Sometimes the power of
prayer is the power to carry on.It
doesn’t always change your circumstances, but it gives you the strength to walk
through them.When you pray through, the
burden is taken off of your shoulders and put on the shoulders of Him who
carried the cross to Calvary.
consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them
rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness
of my own."(Philippians 3:8-9)
No. 1 thing that God has taught me through this career is that baseball is a
game, and it is a job. It's not life. It's a nice way to make a living, but it
is not supposed to be all-encompassing or all-consuming as I used to think it
was. God has shown me what life is all about. It's about knowing Him and having
a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ. Life is about family.
It's about caring for, understanding, and respecting others. I have learned
there is always something you can do to make somebody feel better, even if it
is just a comment. The Lord has taught me the beauty of making someone feel
better. He is also teaching me how to let go of things I would not let go of
-- Ned Yost, Kansas
City Royals Manager, in Sports Spectrum
Jesus is on His way out of Jericho when two blind
men hail Him like a taxi:"Lord,
son of David, have mercy on us!"The disciples see it as a human interruption.Jesus sees it as a divine appointment.So He stops and responds with a pointed
question:"What do you want me to
do for you?"
Seriously?Is that question even necessary?Isn't it obvious what they want?They're blind.Yet Jesus forced them to define exactly what
they wanted from Him.Jesus made them
verbalize their desire.He made them
spell it out, but it wasn't because Jesus didn't know what they wanted.He wanted to make sure they knew what they wanted.And that is where drawing prayer circles begins: knowing what to circle.
What if Jesus were to ask
you this very same question:What do you want me to do for you?Would you be able to spell out the promises,
miracles, and dreams God has put in your heart?I'm afraid many of us would be dumbfounded.We have no idea what we want God to do for
us.And the great irony, of course, is
that if we can't answer this question, then we're as blind spiritually as these
blind men were physically.
So while God is for us, most
of us have no idea what we want God to do for us.And that's why our prayers aren't just boring
to us; they are uninspiring to God.If
faith is being sure of what we hope for, then being unsure of what we hope for
is the antithesis of faith, isn't it?Well-developed faith results in well-defined prayers, and well-defined
prayers result in a well-lived life.
seek first the kingdom
of God, and His
righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."(Matthew 6:33 NKJV)
the first two or three years after my conversion, I used to ask for specific
things.Now I ask for God.Supposing there is a tree full of fruits --
you will have to go and buy or beg the fruits from the owner of the tree.Every day you would have to go for one or two
fruits.But if you can make the tree
your own property, then all the fruits will be your own.In the same way, if God is your own, then all
things in Heaven and on earth will be your own, because He is your Father and
is everything to you; otherwise you will have to go and ask like a beggar for
certain things.When they are used up,
you will have to ask again.So ask not
for gifts but for the Giver of Gifts: not for life but for the Giver of Life --
then life and the things needed for life will be added unto you.
Think about it. What kind of power
is required to speak a universe into existence? What kind of strength must
someone possess to scatter stars into infinite space? How explosive do you have
to be to ignite the sun or to sustain it's fire? What kind of brute force is
required to stack up mountains twenty thousand feet into the air?
Only one force is able to
accomplish such a feat: God's power.Throughout history, when God's people found themselves facing impossible
odds, they reminded themselves of God's limitless power. Even Job took comfort
by remembering "He stirs up the sea with His power… The thunder of His
power who can understand?
Like… Job, we occasionally need a little reminder
of what God can do, especially if things aren't going our way. In Psalm 115:3,
the psalmist points out that God can do whatever He pleases. That is the
essence of what omnipotence is all about. Omnipotent simply means
"all-powerful." God never has to ask permission. His unrestrained,
indescribable, infinite power and abilities have no parameters.
You have to trust the
author.You have to believe that God has
a good reason for keeping His presence subtle.It allows creatures as small and frail as human beings the capacity for
choice that we would never have in the obvious presence of infinite power.People driving behind a police car don't
speed -- not always because their hearts are right, but because they don't want
to get pulled over.
God wants to be known, but
not in a way that overwhelms us, that takes away the possibility of love freely
chosen. "God is like a person who clears his throat while hiding and so
gives himself away," said Meister Eckhart.
You never know where He'll
turn up, or whom He'll speak through, or what unlikely scenario He'll use for
His purpose.After the resurrection,
Mary Magdalene was looking right at Jesus but thought He was the landscaping
God is often present, the
Bible says, but apparently He often shows up in unexpected ways.He travels incognito.He is the master of disguise.
A great deal of the joy of life consists in doing perfectly, or at least to the
best of one's ability, everything which [one] attempts to do. There is a sense
of satisfaction, a pride in surveying such a work -- a work which is rounded,
full, exact, complete in all its parts -- which the superficial [person], who
leaves work in a… half-finished condition, can never know. It is this
conscientious completeness which turns work into art. The smallest thing, well
done, becomes artistic.
