Effective and Powerful Prayer

Speaking to a nine year old this morning who had a very difficult time with sleep last night, I asked her if she had anything on her mind.  She mentioned an great uncle who has stage four cancer.  This person has left people in his wake on the roadside hurting and abandoned.  He is not close to his siblings and has sons who he has no relationship.  Sadly, it is Nan Nan’s own brother and Vicki’s uncle. So what do you tell a child?

I reminded her the Apostle James tells us the prayers of a righteous person are effective and powerful.  I took her back to a time when as a five year old little girl wanting to play outside, she was prevented from doing so by rain.  I told her then to pray and ask God.  She sat on the front porch and lowered her head and asked God to make it stop.  IT DID, IMMEDIATELY! 

We forget the righteousness James speaks of is not ours, but that of Christ in us.  Jesus told us our heavenly “Daddy” (Abba, Aramaic for daddy) delights is granting gifts to his children.  We talked about how Jacob contended with God for a blessing.  Contend does not mean fight but struggle with God.  He wanted a blessing from God and I let Stefani know contending with God in prayer for others leads to a blessing for us.

Praying for others is more than a short popcorn prayer because we may not know why God has asked us to pray for them.  He justs wants us to join with him. 

Why Do We Need Conflict in Christian Marriage?

At a recent marriage retreat, the speaker stated “if you do not have conflict in marriage, what is the other person there for?”  This statement caused Vicki and I to look at each other at the truthfulness of the statement.  Conflict in marriage is the means God chooses to make YOU aware of YOUR shortcomings so the Holy Spirit can do his work.  Conflict is comes about when MY agenda, MY rights, MY desires are not met from the other person.  If you sat back and looked at all the “righteous disagreements” I can see how what I wanted or thought should have been done was really just my opinion.  God took two different people and brings them together for the pursuit of biblical relationships.

In counseling, people will tell me “God brought this person in my life!”, but years down the road they are wondering what happened to that wonderful spouse.  Perhaps, a cautious look at OURSELVES will point to the areas we need to adjust.  Power, position, and prestige are areas we struggle to find in our life.  Yet, our partner has a different agenda and they never are the same.  For him–sex.  For her–affection.  Why did God make it so difficult?  Its not–we just make it so.

The next time we have conflict in our marriages or relationships, ask yourself this, “What kind of change do I need to make in my life to make this work?”

Honoring Those Who Gave Us Freedom

Paul says in Romans 13:7 we are to render honor to those who deserve honor.  Recently a fire took the home of veterans in a town near our office.  We collected clothes, toiletries, and anything they could use.  So this morning at five o’clock I went to the local Wal-Mart to get something for a man I never knew.  However, the one thing I did know is this man served his country.

Some people may look down upon service to their country as a low position not requiring any education.  My father never finished high school but like hundreds of thousands joined the military to protect this country from Hitler’s search for world domination.  He lost friends and would suffer what we call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome for years. These stories are common for the soldier, sailor or airman you might know. 

How much honor do we show our veterans who have lost so much?   When does their honor stop?  Never!  We still place flowers before a veterans memorial each year for my dad.  He was buried at sea and so we have no place flowers.  We honor him like all veterans each year on Memorial Day and Veterans Day but how about  saying to an elderly man wearing a military ball cap, “Thank you for my freedom!” 

If you are ever at a restaurant and you see a military person sitting down alone, welcome him.  If he or she is about to order, buy them a meal.  They are potential veterans.  Honor to whom honor is due. 

A couple of years ago we traveled back to Orlando for my 30th high school reunion.  On the way home we stopped by St. Augustine for a little sightseeing.  We had wanted to climb to the top of the old lighthouse but Stefani was under the height limit and could not go.  This little three year old cried because she had wanted so badly to walk with Mommy and Daddy up the winding stairs to view the ocean.  On the way we drove by the old fort, Castilio de San Marcos. 

One of the things we learned was water placed in the moat was destroying the structure of the fort and they were working to discover how they could save the oldest 17th century fort in the United States.  Water can have both good and bad effects on man. 

