Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Did you ever see something that just infuriates you? Yeah, antisocial media has expanded that exponentially. There was one picture in particular of a guy holding a sign that said “If Jesus comes back, kill Him again.” I almost lost it. The audacity from this guy who probably thinks he is among the most tolerant people on the planet… I was losing it. I wanted to drop the hammer. I wanted to tear into this guy and shred him, verbally at least and then I had a weird thought. Jesus would show this guy grace. You know He would. He died for this guy, which probably takes dropping the hammer off the table.

I’d like to tell you, I instantly calmed down at the thought, but that would add lying to my list of sins. I realized I was being like Jonah. You remember him? Swallowed by fish for running away from God. Do you remember why he ran? Yeah he didn’t want preach to the Ninevites, because he knew God would forgive them and show grace, and he didn’t think they deserved grace. Here’s the thing. They didn’t deserve it and the guy in the photo, he doesn’t deserve it either, but here’s the rub… neither do I. See grace is always undeserved, otherwise it wouldn’t be grace. We who have received grace, must show grace regardless of anything else.

Think about it. The future is not bright for people who hate Jesus. We need to let that help us lead with love. We need to pray for the people who hate us and our Lord and by the way, we need to make sure that if they hate us, it’s not because we’re being jerks. 1 Peter 2:12 tells us Christians how we should live. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. This world is tough and there are a lot of things that are just plain not fair. None of that matters. We are still called to love. Instead of wanting to drop the hammer, we need to let the hammer fall from our hands and remember how the hammer fell on the head of a spike over and over again, driving those spikes through the hands and feet of our Lord.

On that day, the hammer was dropped far too many times. Drop the hammer and take up the cross.

This week I am teaching at a Christian Writer’s Conference. I am excited and just a little intimidated. There are people here from all skill levels and some of them are much more accomplished that I am. My goal is to help everyone in the room to gain something that they can take home and use. Even more I want to spur the folks who invest their valuable time in me on to love and good deeds. As I am thinking of this, a thought has just occurred to me—I want them all to surpass me and if they do, I will have really done my job.

I have some concerns. Foremost of which is I tend to write very conversationally. As a result, I may not be the “cleanest” (grammatically) or most technically proficient writer. Secondly, do I have anything to offer that the conferees don’t already know? I’m teaching on creative block and a second session that relates to sharing our work with the world. A wealth of thoughts run through my head and not all of them are encouraging. What should I do? I think I have found my answer and it’s in the first session I will teach.

I have a list of forty five ways to overcome creative block. I know I won’t be able to hit them all but I wanted to be prepared for any contingency. They’re all tried and true and have all worked in my life. I already know the first one is so painfully obvious that I will have to explain quickly before they think they signed up for the wrong class. I almost took it out, but I realized it’s the second most important one in my creative life and it’s started more posts on this blog than any other. Well… except for the second one, which is also fairly obvious, but I have often failed to do it and have paid the price on many occasions. The first idea kind of needed to be first, but idea number two is in every other way number one. Number two is prayer and it is the most important step in the creative process. If you want to succeed in your mission to glorify God in your creative pursuits, the first step should be to ask God what will bring Him glory. He knows that better than anyone and He will never steer you wrong.

There is one other thing to be considered. All those intimidating thoughts should be washed away with one single thought Did I pray? I did and because of that I can trust that God will do what He wants to do through me (and in me) for these sessions. God’s been faithful, now it’s my turn.

I believe He will bring honor and glory to His name in the way that He sees fit and I trust Him. If you’re going to succeed in any creative pursuit, the first step is to pray.

Forgive me this morning, but I have to put my pastor hat on. One thing you may or may not know about me is I am not a huge fan of church signs. You know the ones that have those plastic letters that people usually use to make sometimes pithy, but more often corny, sayings designed to make people think. Often, instead, they make me cringe. The exception to this rule is my church, where Lucy Cascioli puts up some really thought provoking stuff.

Today, I was driving past a church and they had sign up that said, “When it gets to hard to stand, kneel.” As church signs go, it wasn’t horrible. It’s almost like a tweet, you only have so many characters to get your point across. I thought, “Yeah,that’s a pretty good sentiment,” but something was bothering me. I couldn’t put my finger on it right away, but it didn’t take long. The problem with the message is huge and crucial in the body of Christ. It represents a major flaw in our thinking that could have been completely corrected with the change of one word. Instead of “When it gets to hard to stand, kneel.” it should say, “Before it gets to hard to stand, kneel.”

Here’s the truth. We can’t afford to make prayer the last resort. When we’ve tried everything else, when we can’t stand up under the weight of the problem anymore, then and only then do we pray. Ridiculous. We have 24/7/365 contact with the Creator of the universe. There are no brownie points in the Kingdom for not bugging God until the problem is so massive you can’t do any more. I’m not God, but as a pastor, I hate it when people don’t come to me for help until the problem is so big and out of control that it takes months or years to fix. Sometimes they even wait until it’s virtually irreparable. What happened? They waited until they couldn’t stand anymore to get help and by then the problem was huge.

