he didn't allow for anyone that morning to make a difference toward it.

That's a perfect recipe for how to ruin a meeting, one often repeated daily in all types of organizations.

We go to work with our minds made up that the boss is unfair, our co-workers are slackers, and we don't get paid or appreciated enough. The result is a lousy day at work almost regardless of the actual experience because we expect a negative experience.

The same goes for going to church. We walk in "knowing" the music will be too loud, the sermon will be too long, and the people will be unauthentic. It doesn't matter much what that Sunday's experience will actually be like, because we've already pre-determined what we will think about it.

Keeping negative experiences from the past alive, and creating judgments before reality happens, creates in our minds an ugly, false view of the world around us. We only confound that problem when we don't allow for reality to chip away at our pre-conceived notions.

Rarely can anyone adequately meet uncommunicated expectations, or improve on premature judgments already set in stone.

Attitudes developed prior to a meeting often ruin a meeting.


How would YOU counsel this person?

Imagine you're a clinical counselor. A couple comes in to see you because their marriage is in distress.

But in an odd way ...

This husband and wife love each other. The wife really does love her husband, and she's not afraid to say that, or express it. The problem is, most of the time she says and expresses her love for her husband ... to others.

She tells her family she loves her husband. She tells her friends, co-workers, associates, acquaintances, even strangers! She demonstrates it through her commitment of time, attention, etc., with her husband.

It's just that she shares her love for her husband the least ... with her husband!

What counsel would you give this wife?


Whatever counsel you suggested is likely similar to what you might say to many Christians who say they love God, and express their love for God, but do so more to others than they do to God Himself!

For some reason, some Christians have gotten the idea that our love for God is to be expressed to others rather than in an actual relationship interaction with God.

We can talk to God, He can hear us. We can hear Him through scripture and the Holy Spirit.

We can express to God, He can see us. We can see expressions from Him in the things He has created and what He does in our lives.

So why is He the least involved in our expression of love for Him?

It is true that because of our love for God, we as His children should share our love for Him with others, and share His love for them. But that does not mean overlooking or eliminating the natural communications and expressions that come in a personal relationship.

In fact, unless we develop the personal aspect of an actual relationship with God, our expressions of love for God that go beyond God become less authentic, much less honest.

A personal relationship starts with, and focuses on, the one we are in relationship with. In the case of a personal relationship with God, that relationship needs to begin with Him, and focus on Him. The result of that relationship interaction is what we share with others.

Who is the priority in your relationship with God: God, or others? Who gets the attention, and who gets the overflow?


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Torn" a competent message on a crowded topic

Vanilla is the most popular flavor of ice cream in the United States. Sometimes it also makes for good reading, and sometimes not.

"Torn," written by pastor Jud Wilhite and published by Multnomah Books, is "vanilla." Not because it's bland, but because it's one more book in the heavily crowded topic of how to deal with life's difficulties ... or, as the subtitle of the book describes, "Trusting God When Life Leaves You In Pieces."

Because human need never ends, publishers never stop printing books about how to overcome being "torn" by the struggles of life. The result is a vast array of books on the subject (perhaps more on this subject than any other). That means there are some that are brilliant and profound, others that are competent on the subject, and still others lesser so. "Torn" lands among the competent books on this common subject; it's not profound, as there are other books that deal more deftly and far more brilliantly with the subject, yet it provides competent, basic biblical insights for dealing with life when you are torn better than some other books do.

Adding to the vanilla is Wilhite's use of referring to Job as an example, and using some modern tragic stories for his content. There's nothing wrong with doing either, it's just that most all the writers of the thousands of other books on the same subject do the same thing. Again, Wilhite does it competently, but there's nothing new about the primary content or the approach Wilhite takes to the subject matter. Wilhite even quotes heavily from others as part of his content.

Thus, there's nothing terribly outstanding to point to about "Torn." Wilhite shares some great stories, and blends them competently with biblical insight. The result? Formulaic writing on the topic of dealing with life's struggles. Does he go deeper than some of the best who write on the subject? No. Is his teaching more insightful, more profound, better equipping in nature? No. Is it better than some? Yes.

Therefore, it's competent. And vanilla.