The recent devastation in Japan by the tidal wave was surprising given the people had erected retaining walls to prevent such destruction.  Our own flooding by Hurricane Katria was made worse by earthen walls.  Man’s means of saving himself will always fail.  The one who places his existence in the hands of God will have a fort which can never be breached.  One means of taking a walled city was waiting them out.  Eventually your enemy will surrender.  When you use God as your fort, your children will also be protected and kept safe.  What a wonderful promise for a dad who loves his family.  The fort will not fail.  Such as in the song by Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress is Our God.  Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. Proverbs 14:26

Candy Bar Theology

When I was a child candy bars generally focused upon the Herschey and Mars brands.  There were simple chocolate bars, chocolate bars with nuts, chocolate bars with nugget, and chocolate bars with rice krisps.  The general idea though was CHOCOLATE!  In fact I toured the Herschey plant once.  OH! so near all of that chocolate made my head spin. 

When I was a kid, I would mow lawns for $2 a yard (that was a long time ago) and would take my hard earned loot and ride my bike as quickly as I could to the Little General store.  This was the pre-7-11 days and this small store had my favorite candy–Hershey’s with almonds.

Theology is much like a candy bar.  The sweetness can only be reached by removing the packaging and getting to those smooth and delicious morsels.  We have to get beyond our pre-conceived ideas of God and the denominational views of church and read the wonderful love letter God has sent us.  The first part of theology is “theos” or God in the Greek.  He is the sweet and wonderful part of theology. 

What happens to chocolate if it sits on the shelf too long?  The oil in chocolate separates and you see a white residue.  The chocolate can even become grainy.  Then like chocolate, you cannot leave God on a shelf (or on the coffee table to gather dust) but must consume Him daily.  “Taste the Lord as see He is good” is a reminder he must be ingested. 

My mom knew I had gone the store because strangely I had a chocolate residue around my mouth which gave it away.  When we do Chocolate Bar Theology, is there a residue around you which others can see?

LAUGHTER IS MEDICINE WE CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT

From Healthguide.org the benefits of laughter proves what the Bible teaches.  Proverbs 15:13 says, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”  

Laughter is good for your health

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

I wondered about laughter and the Lord.  We never see Jesus laughing in Scriptures.  We see sober and somber pictures of Jesus with the light behind his head.  No smiles are seen on him like the Mona Lisa.  Smiles were not part of the art world at that time.  Life in art was seen as almost emotionless. 

However, I can see Jesus playing with the same children which the disciples tried to keep from him.  I can see him laughing and joking with the same disciples who walked with him for three years.  I see Jesus joking with Philip when he asked him about feeding the thousands knowing what he would do to take care of that need.  When Jesus said to his disciples, “You of little faith,” probably had a smile behind his lips because he loved them so much.

Laughing does not have to be because the joke was offensive, sexual, or even political.  Laughter is the best medicine because it was given to us by God.  I said before, if you want to make God laugh, make plans

Vacations are for Vagabonds

The word vagabonds comes from the Latin adjective vagabundus, “inclined to wander”, from the verb vagor, “wander”.  Years ago families would pile into the family station wagon and with it loaded to the gills begin an annual trek somewhere.  I remember our old Dodge Dart.  Mom and Dad in the front and three boys struggling for space.  One time we stopped at a truck stop on our way north from Florida.  Strangely this truck stop had cages of birds for sale.  Of course, one of these birds knew who to make that famous “wolf’s whistle”.  One the way out of the bathroom, a bird whistled at mom and when she could in the car we could not convince her it was a bird instead of one of those truckers.

I believe our minds begin the process of “vacation migration” long before the car is filled with gas.  We begin the process of choosing our destination–sometimes thinking of a warm climate while the snow swirls around us.  We plan a budget and events which would mark our time and later be the topic of speech and memories. 

