Category Archives: Faith

Read the red and pray for the power!

red-lettersRead the red and pray for the power.

These were the instructions that Dr. Fuchsia Pickett gave to our class when Jessica and I were in Bible school in the early 90s, and I think they are the perfect marching orders for each of us as we start a New Year together.

Yesterday, Grace Church committed to three New Year resolutions, and I would love for you to join us as well.

  1. We set a human goal. This is an area of our lives that can be changed solely through the efforts of our determined humanity. We don’t need God’s help to accomplish this goal—we simply need some leverage and true resolve.
  2. We set a supernatural goal. This is an area that will require some divine intervention—we will not be able to accomplish this goal unless God gets involved.
  3. In order to position ourselves for our supernatural goals, we committed to a 90-day “Read the red and pray for the power” New Year campaign.

Our “Read the red and pray for the power” campaign includes two elements: we are going to read a 90-day Bible reading schedule called “Read the red stuff” that will take us through all of the written words of Jesus Christ in 90 days, and we are going to engage in focused prayer around three areas. If you aren’t a part of Grace Church, your three prayer targets will differ slightly from these, but here are the items we are praying for at Grace:

  1. We are praying for each others’ supernatural goals.
  2. We are praying for our “becoming”—we want to step more fully into our individual and collective destinies in 2017.
  3. We are praying for resolution regarding a permanent church facility.

Please join us. Let’s work hard and pray hard this year. Let’s live 2017 to the best of our human abilities and then let’s pray for some things that are dependent on an amazing God. My daily prayer book, The Valley of Vision, includes the following prayer: “May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened, that I may honor you by the greatness of my request.” Let’s not focus on trivia this year; let’s ask some great things of a great God.

You can download a copy of the “Read the red stuff” Bible reading schedule here, and join our campaign today.

Happy New Year! Know you are loved.

Important guest post about leadership in our tumultuous political times

Hi everyone!

Earlier this week I was preparing some thoughts for a perspective blog in light of our upcoming presidential election when I saw this article from Stephen Mansfield, addressing the noble, courageous Christian leadership that we need to manifest amid our tumultuous political times.[1] His words were so good that I decided to forego my own and instead share some of his thoughts here. I hope you don’t mind! 🙂

Stephen writes:

This is my last Leading Thoughts (leadership email) before the November 8 election, and so I would like to talk about leading in the era that is about to dawn.

This has been an election like no other in American history. You’ve heard this many times in recent months, I’m sure. Never before have the two leading candidates for president been as disliked and as distrusted by the American people. Never before have Americans been as disillusioned or as disappointed in the nation’s institutions.

We are entering a time in which fear, uncertainty, and despair are going to reign in many an American heart. We will get through this tumultuous season, of course, but only if there are leaders who know how to navigate such times.

We will have to remind people that times have been worse.
There is nothing as terrifying as believing that you live in the worst of times. This certainly isn’t true of our current era and we should remind people of this. When Thomas Jefferson was elected leading pundits predicted the apocalypse. When Lincoln was elected, the nation split in two. When Truman took office, some members of Congress had to be treated for depression. There have been worse times than now. We survived.

Difficult times are often when great advances happen.
We forget that during the Great Depression, ten thousand people became millionaires. We forget that times of hardship are often our most stunning times of creative and cultural advance. This same progress is possible now if we don’t despair and if we hold to the faith that tomorrow can be better than today.

We were born for this.
Since ninety percent of Americans believe in God, then it isn’t too much of a stretch to say that the vast majority of Americans see themselves as destined to live in the times they do. This means that when we face difficult seasons, we must have the attitude, “I was born for this.” Courage comes from this. Reliance on divine help comes from this. Strength to thrive comes from this.

Politics is not everything.
Our founding fathers wanted limited federal government since they believed that the meaningful things of life are what happens in the human heart, the human family, in communities, and in the common things of life. We are experiencing a tumultuous federal election. This is not the same thing as the earth spinning out of its orbit. We’ll get through it. There will be other elections. We’ll be more on guard as a nation for the corruptions and follies of our leaders. Good days are ahead. Hug your kids. Love your spouse. Do your job. Make your community better. Trust God.

That’s it. Lead and lead well. We need you in these gut-wrenching times.

[1] Stephen Mansfield’s work can be accessed at http://www.stephenmansfield.tv. This essay was from Stephen’s weekly Leading Thoughts leadership email.

I will always need you more than ever before

the lord is nearEver since I was quite young, hot tubs have been one of my sanctuaries. It’s kind of weird, but true nonetheless. Tonight, while thinking in the hot tub, I uttered a simple prayer to the Lord, “I need you more than ever before” and then I was immediately struck by the humor in that prayer.

I have ALWAYS needed God more than ever before.

As a drifting, disillusioned young college student, I needed God more than ever before.

As a newlywed husband I realized that I would need Him more than ever before if I was going to be a husband worthy of Jessica.

When my three daughters were born, I was keenly aware that I needed His help more than ever before.

In other seasons of success, failure, victory, and trauma I uttered those same words. And then tonight I prayed it again. I guess I’m just always going to need Him more than ever before.

I think that’s a good thing. King David felt that way. So did Paul. I can relate to a little bit of their stories. I’ve had moments of such exhilaration in the Lord’s presence that I was certain that heaven had come to earth, and I’ve had other moments where I didn’t know if I could go on living. The one constant has been Him. Jesus has been, is, and ever will be faithful.

If you’re on a mountaintop tonight, enjoy it. If you’re crawling through a valley, keep crawling. You’re not alone, and the Lord will meet you there.