If you haven't read any books on this popular topic, perhaps "Torn" will be a bright blessing to you. If you like reading a lot of books on this same subject, you will likely appreciate it. If you have read some great books on this topic, you will probably appreciate the competency of the common message in "Torn," but find it unremarkable ... "vanilla."

But some people prefer vanilla.


I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Appreciating your Pastor ...

Did you know your pastor --- now prepare yourself for this --- YOUR pastor is ... uh, well ... he's human!

Actually, there's more to it than that.

YOUR pastor is a human as fragile, vulnerable, and imperfect as other human beings.

Yes, it's true!

With October being Pastor Appreciation Month, one of the best things you can do in appreciating your pastor is understanding that the man behind the pulpit is just that --- a man! --- one who has the same kind of needs and struggles, wants and desires, problems and challenges that we all do. But added to that is the responsibility for the spiritual well-being of all those he leads. Ringing in his ears are the words of James who wrote, "Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly," James 3:1.

And he has to bear all that as a human being.

Being a pastor is an incredibly big responsibility, one for which God Himself sets aside the life of a person He selects for a highly accountable job of shepherding His children. It's a job that untold numbers carry out as a great privilege. To honor those who serve as pastors, here's a few other ways you can demonstrate your appreciation for all they do for the cause of Christ:

Love them ...
At the core of our being, we humans want (and need) to be loved. So does your pastor. The same man who prays with you through your struggles, counsels you and your spouse through marital hard times, encourages you through life's crises, calls on you when you're sick, cares about your child's development like they were his own, and equips you with the Word of God, does all those things not simply because he loves God, but also because he loves you! Being "loved back" is a great reward for any pastor.

Listen to them ...
Pastors haven't had God set their lives apart to be ignored. It is God who has set aside these men to lead you. In that case, listen to them! Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit."

Learn from them ...
Pastors spend their lives in the Word and in prayer in order to teach and equip you to become like Christ. It's directly to your own benefit to take advantage of their learning and study. One of the greatest delights of a pastor is to see someone who is teachable, someone who wants to learn God's Word and actually apply it. Use their passion to teach as an opportunity to learn.

Lift with them ...
Have you ever struggled to handle a heavy load while someone stood by and watched you strain in pain? It's a little frustrating, isn't it? Likewise, no one person can bear the needs of an entire congregation alone. That's why a church is a family, brothers and sisters in Christ knitted together in a bond of love. Help your pastor meet the needs of your faith family, and beyond into the community, by lifting burdens alongside him.

Laugh together ...
Life has plenty of troubles, but not everything is so serious. Share some lighter times with your pastor, laugh together!

Let me give you one more encouragement. Each year, as we're reminded of Pastor Appreciation Month, we might give a word of appreciation as we shake the pastor's hand while exiting the sanctuary. Let me encourage you to do more this year. Find a way to connect personally with your pastor and clearly, kindly, even lovingly, convey your appreciation for his service to Christ and to you.


Chasing YOUR dream ...

Jesus said this, as recorded in John 10:10, "The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life."

Now here's the version of that we hear from many pulpits today: "Dream great dreams, pursue your dreams, and don't let anything or anyone get in the way."

Those aren't the same message.

People in our culture hear so much about chasing their dreams that those willing to do so, do just that: they chase their dreams.

What too many preachers forget is to give a greater biblical context for encouraging people to live that rich and satisfying life Jesus wants for us. That greater biblical context is that anything we pursue should be in alignment with God's will for us, and should be done for God's glory, not simply for our satisfaction:

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect," Romans 12:2.

"So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God," 1 Corinthians 10:31.

One reason some church leaders have such a hard time getting their members to do something in and for Christ and His church is because the members are out doing what the preacher told them to: chasing their dreams!

Maybe if we spent less time being motivational speakers, and more time delivering biblically accurate, biblically sound messages, we could help shape congregations who discovered rich, satisfying lives devoted to the will of God, for the glory of God.


Monday, October 10, 2011

That's not fair!"

Some of the people --- perhaps many --- that you know are not fair.

The world isn't fair.

Life often is not fair.

Yet God is always fair, perfectly just.

Now ... how about you?

If you look closely, many who bemoan the unfairness and injustices of life often have a scale of justice they use that's somewhat askew of proper measures ...

Have you ever judged a book by its cover?

Ever made a snap judgment about someone based on how they looked?