I recently was talking to a man who had lost his wife two years ago.  He had since begun to travel with a new companion.  I asked him if he and his late wife had done the same thing.  He said they had planned to but she got sick and eventually passed away.  Taking medical equipment had been tried but made the trips difficult.  We think vacations need to be large and expensive.  However, it is small things which add up to lasting memories. 

Don’t wait for time which may never come.  Become a vagabond with the love of your life while there still is life. 

Cooking with my Beloved

We just finished the Marriage Course at the Vineyard and the last lesson was on the Love Languages by Gary Chapman.  I knew the languages of my wife were Quality Time and Thoughtful Acts.  We had to make a list of twelve things to do with our spouses.  One of the things I thought of was making brownies together and a pot of coffee.  She wondered about this until I said, “We will have something to eat and drink when we sit down for couple time.”  Someone I spoke to of this said, “You hit a homerun with that one!”

Brownies and coffee.  She said she had wanted to cook together before this so it was easy to come up with this item.  I went to culinary school before ministry and so working in a kitchen is second nature to me.  However, working with someone in a confined space is very difficult.  It requires a coordination of effort not to step on the others toes.  With the presence of sharp instruments, it could be risky. 

Marriage is like this situation.  Working together in close spaces to complete the task of marriage requires training and the ability to put aside my “dish” or her “dish” to complete the meal on task and on time.  There are many sharps in marriage which could harm the other person.  These are “sharp words” and “sharp demands” which injure your partner.

Something else about working in a professional kitchen.  You don’t TOUCH another cooks knives.  You know not to ask and you also know these tools of the trade identify your professionalism.  If you buy cheap knives it says you are not taking your job seriously.  I own a chef’s knife which twenty years ago cost $70.  You show your “marriage professionalism” by what you are willing to invest in your future.  Marriage is not something taken for granted unless you plan no future. 

Brownies and coffee.  The cost of the date will be very small but the effort will produce a large return. 

How To Make God Laugh

They say if you want to make God laugh–just make plans.  As I was doing the slalom on the highway coming to work at 70 MPH (legal in WV) I was making plans for spring.  Thinking about flowers in boxes and in the flower beds, I was wondering about the colorful display of God’s imagination in flowers.  I had put on a short-sleeved shirt and no jacket to a fifty degree morning.  Then I heard it–six inches of snow in the forecast for tomorrow.

In 1983 I started college to earn a degree in the hotel industry.  After graduation I would earn a certificate as a hotel administration.  Life was good.  New house! New car! Aaaahhh!  But God had other plans and soon I was questioning the call to ministry.  Three years of questions lead to seminary.  Twenty years later I am not in the hotel business or anything I had planned. 

We sing the hymn, “I Surrender All” in church.  Do we really mean “all”?  Maybe we have exemptions for God like, “I will go anywhere but _________________ Lord!”  Maybe, “God, I need you to send me this amount of money to make me happy!”  Surrender means give up or cede your rights to anythng and everything.

I hope I have given God alot to laugh about recently.  I had already taken out my spring clothes.  Oh well.  Back to jackets and gloves.

Praying Like the McDonald’s Drive Thru

My mom would make oatmeal for us on those cold Orlando, FL mornings.  Brown sugar and milk and oatmeal and toast would see me through the first part of the day.  Today, on the run, I pick up oatmeal at McDonalds.  Oatmeal and fruit with a touch of brown sugar warms me up for cold mornings in Pennsylvania.  I make my order and drive around to one window to give them money and then to the next window to get my food and on my way.

Our prayer life can be the same way.  We think of God as a great celestial order taker with our prayer requests.  We give a little money to the church or do some kind of service and expect the answer of our wants fulfilled and then on our way. 

God deserves more respect and appreciation than a clown.  He is not a blank voice behind a screen asking what we want.  He already knows our needs.  No, God is the Creator of heaven and earth and we need to accept his plans for us.  They may not be what we want, but it is for our best. 

Oatmeal may be good for the body but prayer is good for not only the body, but also the mind and spirit.  He is not the order taker.  Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication–none of these belong to the clown.