For years my “bucket list”
included enrolling in the Master Gardener program supported by PurdueUniversity
in my home state of Indiana.
Not until I paid my registration fee, bought the necessary tools, and attended
my first meeting did I learn the depth of the curriculum.
This serious business
involved much more than trading tips on where to plant perennials or how to
eradicate beetles. To earn my “badge” as a Master Gardener, I would have to
study the contents of a thick 3-ring binder, agree to apply my new knowledge
not just to my own backyard but also to a public green space, and abide by the
group’s mission statement. The wording of the latter surprised me. The
statement didn’t ask me to help others grow plants; instead, it asked me to
“help others grow.” …
As followers of Christ we
study God’s Word and apply it in our everyday lives. But our responsibility
doesn’t stop there. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we assume an obligation to
pass our faith on to others. We accept as our mission the charge “to help
critical issue of ownership undergirds our theology of giving and stewardship.
To whom do the material goods and wealth we enjoy ultimately belong? I'm not
talking about the legal right of ownership, but rather the faith-perspective --
stewardship -- that's rooted in thousands of years of Judeo-Christian theology
we either consider the material things in our life -- our money, house,
property -- as owned by God and belonging to God, and we manage them for God's
purposes, or we view them as owned by us. If they are owned by God, then our
tithes and offerings represent our returning to God what belongs to God
already. What we keep also belongs to God, and we feel obligated to spend it
wisely and not frivolously, and to invest it in ways that do not dishonor God's
purposes. We try not to waste money or to live more lavishly than we should. We
spend responsibly, allowing our relationship with God to form our minds. We
manage God's resources as faithfully as we can.
-- Robert Schnase in Five
Practices of Fruitful Living
of our conflicts and difficulties come from trying to deal with the spiritual
and practical aspects of our life separately instead of realizing them as parts
of one whole.If our practical life is
centered on our own interests, cluttered up by possessions, distracted by
ambitions, passions, wants and worries, beset by a sense of our own rights and
importance, or anxieties for our own future, or longings for our own success,
we need not expect that our spiritual life will be a contrast to all this.The soul's house is not built on such a
convenient plan; there are few soundproof partitions in it.Only when the conviction -- not merely the
idea -- that the demand of the Spirit, however inconvenient, rules the whole of
it, will those objectionable noises die down which have a way of penetrating
into the nicely furnished little oratory and drowning all the quieter voices by
let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold
your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God
for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of true
maturity." (Romans 12:2 Phillips)
we consider the lives of Christians in their churches, we so often find that
they make good sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, employers,
and employees -- they have many individual virtues; but they have no way of life
other than that which has been imposed upon them by their environment.It is their sociological conditions, their
social class, their neighborhood, their national characteristics, rather than
their Christian faith, which determine their outlook and values: they are an
overwhelming demonstration that it is the economic conditions and background of
one's life which determine what one is and what one will think.This is an intolerable condition, and so long
as it persists we shall not be able to make any impact on the world, because it
will be abundantly clear that it is the world which is making its impact upon
Douglas Rhymes in The Place of the Laity in the Parish
than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces
endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and
hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5 RSV)
of the ambiguous gifts of our suffering (and they are ambiguous: they are
gifts, and we would never have chosen them) is that it enlarges our
perspective.Petty complaints we had
seem unimportant. People with whom we thought we had nothing in common become
special friends.Vocational prowess
drops down on the list of our life's priorities; relationships are what matter.
the same time that we feel more profoundly and gratefully connected to friends
and family, we have a sense that all of us dwell in mystery, that we are
connected to earth and sky, to the rhythms of the universe, to the whole range
of living things in ways we do not understand.
I can relinquish my "white knuckle" grip on life, and trust that all
will be well.
earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in
it." (Psalm 24:1)
word, stewardship, simply means to manage someone else's property. For the
Christian, as Scripture proclaims everything belongs to God, we manage the
property of our Lord. Since everything belongs to Christ, we need to have the
attitude and view that our things are His things, our stuff is His stuff, that
all we could have now, all we have lost, all we will have, is His, including
our very bodies and spiritual gifts. We are mere lessees of the property,
money, relationships, talents, time, and even our lives. That means all that we
are and all that we have are not really ours to begin with. They belong to God.
So, the duty of the Christian is to learn how to become responsible stewards of
our Lord's resources entrusted into our care. It means to manage everything to
the best of our abilities for His glory.