Have you ever assumed something about someone after hearing they have a poor credit rating?

When you see the disheveled man at the stop light holding the sign asking for help, do you ever have a fleeting curiosity about him and substance abuse?

When you discover someone got divorced, do you immediately wonder what they did wrong?

When you hear about the teen in juvenile detention, how quickly do you question the quality of parenting provided?

How many opinions do you hold are made of something less than fact? How many are composed of something thinner than known truth?

If that last question makes you squirm, then you have to ask of yourself: just how fair are you?

"Well, I can only go off what I know," is often the retort.

That's not accurate.

None of us are forced to make a judgment, develop an opinion, or draw a conclusion on less than the truth. We can choose to NOT be unfair by trying to discern something about someone without having the facts. We can limit what decisions we must make to what we really do know. And we can choose to be as fair with others as we would want them --- or God --- to be with us.

Jesus' admonition about this is simple and clear: "Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly," John 7:24.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

I was just thinking ...

If you don't like taking time to think, don't plan on being an innovator.

Great ideas pop up "out of the blue" for very few truly innovative leaders. For most, innovation is hatched from thought, research, studying, learning, experimenting, discussing, or other times better designed for fostering thought ... but making time to think of possibilities, and then to think them through, is an essential incubator for hatching innovative thought.

One way of prompting innovation when you do take time to think is to keep notes of ideas or thoughts that you can give deeper consideration to during your "think time." Whether you make notes in a notebook, journal, or electronic device, having a few notes to start your thinking time with gives you a starting point. When you have a promising idea that pops up when you know you don't have time to give it adequate thought, make a note of the idea and revisit it with greater attention during your "think time."

When you make time to think, have some tools to work out your thoughts. Whether its as simple as paper and pencil, or a mind mapping site or software, be prepared to fully expand on and capture your ideas once you unleash your thinking.

Finally, leaders who actually achieve something innovative are those who act on their innovative thoughts as soon as possible. The longer the window between acting and doing, the greater the likelihood you will not act on your thoughts.


Quiet on the set!

We live wired lives.

From the first cup of coffee or 5-Hour Energy drink, to the radio on in the car, the ear buds blaring favorite tunes, or the TV on in the background, we make sure we drown out even our own stillness.

We're afraid of being quiet with ourselves.

Quiet doesn't equal silence. In the quiet, we hear the world happening around us, we hear the sounds of others, we hear our own selves, and we better hear God.

So what are we afraid of?

Noise is a cover for our vulnerabilities, for our weaknesses, for our needs, and seemingly for our sins. It pretends a competence that often isn't nearly as strong as we portray. That reality highlights itself in quiet.

When we get quiet, truth comes rushing in.

Given that fact, perhaps we should make time for moments of quiet more often.

"I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him," Psalm 62:1.

"Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him," Psalm 62:5.


Just one more dollar ...

Idling ahead of me and in the left lane at the red light was a red Audi TT convertible with the top down. In the left turn lane next to the Audi was a fire engine red Corvette. The driver and passenger of the Audi spent the whole length of the red light staring at the Corvette.

I can't read minds, but the look of the two people in the Audi seemed like one of envy, even though they were cruising in a nice ride of their own.

When is enough ever enough?

Billionaire John D. Rockefeller was asked that question, and his response is the famous line we've heard before: "Just one more dollar."

Before you knock such an over-the-top response from a guy who has billions wanting one more dollar, how different is that from our own attitudes? How many of us don't have idling in our minds a list --- whether short or long --- of things we either want or wish for? A newer model car, bigger house, cooler phone, the latest fashion, a bigger boat ... the list often goes on ad nauseam. And if you could buy everything on your current wish list, how many of us wouldn't simply re-populate the list with new wants and wishes?

When is enough really enough?

The Apostle Paul addressed that question directly in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 with simple clarity:

"6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content."

This topic is more often a platitude-like discussion we have at some time in our lives, or discuss with others every now and then, but then we return to a life of want. Even knowing the truth about contentment, we all too often choose to idle by in the emptiness of wishing and wanting. It often takes great loss and suffering before a person learns the hard way that perhaps what scripture says about contentment is right!

Are you satisfied? Have you come to a place where you can say, "This is enough!" If not, what will take? Where is God in the midst of your yearnings?


