Categories
Christian Living

If in Doubt… A Prayer for the Week

He spoke to the Woman: “Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?” Genesis 3:1b

O, the temptress. I hear you in the shadows. You slither into my lonely moments and whisper in my ear.

And yet… despite you. To spite you. Stomping you out! Ignoring your coy tactics! I make a choice. I rest in my choice. I cling to my choice.

I will not allow your sneaky voice of doubt a defining foothold. No whisper, seeking clarity, will recast my mission. I will not be defined by you, I will define you!

Instead:

  • If in doubt… I’ll teach the Bible.
  • If in doubt… I’ll say I don’t know.
  • If in doubt… I’ll take the challenge.
  • If in doubt… I’ll spend time with people my own age.
  • If in doubt… I’ll compliment and encourage instead of criticize or question.
  • If in doubt… I’ll be bold with what God’s laid on my heart.
  • If in doubt… I’ll invest in people instead of projects.
  • If in doubt… I’ll go with less planning, more doing.
  • If in doubt… I’ll say yes to a wild idea.

Yes, these are scary times. And scary times make counter-productive doubts seem reasonable.

I’ve made a choice to stand as a crazy man, convinced that God can use me to change things. Circumstances mean nothing. Opposition is a joke. Logic is often illogical. Realism is veiled fatalism!

While it seems natural to teeter-totter, like Thomas, between faith in what God can do and doubt in what I can barely allow myself to dream about God doing– I reject doubt’s gravitational pull and fling myself forward in faith.

Let doubt not define me today. Instead, allow me to define my life as one who overcomes doubts with  radical, ridiculous, simple, and audacious faith.

Lord, hear my prayer.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Amen. 

Categories
Christian Living

If Prayer is a Verb…

If prayer is a verb…

  • You’ll knock on the door of your enemy to say you’re sorry, even if they wronged you.
  • You’ll nail the interview because you studied up.
  • You’ll check your friend into rehab.
  • You’ll get an A on the test because you got a tutor.
  • You’ll confront your boss about the things he says to you.
  • You’ll wait for your neighbors car to pull in; you’ll walk over and talk to them about Jesus.
  • You’ll go back and find that homeless woman and learn more than just her name.

God can do anything. He’s huge and good and loves it when we seek Him. But sometimes He doesn’t answer prayer because He has already provided an active solution to your prayer request.

Never forget. Prayer is a verb. Prayer isn’t passive, it’s active.

What are you praying with your feet today?

Categories
Church Leadership Culture

St. Patrick’s Day Prayer for the American Church

Green beer, revelry, parades, and dyeing the river green.

These are the things we think about to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

However, when I think of Saint Patrick, I think of one of the greatest missionaries to have ever walked the planet. Born in Wales, trafficked as a teenager and sold into slavery in Ireland. Patrick miraculously escaped six years later, then after a time of preparation felt called back to the island of his captivity as a missionary. During his lifetime, despite early persecutions, he was instrumental to the success of Christianity on the island. By the time of his death he had planted nearly 500 churches.

In honor of Patrick’s service, this is my St. Patrick’s Day Prayer for the American Church:

Loving Father, Creator and Sustainer of our land. You are our Compass, our Standard, our Protector, and sole Provider.

We are lost without you. In our own power we chose to make the Gospel about us. We are so busy being religious that we forget that it’s not only about us, it’s also about the lost.

We are lost without you. We cannot sustain ourselves. We cannot rule ourselves. We cannot protect ourselves. We cannot provide for our people alone. We need you.

Break our hearts, Lord. Help us to order our lives in ways that respect your Word.

We are thankful, God, for Patrick’s ministry in Ireland. You called him from bondage to reach his captors. Instead of resentment you, you filled his heart with love. Instead of a life filled with nightmares from his past, he fulfilled his dreams day by day in the light of day.

Raise up among us a new Patrick in our nation. A person to renew the heart of our nation for you. Millions among us have never heard Your Name nor felt Your presence nor tasted Your Grace.

Prepare a young man or woman set free by your Spirit, who knows no fear, who will escape their present bondage and yet return to reach their captors.

Awaken that person today, Lord. Echo Your calling in their ear. Begin in them an earnest desire to be filled with Your knowledge. Give them wisdom and understanding to penetrate to the marrow of our culture. Help them to cast out of our country far more dangerous realities than snakes.

Give them boundless energy and laser-like focus.

Open our ears, eyes, and heart to this new Patrick. Help us accept this person as Your servant among us.

Refresh us, Lord. Awaken us, Lord. Remind us, Lord. Expand us, Lord.

We need you now more than ever. Save us from modern day druids, from those who make us serfs, and from those who force us to acknowledge their power over Yours.

Amen.

See also:

Categories
youth ministry

UPDATE: Praying for Walt Mueller

Back on August 6th, I asked blog readers to join me in prayer for Walt Mueller. While preparing for a bike ride to raise money for CPYU, he was involved in a nasty spill which left him with a whole myriad of serious injuries.