What if instead, we went to God first? What if we prayed at the first sign of trouble or even before there is any trouble? What if we sought God on all of our decisions? I think this would radically change our lives.

The time to pray is always. “Pray without ceasing,” remember? Don’t wait until you can’s stand anymore.

I was listening to this song the other day. Styx was among my first favorite bands. This piece was from the later part of their career (which is still going). As I listened to it, I realize it’s a prayer. I don’t know if they saw it that way, but it is. Admittedly it’s a prayer from someone who is struggling with faith, and uncertain, but I’m also honest enough to admit, I’ve been there. And I will also admit as I do more and more leadership, I become increasingly aware of how many parts of my own prayers, start out with “Show me the way…”

The song brought me to a couple of questions.
How many people do I know who are feeling this way? They want to believe but they’re not quite there. How can you show them the way? How could you point the to the one who said I am the Way? and finally, if you would be as vulnerable in your art as Styx was, who would be helped and blessed and would God be glorified?

Something that has been increasingly on my heart is sometimes I think we in the church are a little too concerned with showing people how strong we are, when maybe we need to show them the one who holds us in our weakness.

Maybe we all need to ask God to show us the way.

I can’t tell you how many times I have fallen into this trap. I have deadlines. Things that need to be done. Places I need to be. It’s easy to push prayer to the sidelines and push through. This is the height of foolishness. It’s as if to say, “I know all the power of the universe is available to me, but I’d rather just try to move this mountain of work in my own strength.” Don’t fall for it.

In my morning reading this morning I came upon a quote from Henri Nouwen in which he expounds on Mark 1:35. Here’s what he has to say:

“In the morning, long before dawn, he (Jesus) got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.” In the middle of sentences loaded with action—healing suffering people, casting out devils, responding to impatient disciples, traveling from town to town and preaching from synagogue to synagogue we find these quiet words: ‘In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.’ In the center of breathless activities we hear a restful breathing. Surrounded by hours of moving, we find a moment of quiet stillness. In the heart of much involvement there are quiet words of withdrawal. In the midst of action there is contemplation. And after much togetherness there is solitude. The more I read this nearly silent sentence locked in between the loud words of action, the more I have the sense that the secret of Jesus’ ministry is hidden in that lonely place where He went to pray, early in the morning, long before dawn.

In the lonely place, Jesus finds the courage to follow God’s will and not His own; to speak God’s words and not his own; to do God’s work and not his own. He reminds us constantly: ‘I can do nothing by myself… my aim is to do not my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.’ (John 5:30). And again, ‘The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself: It is the Father living in me who is doing this work’ (John 14:10). It is in the lonely place, where Jesus enters into intimacy with the Father,that His ministry is born.’

Busy creative, today is the day to make a decision. Will you plug into the source of your power or will you go it alone, working in your own power? I suggest that if you’re too busy to pray, you might just be way too busy. Only you can assess that for yourself, but this much I can say, connecting to the source of your power is the only way you will successfully power through that pile of work that lies before you. Connect withHim and let Him help you to do what must be done.

You’re not too busy to pray.

Well I prepared quite a few graphics for my worship service today and left them at home on my flash drive. The message today was called If My People… It was about all the areas in our world for which we should be in prayer and a call to prayer in each of these areas. Each of these was an illustration of a prayer area. First we used this video…

One of the first things we need to deal with is prayer is the first thing we should do, not a last resort.
allwe can do is praysm
Prayers for Our Nation/Leaders
Prayers for our Families
Prayers for the Culture
prince of the powersm
Prayers for Our Region/Community
Prayers for our Schools
Prayers for Health
Prayers for Our World
prayer for the worldsm
Prayers for the Church
Prayers for Redemption/Protection

swimmingpondI was speaking at a wonderful Christian Camp over the weekend. The schedule was a little unusual for me. Rather than speaking morning and evening, I spoke in the morning and the middle of the afternoon. I’m not complaining. It was really great. It left me free in the late afternoon and evening to do a little exploring, and a lot of socializing with the folks I was speaking to. In the late afternoon, I mentioned to the camp director that I was going to take a little walk to the swimming pond. She responded jokingly, “Don’t get lost.” Well, never being one to respond well to authority (lol) that’s exactly what I did. I got lost.

Now I wasn’t massively lost, I just grabbed the wrong trail back to my lodging. The new trail was a little longer, but much better marked and easier to find, which played well into the rest of the story.