Friday, October 7, 2011

Great lines from Hollywood ...

There are various elements that make up a great movie or television show, but one of the most common elements is a great line that everyone remembers.

When you think of one of your favorite movies, what line stands out?

There are so many for just about any kind of interest ...

"Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore ..."

"I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse ..."

"Go ahead, make my day ..."

"Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride ..."

"You talkin' to me? ..."

"If you build it, he will come ..."

"Momma always said life was like a box of chocolates ..."

"You can't handle the truth! ..."

"I see dead people ..."

"You had me at 'hello' ..."

And, of course, for all the Trekkies out there, there's this famous line: "Resistance is futile!"

I'm glad those lines come from Hollywood, especially that last one. That's because the opposite is true when it comes to resistance. James highlighted the power of resistance with a single sentence:

"So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," James 4:7.

As powerful as the enemy is, he can be resisted! There's a partner to resisting the enemy, and that is found in the next verse, James 4:8, "Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world."

Who are you pushing away, and who are you drawing close to?


Thursday, October 6, 2011

I do ... for now ...

Want to give marriage a test run? You might want to go to Mexico City, where the idea of issuing marriage licenses for a two-year hitch is being considered.

Instead of a no-fault divorce, the marriage license expires two years after being issued. The license can be renewed or, if the couple decides they've had enough of each other, they can just go their own ways and the marriage expires.

Can there be a more blatant example of an uncommitted relationship?


Think for a moment at the various and sundry relationships in your life ...

... no, really, pause and run them through your mind ...

... now, how many of them are you truly committed to? How many of the people in your life know that you love them unconditionally, and regardless of what comes their way you will really be there for them? Not in theory, but in fact. The in-the-middle-of-the-night-you-can-call-on-me kind of commitment? The, "I will stand by you with all I am and have," kind of commitment?

Now ... who are the rest of the people who don't make that cut in your life? What kind of commitment do you have for them?

There's not a human being Christ didn't have that kind of commitment for. He died not just for the best of us, but for the worst of us as well. There was no one Christ considered to be unworthy of His commitment, all they need to do is respond to His invitation to relationship.

How do you determine who's worthy of your commitment?


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Set-Up ...

Some of the best encouragements we receive are those urging us to make a positive difference in our world by touching the lives of others.

That's a great encouragement! Would you really like to do that?

If so, here's one suggestion for doing that: develop a habit of setting others up for a win.

If you think about it, that's what Jesus constantly did for people. When He forgave them of their sins, He was setting them up for a whole new start to a whole new life. When He healed them of their diseases, He was setting them up for a win of physical vitality that opened up life for them. Everything Jesus did was to set a person in a position for victory. Not everyone took the opportunity or appreciated the blessing, but Jesus was constantly positioning people with the opportunity to win ...

... to win over sin ...

... to win over death ...

... to win over every temptation, every struggle, every trial, every challenge they could face. Jesus cared that we had the opportunity to win.

To walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, to be like Him, is to have a heart for helping others be positioned to win.

It doesn't have to be grandiose acts on our part. To help a person who is down to have a good day, is helping them have a win. That single, small "win" could lift their spirits far more than you could imagine.

Helping people gain wins in their lives is being a source of love, blessing and encouragement to them. Something every single human being needs.

You know people who could use a win. There's likely something you can do to help set them up for the win.

Will you?


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Going pro ...

God has shown flashes of His holy sense of humor to me at various times. But this time wasn't funny, it was scary!

That's because God decided to help me understand with clarity that He was, indeed, calling me to "full-time" vocational ministry. He chose to do this while I was attending an ordination service for a couple new ministers!

That was a long time ago, but I remember it clearly. That night I made an appointment to meet with my pastor the next day. He was a godly man I trusted, and who has been my example of a Christian man and minister throughout my adult life. He gave me some great advice. He said, "Scotty, if you can do anything else and still have peace with God, go do it. If you can't, then do whatever has to be done to heed the call."

That settled my future for me, and it's been advice I have shared with many people over the years. It's some advice we might want to dust off and put to use again in the church.

With a growing chorus of voices calling for a "radical" faith from a lukewarm church, more and more people are confused with a message that often sounds like we're all supposed to sell everything we own and head for Africa to be missionaries.

