Power of Prayer

This Thursday, May 2, is the National Day of Prayer in the United States.  Greg Laurie is the Honorary Chairman this year, and in his prayer he says:

“Scripture tells us that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Lord, in Your mercy, we ask that You would exalt our country again. We have had a number of great awakenings in America. We have experienced times of refreshing, and revivals that changed not only the spiritual but also the moral landscape. As the psalmist said, “Will You not revive us again, so that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:6)”

Greg Laurie has pointed out several important truths in this prayer.  First, we need to recognize our sins.  Second, recognize that we need God in our lives. Third, we need to turn back to living for God.  Finally, we need both spiritual and physical revival and refreshing in our country.

This isn’t something any of us can do alone.  We all need to work together, both in spirit and physically to make change in our world.  It won’t be easy but together, with lots of prayer and patience, we can make a difference.  Will you be joining a group around the flagpole for National Day of Prayer?  I invite you to share what you’ll be praying for this Thursday in the comments below so we can all join together in prayer.

Lies and Truth

This past week in the USA we’ve experienced two events that have challenged us as people and have reminded us that you never know what a day will bring.  If you were affected by the bombings in Boston or explosion in Texas, I know tons of people around the world have been praying for and with you.  With the situation in Boston, while it’s still too early to say, it seems as though these individuals were living a lie for months, if not years, up to the time they decided to act.  The people who knew them now have to wrestle with the reality that they were deceived.

So what does that mean for the rest of us?  Events like these are reminders that any day could be our last and that we should live each day to the fullest.  It also is a reminder of why honesty is a good policy, at least 95% of the time.

“Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.”
Dennis Prager

“Honesty and integrity are absolutely essential for success in life – all areas of life. The really good news is that anyone can develop both honesty and integrity.”
Zig Ziglar

The past is exactly that, the past.  The only thing we can do about the past is make changes going forward.  Maybe these events have been a wake-up call for you.  If so, know that it’s 100% possible to make those changes in your life that you know need to happen.  Today, start making those changes, but first tell someone you love them.  You may not have tomorrow, so make sure you do it today.

Delight in Today

As I was thinking about Earth Day today I thought about the world that God has created.  Genesis tells us that God made everything (natural) you see around us before He made you and me.  God made days of preparations getting the world ready for us, those that He created in His image.  How cool is that?!  If God made the world for us, or in preparation for us, what responsibility does that leave us with?

That’s the question that everyone brings up: isn’t it our responsibility to care for the earth?  After all, if there’s no earth, there’s no us.  However, I want to look at it a different way today.

Kahlil Gibran said, “Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play with your hair.”  God created this world and us, but I don’t think He created it, just like He didn’t create us, with responsibility in mind.  God made what pleased Him.  Somewhere along the line, it’s turned from pleasure to problematic.

Sometimes this is the way our relationship with each other, and with God goes.  I wholeheartedly believe that we all need to get back to the pleasure of life.  I know in my relationships when I’m having fun and taking care of them as I should, I enjoy life more, and it’s not as hard to get through the tough stuff, because we have such a great foundation.  If we all enjoyed nature more and enjoyed our relationships with God more, it would be much easier, and more natural, to take care and be responsible.  It might even be fun to recycle or live sustainably.

This week I do hope you get out there and spend time loving and caring for nature, and your relationship with God too.

Money on a Mission

This week began with tax day in the USA, a day that many people each year gripe and complain about with the amount of taxes they pay, and how they feel the country is not using the money wisely.  I know I’m always amazed when a story about bureaucratic fiscal issues show up, and how poorly run something as big as the government can be.  The unfortunate reality is that tons of individuals, families and business are equally poor at managing their money.  Why should we expect that the government, made up of some of those financially challenged people, would do any better?

The first thing we all need to do is pray for wise counsel.  There are lots of lies and twisted truths out there that are hindering our ability to make, save, spend and plan with our money.  If you’re not great with money, I strongly suggest you find a class you can take to learn how to better manage your money.

Second, we need to make smarter decisions with our money, including who we vote for and support.  Our kid’s futures are in our hands, it’s up to us to make sure they have a future to live for.

Finally, we need a new attitude towards money.  Many people are stressed out about money, work, spending and the future.  God doesn’t want us stressed about about it or hate that we have to have and use money.  Our money issues spill over into our relationships and jobs, causing all kinds of stress and problems that don’t need to be there.