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him…” (King David, Psalm 145:18).

Unexplainable but not Unknowable

cosmosThere’s a difference between things that are unexplainable and unknowable.

I can’t explain exactly how love works, but I’ve been deeply in love with Jessica for twenty years now.

I can’t fully explain how a daughter is able to utterly melt a father’s heart; however, all Maddie and Amber have to do to get their way with me is play the daughter/daddy card.

I would fail miserably if someone asked me give a technical explanation for the law of gravity, and yet I could demonstrate it perfectly, simply by standing still.

Some of the most complex things in life are beyond adequate description—they can’t be fully articulated in the human language—they have to be known.

I can’t explain God to you.

I can talk about Him. I can tell you my experiences. I can point to creation and some things that could only have come from His limitless imagination. I can quote Scriptures and preach sermons, but at the end of the day, God must be known.

He isn’t an idea or a hypothesis or the Jedi’s impersonal “Force.” He is a person—He is THE person—and Jesus showed us what He looks like.

The Apostle Paul said, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” (Colossians 2:9)

The Apostle John said, “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made His dwelling among us. And we have seen His glory.” (John 1:14)

The Apostle Peter said, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16)

And what about you? What would you say? I know you can’t explain Him, but who do you know Him to be?

He is waiting to be known, and those who seek Him find Him.

Do prayers for our country really make a difference?

prayingDo our prayers for America (or our home country) really make a difference?

Today, is America’s National Day of Prayer, and, hopefully, millions of Americans will pause throughout the day to offer prayers to God for our great country. Will those prayers mean anything? Will God’s favor, blessing, and protection rest on us because we prayed? Will crime reduce, and will virtue increase on the heels of our best intentioned prayer efforts?

Will anything be different in our nightly news because Americans paused to pray?

OR is prayer an exercise in futility, a cosmic Hail Mary when all other hopes of provision are lost?

Does is really make a difference if people choose to pray?

Jesus certainly thought so.

If anyone could have scrimped on the discipline of prayer, it was Jesus, the uber-empowered Son of God. And yet, the Gospels reveal that Jesus prayed more than anyone else in Scripture, spending entire nights in prayer to God the Father. He also taught His followers to pray, fully expecting them to experience the incredible results of prayer.

  • Prayer changes us so that we can change things.
  • Prayer verbalizes our trust and reliance on God.
  • Prayer acts as a pleasing “incense” that rises before God (Psalm 141:2).
  • Prayer elevates our perspective to a birds-eye view.
  • Prayer connects us to a rhythm of grace that we can’t find anywhere else.
  • Prayer unlocks mysteries and stirs up much-needed wisdom.
  • Prayer shines a light on our deepest motives and ambitions, calling us to better living and a deeper love for humanity.
  • Prayer creates an entry-point for the power of God.

I don’t know if the news headlines will change after today’s prayers, but hopefully we, pray-ers, will change.

I can’t promise you an immediately quantifiable answer if you’ll pray. However, I can emphatically promise you that a praying life will lead to a changed life, and a praying nation will eventually be transformed.

Let’s never quit. Let’s remember Jesus’ words that encourage us to “always pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)

 

You and your insecurities

elvisIf you’re like me, and most adults I know, your insecurities have evolved with you over the years.

When I was a child, I was insecure about being too skinny. My parents and siblings traumatized me by calling me “Hallelujah Bare Bones” after a character in a book (sorry, family, for publicly calling you out on that one :)).

When I was an adolescent, I became insecure about being too introverted. And as a young adult, my insecurities shifted to my ever-vanishing head of hair.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on my given mood, as a fully grown man today, no one ever calls me “Hallelujah Bare Bones,” I don’t mind being an introvert, and I no longer have hair to worry about. My insecurities have all gone away.

Except for that other list of fears and worries that keeps popping up.

As a child, I never worried about money or our global economy. I didn’t know the difference between a “bull” or a “bear” market, and I wasn’t overly afraid of international dictators and their loathing for America. I didn’t feel anxiety about raising children in an unstable world, and I never really imagined that pain, loss, heartache, and grief might be central themes in the story of my life.

I didn’t know how mean or shaky the world could be.

Fortunately, I learned something in my sheltered, idyllic childhood that has sustained me as an adult. I learned it from Elvis Presley.

On one of his religious CDs (actually, I think it was an 8-track tape), Elvis Presley sang these words: “I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future…”

Isn’t that a beautiful thought? And it’s true. The consistent and pervasive message of the Bible is that God can sustain your life no matter what comes your way. Indeed, Jeremiah 29:11 quotes God as saying, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”

This Easter season, let’s lean more closely into the only one who is truly and forever unshakable.

The Year We Make Contact

outer spaceWhen I was twelve years old a movie came out called, “2010: the year we make contact” and I keep finding myself thinking about that title as we approach a New Year.

The year we make contact. I like that!

And I want it to be the theme of my life in this New Year.

I want to come into greater contact with some of God’s purposes for my life. I want to experience greater boldness in witness and ministry. I want to be more thankful and less self-absorbed. I want to contact the Lord’s presence in ways that I’ve never experienced before.

Just like Nathanael did.

Do you remember him from John 1:47 when Jesus first encountered him and shared with him some prophetic insights about the state of Nathanael’s heart? Jesus said, “Here is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit,” and Nathaniel was so undone that he exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!”

Jesus replied by saying, “You will see greater things than that. Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Let’s make it a collective goal to see “greater things” this year. Let’s position ourselves for a year of contact, where we can more fully and freely run in the ways and purposes of God for 2014 and beyond.