Not everyone is called to pull up roots. But some are. The move might not be across the world, but it might be across the country, across the state, or across town. For some, it might be crossing the street to finally meet the neighbors.

Whether God's will for us is to go or stay, the advice remains the same.

As the church, we need to be sending people into the harvest to do the Lord's work. It shouldn't be surprising or rare that people from our local congregations respond to such a call. In fact, we should be praying for this, and some of us need to be seriously considering it:

"36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, 'The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields'," Matthew 9:36-38.

We need to talk to young people about serving in vocational ministry. We need to encourage young people to consider spending some time being equipped in Christian colleges, even if their service will be in the fields of secular professions. We need to talk with those already in secular professions who may need to turn in their titles for shepherd's work. We need to talk with those pondering retirement, who maybe should be pondering a new future in kingdom fields. We need to equip those who stay to serve faithfully and effectively where they are. And we also need to send more workers into His fields here, there, and everywhere.

So if you can have peace with God where you are, doing what you're doing, do it all to His glory! If you can't, then perhaps God is calling you to a leadership role in His kingdom. If He is, do whatever is necessary to respond with an Isaiah-like attitude:

"Then I heard the Lord asking, 'Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?' I said, 'Here I am. Send me',” Isaiah 6:8.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Your 100 Day Prayer" a dull tool

There are a lot of books on the shelves of Christian bookstores dedicated to teaching us how to pray, or serving as a guide or journal for prayer. "Your 100 Day Prayer" is a new book by John I. Snyder (published by Thomas Nelson) that joins this attempt, but turns out to be a dull tool for Christians to use.

The subtitle of the book --- "The Transforming Power of Actively Waiting on God" --- is what the writer focuses on. But the result is a generic coupling of Christian disciplines to create a tool that doesn't make a lot of sense.

First, the concept for the book is for Christians to spend 100 days praying about a persistent need or problem. The idea for 100 days of prayer, as the author himself admits, is just a random number; the need for persistence in prayer is the point. It could be persisting in prayer for 5 days, 30 days, 90 days ... the author simply chose 100 days without any significant reason.

"The 100-day prayer is simply a way of bringing before God major issues, challenges, concerns, or transitions in our lives. There's really nothing magic about a hundred days ..." Snyder writes.

Second, in the introduction of the book, Snyder begins using the example of "the Lord's Prayer" for some instruction on how to pray. But he only touches on the biblical text rather than developing it to any substantial degree.

Next, while acknowledging the need to seek God's will when praying, and noting there are multiple reasons for prayer, Snyder quickly surrenders to the idea that prayer is primarily for asking things of God. Yet the transformational experience of 100 days itself suggests a greater relevance for prayer. Thus, the writer contradicts himself with an unclear (and inaccurate) message.

Beyond the introduction, each chapter opens with a scripture text, followed by a short daily devotional, a suggestion for "today's prayer," and finishes with blank lines to record "today's progress."

I found the devotions to be "hit or miss" ... some were mediocre in quality of writing and content, while others were insightful, if not nearly brilliant. Yet the selection of scriptures are random since they can't be selected for individual need.

My conclusion was that while I could appreciate the author's intent and effort, a person would likely be better served to sit down with a Bible and a notebook, use scripture specific to their life challenges, pray for as many days as necessary for their needs, and use the notebook as a journal. This would make for a sharper application of Christian disciplines than using the dull tool of this well-meaning book.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Being persistent with God

If you want a great example of determination and focus, watch a child lead a parent to the toy section of a store.

It begins with, "I just want to show you something over here ..."

It ends with some of the greatest presentations any executive boardroom would be proud of, delivered with some of the most unapologetic, sheer persistence you will ever see. The result is often a few bucks less in the parents' bank account and a broad smile on a child's face.

Remember that example, it's very similar to how Jesus teaches us to pray.

As God's children, we may not get what we ask simply because of our relationship to Him. But being persistent with our request --- like any child with a parent --- is effective with God! At least, that's what Jesus says:

"5 Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: 'Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, 6 "A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat." 7 And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, "Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you." 8 But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence. 9 And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him," Luke 11:5-13.

Prayer is not for the faint of heart, it often requires persistence on our part.

Are you lounging in wait, hoping God will respond to a prayer? Or pounding on heaven's door, persisting with God for your requests?