To the glory of God many of those prayers have been answered!

Thank you for petitioning the Father on Walt’s behalf.

From time to time we’ve exchanged notes or I’ve heard the latest from his longtime friend and my co-worker, Tic. As you’d expect, recovery for such injuries takes a while. Today I asked him how it was going, here was his response.

Overall, feeling and moving better. In fact, if you saw me you might not know that anything happened other than the fact that moving and getting up and down is difficult and sometimes slow due to ongoing soreness and stiffness. I’ve got a couple of bones that are displaced and will remain that way, but that’s ok. They say my body will adapt. Pain is dissipating. Ribs and shoulder are sore. My physical therapist says my shoulder has full mobility. Only thing is, that’s when she moves it, not me. I had to laugh today when she had me laying on a table and handed me a cane with a five pound ankle weight hanging on it. . . and then asked me to bench press it 20 times! 5 pounds! It’s all heading in the right direction though. I’m praying the following: 1) that pain and soreness would all disappear, for good, 2) that my back, which started hurting a week ago, would heal. Again, this is all due to the trauma and changes in my body, that my back is now compensating for, 3) that my ability to sleep would return. Getting comfortable in bed is hard 4) that the damaged nerves would repair themselves and I would regain feeling in the spots that got hammered when I hit the concrete. It’s been 8 weeks today. . . I am grateful to God that I wasn’t hurt worse and that He has made the body to heal in some amazing ways. This time 8 weeks ago I was happy to be alive.

4 ways you can pray for Walt’s continued recovery.

  1. Healing of his body.
  2. Healing of his mind.
  3. Pray for his family.
  4. Pray for CPYU.

Lastly– the whole reason Walt was training was to help raise some money for some big technology needs at his ministry. If you’d like to learn more about how to help CPYU financially, check out this link.

Categories
Church Leadership

Pastors Most Powerful Answer

New pastors quickly learn that ministry life is full of big questions.

Questions that make you feel very small and insignificant. Questions that make God feel massively huge and almost out of reach. Questions that are so loaded and full of pain that they prime tears just to get the words out. Questions that have layers and layers of answers.

Questions in which the answers will define a persons walk with Jesus for years to come.

In those moments it is tempting to rattle off a pat answer. Or the denominations party line. Or what the board would rule as the right answer. Or something you read in a book. Or what you think the person wants to hear. Or a mechanical theological opinion.

My encouragement is that often times, the best first answer is simply… I don’t know.

Why did my dad die?

I don’t know.

Why did God chose me to get this disease?

I don’t know.

Was I born gay?

I don’t know.

Why did God allow my parents to divorce?

I don’t know.

Why can’t I have children and all my friends can?

I don’t know.

Why can’t the Cubs win the World Series or Brett Favre stay retired?

I don’t know.

Why did I lose my job?

I don’t know.

Why does God answer some people’s prayers but not mine?

I don’t know.

The list never ends. It gets longer and deeper every day.

Why say “I don’t know?

I’ve found that when someone comes to me with a big question like that they really do need to know the answer to that question. But my responsibility, and what is ultimately helpful for them, isn’t to give them “my answer.

I’ve found it most helpful in those situations to comfort, console, reaffirm, and point them to Jesus as the author, answer, and hope for those big questions.

With those questions I always point them to Scripture. I always make time to pray with them. I always follow-up later. I always affirm where the Bible is clear on a topic and where it isn’t. I always look in their eyes and say, “I do know this, that God always shows up. He always loves you. His ways aren’t always meant to be known by you.

But my first response is almost always, “I don’t know.”

The temptation

I bring this up because it is incredibly easy to pretend to have all the answers. As if, a seminary degree is permission to have all the answers. It makes you feel powerful. It makes you feel like you know what you are talking about. It feels good when people come to you with big questions.

But the role of a pastor is not to be the Bible Answer Man or to just to give the hard, cold facts. (There is a place for that, for sure. But an initial meeting isn’t it.) More often, our job to point people wandering the desert in their pain, sorrow, and longing to the Grace Giver. To the only answer to life’s hard questions. To remind them that no matter what, Jesus thought they were worth dying for.

Categories
Christian Living

Change my heart, first

I’m a pain in the neck to be around.

When I’m “on” I have the ability to poke holes in everything. I always see things from another point of view. I can find fault in any system, organization, strategy, person, nation… darn near anything.

My personality is a double-edged sword. Sometimes I see things so clearly and I think, “If things are going to change I need to change THAT.” That’s the positive side of my personality. The negative side is that I am slow to look at myself and say, “Before I can point out the speck in that persons eye, I need to deal with the plank in my own.Matthew 7:3

So that’s my prayer. When I am anxious for change I need to pause and ask God, “Change my heart, first.