-- from the Francis
Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership
heard a question thrown at a man I greatly respect.R.C. Sproul, a philosopher and theologian,
was asked, "What, in your opinion, is the greatest spiritual need in the
Sproul paused, then replied, "The greatest need in people's lives today is
to discover the true identity of God."He pointed out that most nonreligious people do not really understand
the God they're rejecting.If they did,
they would probably call a truce -- at least a temporary truce -- to make sure the
battle was worth continuing.
then asked the theologian a follow-up question: "What, in your opinion, is
the greatest spiritual need in the lives of church people?"
my delight Sproul shot back the very same answer: "To discover the true
identity of God.If believers really understood
the character and the personality and the nature of God, it would revolutionize
old man showed up at the back door of the house we were renting. Opening the door a few cautious inches, we saw
his eyes were glassy and his furrowed face glistened with silver stubble.He clutched a wicker basket holding a few
unappealing vegetables.He bid us good
morning, and offered his produce for sale.We were uneasy enough that we made a quick purchase to alleviate both
our pity and our fear.
our chagrin, he returned the next week, introducing himself as Mr. Roth, the
man who lived in the shack down the road.As our fears subsided, we got close enough to realize it wasn't alcohol
but cataracts that marbleized his eyes.On subsequent visits, he would shuffle in, wearing two mismatched right
shoes, and pull out a harmonica.With glazed
eyes set on a future glory, he'd puff out old gospel tunes between conversations
about vegetables and religion.
one visit, he exclaimed, "The Lord is so good!I came out of my shack this morning and found
a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch."
wonderful, Mr. Roth!" we said."We're happy for you."
know what's even more wonderful?" he asked."Just yesterday I met some people that
could use them."
Lift up your heart to Him, sometimes even at your
meals, and when you are in company; the least little remembrance will always be
acceptable to Him.You need not cry very
loud; He is nearer to us than we are aware of.
-- Brother Lawrence (c.1605-1691) in The Practice
of the Presence of God
Apostle] Paul was well aware of life's vulnerabilities.He spoke about a "thorn in the
flesh," which he had "urged the Lord three times to take it away from
me." (2 Cor. 12:8, author's translation)… Paul did not get the answer he
wanted, but he received one that supplied the axle around which his theology
would turn: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in
weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9)…
power, love power, works in any human vulnerability.That perspective is one that many in our age
and culture have difficulty understanding.We know a lot about power.Some
say that our culture is obsessed with power.We want more power to run bigger electric generators so that we can have
more comforts and conveniences or more power to put up bigger payloads into
space to terrify our enemies so they will not dare to threaten us.But our power logic, Paul would point out, is
not God's power logic.Our power logic
runs, "The weak are weak.The
strong are strong.In weakness is
weakness.In strength is strength."
power logic runs, "In your human weakness you may find My
E. Glenn Hinson in Spiritual Preparation for Christian Leadership
Giving characterizes God’s
creation. From the first page of Scripture, He is presented as a philanthropic
creator. He produces in pluralities: stars, plants, birds, and animals. Every
gift arrives in bulk, multiples, and medleys. God begets Adam and Eve in a
“liturgy of abundance” and tells them to follow suit: “be fruitful and multiply”
Scrooge didn’t create the
world; God did.
Psalm 104 celebrates this
lavish creation with twenty-three verses of itemized blessings: the heavens and
the earth, the waters and streams and trees and birds and goats and wine and
oil and bread and people and lions. God is the source of “innumerable teeming
things, living things both small and great… These all wait for You, that You
may give them their food in due season” (vv. 25,27).
And He does. God is the
great giver. The great provider. The fount of every blessing. Absolutely
generous and utterly dependable. The resounding and recurring message of
Scripture is clear: God owns it all. God shares it all. Trust Him!
-- Max Lucado in Fearless: Imagine Your Life
Many Christians can name one
or two people who were critical to their entry into the faith community.Perhaps a pastor, a relative, a neighbor, or
a coworker offered the first invitation, provided encouragement, or welcomed
them.Even in larger congregations, an
unusually high proportion of newcomers have been influenced by a small handful
of people.These "doorway people"
have a natural way of gently helping people along on the critical first steps
toward faith.Who are the "doorway
people" for your own faith journey?For whom are you a doorway person?
-- Robert Schnase in Five Practices of Fruitful
Words are important.Without them our actions lose meaning.And without meaning we cannot live.Words can offer perspective, insight, understanding, and vision.Words can bring consolation, comfort,
encouragement and hope.Words can take
away fear, isolation, shame, and guilt.Words can reconcile, unite, forgive, and heal.Words can bring peace and joy, inner freedom
and deep gratitude.Words, in short, can
carry love on their wings.A word of
love can be the greatest act of love.That is because when our words become flesh in our own lives and the
lives of others, we can change the world.
is the word made flesh. (John 1:14)In Him
speaking and acting were one.
it ever strike you what a wonderful thing it is for the Lord to give a new
heart and a right spirit to [you]? You have seen a lobster, perhaps, which has
fought with another lobster, and lost one of its claws, and a new claw has
grown. That is a remarkable thing; but it is a much more astounding fact that a
man should have a new heart given to him. This, indeed, is a miracle beyond the
powers of nature. There is a tree. If you cut off one of its limbs, another one
may grow in its place; but can you change the tree; can you sweeten sour sap;
can you make the thorn bear figs? You can graft something better into it and
that is the analogy which nature gives us of the work of grace; but absolutely
to change the vital sap of the tree would be a miracle indeed. Such a prodigy
and mystery of power God works in all who believe in Jesus.