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.


Luck is John Doe for God

luckyIn response to challenges that answers to prayer are nothing more than coincidence, Bishop William Temple said, “When I pray coincidences happen, when I don’t they don’t.” I certainly agree with the first half of Temple’s response—coincidences definitely happen more frequently when I pray.

But sometimes they also happen when I don’t pray.

Do you think God ever answers prayers that we don’t even think to pray? Do you think that sometimes our luck or good fortune might actually be GOD pressing closer to us?

Pastor Erwin McManus once said that “Luck is John Doe for God.” I love that. What if luck is God’s attempt to interact with people who don’t even realize that they are being pursued by God? What if luck is actually an interruption from heaven?

Let’s try something. Every time we experience unexpected good fortune, let’s pause to see if God might be behind it. Let’s let lucky coincidences become opportunities to center our focus on God—perhaps He is trying to get our attention in some way.

Maybe the coincidences are indeed just luck. Maybe there isn’t anything sovereign or divine attached to them. But then again maybe there is. Maybe those things are a fulfillment of James 1:17 that tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Morning Dedication (A Puritan prayer to start our day)

prayer-warriorAlmighty God, as I cross the threshold of this day, I commit myself, soul, body, affairs, friends, to your care; watch over, keep, guide, direct, sanctify, bless me.

Incline my heart to your ways; mould me wholly into the image of Jesus, as a potter forms clay; may my lips be a well-tuned harp to sound your praise; let those around me see me living by your Spirit, trampling the world underfoot, unconformed to lying vanities, transformed by a renewed mind, clad in the entire armor of God, shining as a never-dimmed light, showing holiness in all my doings.

Let no evil this day soil my thoughts, words, hands. May I travel miry paths with a life pure from spot or stain.

In needful transactions let my affection be in heaven, and my love soar upwards in flames of fire, my gaze fixed on unseen things, my eyes open to the emptiness, fragility, mockery of earth and its vanities.

May I view all things in the mirror of eternity, waiting for the coming of my Lord, listening for the last trumpet call, hastening unto the new heaven and earth.

Order this day all my communications according to your wisdom, and to the gain of mutual good.

Forbid that I should not be profited or made profitable.

May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one.

If my life should end today, let this be my best day.


The Lord’s Prayer–three times daily

prayingThe Didache (pronounced did-akh-ay’) is a first century document that captured and preserved the central teachings of Jesus Christ’s twelve apostles in clear, succinct form.

Amid its exhortations about faith, fasting, the Eucharist, ethical behaviors, and more, The Didache says this about prayer:

“As the Lord commanded in His Gospel so pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done as in heaven so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debt, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil: for Yours is the power, and the glory, forever.’ Three times a day pray in this fashion.”

The Lord’s Prayer…prayed three times daily.

Wow, I wonder how a morning, noon, and evening recitation of the Lord’s famous prayer might reorient and inform our world?

Let’s try it.

Let’s engage in a one-week experiment, wherein we pray this prayer morning, noon, and night, and then examine the corresponding results. If we really try it and center ourselves on the Lord’s Prayer, I suspect that our one-week test run will yield some powerful results:

  1. We will care more about God’s Kingdom
  2. We will be more submitted to His will
  3. We will more readily behold His provision
  4. Forgiveness will be our native language
  5. And spiritual victory will be our portion

Ultimately, I suspect that our one-week of daily prayer will turn into a praying life.

Are you in? 🙂

A “yes” in disguise

foiled againAren’t you glad God sometimes says “no”?

I don’t mean in the moment that we’re asking for something–when we’re fixated on something we desperately want, we never want Him to tell us “no.”

What I’m talking about are the other times, those times when hindsight or maturity gives us a wiser understanding and we realize that we actually don’t need some of the things we thought we couldn’t live without.

Every good parent understands that sometimes thwarting a child’s wish is the greater mercy, the greater act of love.

They understand that a “no” is sometimes better; it’s a “yes” in disguise.

One of my friends and mentors says it another way. He says that God only has four answers to our prayers:

No, I love you too much.

No, no yet.

Yes, I was waiting for you to ask.

Yes, more than you could ever imagine.

When I review the landscape of my life I can clearly see times when it was His love that told me “no.” I’ve yearned for some things that might have ruined me if God had let me have my way.

His timing is best. His wisdom is never wrong. And even when He’s thwarting us, He’s doing it for our ultimate good.

So stay persistent in your prayers. The process of prevailing in prayer will transform you from the inside out. And when it’s all said and done, you will find that His answer to you was either a “yes” or it was a “yes” in disguise.

How to have a spiritual retreat

spiritual retreatJesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray.” (Luke 5:16)

If Jesus did it shouldn’t we?

If the Lord Himself “often” withdrew for prolonged seasons of connecting with God through prayer then shouldn’t those of us who follow Him make time for spiritual retreats too?

If you’ve ever done it—if you’ve ever carved out an afternoon or a day (or longer) for the sole purpose of focused worship, Bible meditation, and prayer—then you know how healing, centering, and inspiring those times can be.

Focused times of spiritual engagement can restore our perspective, clarify our purpose, and reconnect us with the presence of God.

I want you to experience this. At Grace Church this year, we are going to set a goal to have every member of our congregation experience a personal spiritual retreat.

Here are a few practical pointers to get you started:

  1. Start small and build from there. Don’t start with a week-long silent retreat at a monastery—start with an afternoon at the beach or in the desert, and branch out from there.
  2. Choose a setting that you find peaceful, beautiful, and calming.
  3. Don’t fast. Hunger pangs will distract you from what you’re there to do. Fast on a different day.
  4. Start with worship. As you walk along the beach or a mountain path, sing along with some worship songs on your iPod. Worship restores perspective, heals emotions, and invites a closer sense of the Lord’s presence.
  5. Pray the Scriptures. Pick a few psalms and use them as a road map for a time of focused prayer. Slow, thoughtful prayers through a handful of psalms can easily fill an hour of time.
  6. Pray about everything that’s weighing on you. Make sure everything on your various prayer lists gets off loaded onto God.
  7. Get ready to listen. As you pray, prepare to journal the thoughts, impressions, and insights that come your way.
  8. Don’t read spiritual books—stick with the Bible. Skip the latest spiritual bestseller and instead read multiple Bible passages or an entire book of the Bible, recording your major observations or anything that you sense could be a “word” for you from the Lord.
  9. Don’t be disappointed if nothing dramatic happens. Sometimes a spiritual retreat is a simple discipline without a lot of immediate fruit. However…
  10. Don’t be surprised if God changes your life. Your time away with God could quite possible become a holy moment like when Moses saw a fiery bush, turned aside to see, and was forever and completely changed. (Exodus 3:1-6)

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)