You see, the last few weeks have been a whirlwind of busyness. I’ve been so busy that my thoughts and especially my prayers have been pretty easily side tracked, which is never a good thing. I awoke the morning after having been momentarily lost, well before sun rise. Part of me wanted to roll over and go back to sleep, but I was being nudged. Next thing I know I found myself walking down the longer but better marked trail in the dark. Before long I was on a bench by the swimming pond looking at an amazing starlit and moonlit sky, sitting, listening to the sounds of nature and having a conversation and a time of praise with my heavenly Father watching for the Sunrise. In the silence of that early morning, I got a chance to rest in His presence and reconnect in a meaningful way with the source of my strength.

Sometimes it pays to get lost.

I find myself at a point of major transition. The way I have supported myself for over a decade is about to change dramatically. I’ll be the first one to admit, my faith is being tested and my calling, questioned. First, let me state that I have no doubt I am called to be a minister of the Gospel. I also have no question that I am called to help the Church of Jesus Christ to embrace creativity and empower the people to use their creative gifts to serve the Lord, both in the Church and in the marketplace. I do not waver on either of these things. The question is in how does that manifest?

Should I attempt to do this while pastoring a local church while continuing to minister in other churches as the schedule allows? Should I press harder into being an itinerant minister, doing AMOKArts full time? Is the answer somewhere in the middle, or something completely different? I don’t know and not knowing can be tough. What do you do when you find yourself knowing God can and living with the uncertainty of what He will do?

The thing I know is to trust. Even though I don’t know what He will do or the direction He will take, what I do know is He is good and He has me in His hand. Secondly, while I don’t know the whole journey, I can see enough to take the next step and try to be faithful with every opportunity.

The big struggle for me rests in what to do. I desperately want to stay in the center of God’s will and not make a reactive move that sets me back in the journey. I want to keep moving forward in faith. My prayer is that God will open the right doors and that I will walk through them in faith. I also pray He will close, lock and bar the wrong ones (because I can be bullheaded). In those moments when faith is weak, I want to press in and draw close to Him, not do what I instinctively tend to do, which is try to take control of the situation. I don’t want to be that double minded guy tossed back and forth by the waves, but my confession is that guy is closer than I’d like to admit sometimes.

I know I can’t be the only one who experiences life like this. I’d appreciate your prayers and know that you are in mine.

I could use your help. I talk a lot about faith, about overcoming fear of failure and on and on. I mean every word of it but now it is being tested. In a few months, there will be a major shift in my life and ministry. I can’t really go into details yet, but my prayer is that I have my sign and the timing is right. The truth is I’m excited and scared at the same time. I’m all about practicing what you preach, and it’s my turn to look fear in the face and do it anyway. I determined to do what it takes, and follow God one step at a time. I don’t know most of what will happen, I just know the one who does. I’m taking it on faith…

But no man is an island as the saying goes. So I will confess it. I could use your help. What do I need? Largely three things.
1. Prayer. Please remember me in your prayers. My dream, my vision and my calling is to do three things. a. Use my gifts to introduce people to Jesus. b. Help the Church of Jesus Christ to become more creative. and c. Help people in the church to find and use their gifts to the glory of God.
2. People to be on my prayer team. I want to assemble a formal team who will receive a regular email newsletter, keep me in their prayers and help me with accountability.
3. Bookings. For this to work. I need to create more presentations and get them out there to a wider audience. This is more than just financial though finances are important at this stage of the game. Beyond that, my prayer is that in every church there is at least one person who needs to hear the message who will take it to heart and roll forward in their gifting. That’s important to me because it’s what happened to me. someone showed me I could use my gift to serve the Lord.

It’s what happened to me. Contact me if you want to help in anyway.

So here’s what happened. A new friend of mine contacted me. He saw the animation work I did for our recent district conference. He was wondering what program I used to do it and if the program would be easy enough to use, because he wanted to make a clip for his upcoming message. Well the truth is, my animations are done using a combination of hand drawing, Photoshop, and iMovie HD. I’m sure there is an easier way of doing this, but it’s a process I developed by trial and error, so probably not the easiest thing for someone else to do. My friend is a good guy, his project seemed simple enough to be done in a few hours, so I offered to give it a try and when he sent me the script, I knew I had to give it a try.

The message behind this video is on prayer but it’s more than that. This is the kind of prayer we pray when God feels silent and faith feels weak. If Christians are honest, I think most of us will admit there are times when this happens to us all. I know it has for me. Here’s what we have to remember, trouble in this world is a promise of Jesus (John 16:33) and when trouble comes it is not an indication of God’s failure, His loss of love for us or  or anything else. It’s a condition of life in a fallen, broken world. God never promised us a trouble free life, instead He promises never to leave nor forsake us. My prayer is this short simple clip is a blessing to my friend’s congregation and also that it will be used to remind someone who reads this post and watched the clip that you are not alone. All of us experience trouble, and through that trouble, we can know, God is with us.