Categories
youth ministry

4 Prayers for Walt Mueller

Walt Mueller

I’ve got great respect for Walt Mueller. If you are in youth ministry, there is a good chance that you’ve bumped into Walt and his ministry, The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, many times.

Last fall, Walt and his wife Lisa, were great friends to the YS staff as we went through a rough period. Going through a convention season without Tic, the sudden dismissal of Marko, and the unknown of the companies [and our jobs] future… Walt and Lisa’s presence in the quiet areas of the convention meant a ton.

Their comforting words of encouragement spoke volumes of care and cut through the awkwardness I was feeling.

Last week, Walt was in a nasty bike accident. Here’s the story from the CPYU website:

CPYU’s founder and President, Walt Mueller was in a serious bike accident on Friday, July 30th. Please pray for him and his family. He suffered 8 broken ribs, a punctured lung, as well as a fractured collarbone and many bumps, bruises and abrasions. His injuries are not considered life-threatening, but he remains in the hospital and he is experiencing substantial pain. Walt and his family would really appreciate all of your prayers.

I’d like to offer 4 prayers for Walt to our Heavenly Father. Perhaps you would join me in these prayers?

  1. Healing of his body. Walt spent nearly a week in the hospital in considerable pain. Pray for his body to be completely healed of all the broken bones, tissue damage, as well as all the other injuries. Pray that his pain quickly becomes manageable and that he can physically get back to the things he loves soon.
  2. Healing of his mind. No doubt a trauma like this comes with many emotions to work through. During this time of recovery please pray that he’s able to process this experience, seeking Christ through it. (1 Corinthian 8:6 seems to capture this well)
  3. Pray for his family. No doubt, an accident like this causes stress on Lisa and the rest of the family. Please pray for them as they rearrange their lives to help Walt.
  4. Pray for CPYU. Having the boss away for a couple months is a big deal. Pray that the team would be able to continue strongly through this period. May this be a time when emerging leaders flourish.
Categories
Church Leadership Social Action

Steps of Justice

Kristen and I are making friends with Phil and Amy Cunningham of Youth with a Mission.

Lars Rood kept telling me, “You need to meet Phil and Amy, you’ll love them.” Lars even took the first step and set up a dinner where we could all get together. He was right.

It’s not hard making friends with them. In fact, our hearts beat for the same types of stuff in life. Justice, Jesus, adventure, family, and a good taco. The big difference between Phil and myself is that Phil is doing a lot of the stuff I only dream about. In other words, he’s brave while I’m a wuss with a keyboard and a camera.

Steps of Justice

Last month, when Phil was gracious enough to take me to Tijuana for a day, he showed me something he was just about to launch. It was this very visual and powerful 30 day prayer journal he is calling Steps of Justice.

Let me encourage you. If you hear about injustice in the world, whether in San Diego county or your neighborhood or on television in far away places, and you wonder how you can get involved… this is a great little resource. Allow Phil to take you on a journey, show you some of what he’s seen, and allow the Spirit to challenge you along the way.

Here’s the pitch

Phil is giving this thing away. You can go to the site and download a free version right now. He’s a little too nice if you ask me. Phil and Amy are full time missionaries, they have poured their lives into this little resource, at the very least pay $5 to download the high resolution version. Better yet, order some hard copies for $6 for your small group or youth group. It’d be a great encouragement to them.

Categories
haiti

Amidst the Rubble I Found Hope

It’s hard to believe that its been 6 weeks since we witnessed this outpouring of faith. In some ways it seems like I just got back yesterday and in other ways its as if it was several months ago.

When people ask me about my time in Haiti I always try to proclaim this simple truth: It wasn’t what I would have expected. I expected to see mourning and anger towards God. Instead I saw rejoicing and people giving their hearts to God in a way I never thought I would experience.

Two reasons you should go to Haiti:

  1. God is using the church to feed, clothe, and shelter the masses. In the U.S. we aspire to see our churches be a place like in the book of Acts. Well, its happening in exactly that fashion just a few hours south of our border. God doesn’t need you to go so you can feed His people, but He would love it if you would participate in what He is doing.
  2. The Holy Spirit is moving. Its hard  to shape into words what that looks and feels like. While I went to serve with open hands I was shocked to see that God brought me into the midst of a great humanitarian disaster to show me His glory. Amidst the rubble we found hope. Buried beneath the houses and building was the past. And what remained was people left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. At first it disturbed me, “Why aren’t they trying to make a shelter or create something?” Because instantly a nation knew that God is their provider, he is their protector, He is their shelter.

If only I had faith like that. Maybe mountains would move? Maybe relationships would be restored? Maybe God would pour out His Spirit in the same way?

Categories
haiti

Meet Michelle

Praying with Michelle was about the most gut wrenching thing of my life. Please listen to her story and ask yourself… How is God asking me to be involved?