If you’re struggling with paying your taxes or with money, you’re not alone.  It’s not easy to hand money over when you don’t think it will be used well.  But God challenges us throughout the Bible to not hate money, but to use it wisely.  He knows that as things currently are we can’t avoid money-it’s a necessity to daily life.  But just like many other areas, He challenges us to be wise with it.

This week I encourage you to do 3 things: 1-sit down and be honest with yourself and loved ones, as appropriate, about your financial status.  2-take a course to learn how to better manage your money and prepare for the future.  3-ask God to help you improve your attitude towards money.

What do you struggle with about money?

Transforming Together

Lately I’ve been considering the process that we go through when we transform, or change, our lives.  It’s described well by the process of alchemy, or the attempted process of changing something into something greater.   Usually when people talk about alchemy, they’re talking about taking rocks or other every-day items and turning them into gold or equally valuable items.  But the basic premise of alchemy is that of you start with something with potential, and through the transformative process you turn it into something great.  The transformation process usually involves chemicals, heat or some other catalyst for changing the item into something else.

We people go through similar changes: when we’re truly transforming our lives and becoming more like Christ, we usually have to go through a period of fire and challenge too.  What scientists knew was that to get something great, usually there has to be something strong enough happening to force the transformation.  People and objects don’t usually willingly change without sufficient encouragement.  Thus we get the stigma that comes with change: it’s painful and should be avoided.

However, the exact opposite is true.  Yes it may be painful, but in the long run 99% of the time it’s worth it.  Jesus didn’t come to earth, wave a magic wand and open the doors to heaven for us.  Instead, he lived among us and then died a painful death on the cross before rising again.  Any scholar could tell you how painful a Crucifixion was, and if you ask any pastor if they think Jesus felt it was worth it, they’ll say yes every time.

Jesus believed, and believes, that you’ve got tons of untapped potential just waiting to be released.  Unlike many of the failed attempts to turn things into gold, you’ve got a 100% guarantee of turning out better than you are now.  It will take some work, lots of faith and probably some painful moments, but in the end it’s all worth it.

What area of your life will you start transforming this week?  Your faith?  Your body?  Your relationships?

Making Room

We all live full lives these days, from working multiple jobs to put food on the table to collecting nice possessions to live with.  Yet many of us feel unfulfilled or restless with our lives.  Maybe we don’t like our job and want something better, or feel stifled by our homes, and tired by our relationships.  Many of us want to improve one area of our lives or another, yet we struggle.  Why is that?

One reason is that we don’t have room for anything new.  Think about it like a closet: if your closet is totally full of shoes and clothes, you don’t have room for more, right?  Like our closets, if our lives are filled with stuff, it’s very hard to try to make other stuff fit.  if you want anything to change, you have to make room for the change to happen.  With lives so full it can be challenging for us to decide what to let go of.

When it comes to letting go of stuff, there are a few ways it will happen.  You may let go of stuff when you’re in the mood.  Like when that desire wells up in you to do spring cleaning in your house from top to bottom and get rid of stuff.  You can also let go of stuff when it breaks, when you move or when it’s too small/big.  Finally, you let go of stuff when it’s time.

Likewise, there are a few ways that letting go of people and relationships (including jobs) happen.  You may quit your job, be fired, grow apart naturally, move to different places, become interested in different things, or have a major falling-out.

When it comes to letting go, the best thing to do is let it happen naturally; which means on a regular basis you should be letting go and bringing in.  This is the cycle of life: things begin and things end.  But we’ve gotten into the habit of holding onto people and stuff long after we should have naturally let them go.

So today I challenge you to consider what in your life you’ve held onto for too long, and take steps to release those things and people.  You can’t move forward in life until you make room for the new joys, journeys, experiences, things and friends.

Conquering Challenges

Some days it seems that around every corner there’s a challenge or obstacle waiting for you.  As people of faith, we’re blessed to have encouragement and support when we face these challenges, but we’re not immune to them.

Even Jesus who was fully divine (and fully human) while on earth experienced challenges, like the temptation in the wilderness, and even death on a cross.  He was yelled at, laughed at and treated as someone a few cards short of a full deck.  It’s not easy, but Hebrews 12:3 encourages us to “Think about Jesus. He patiently endured the angry insults that sinful people were shouting at him. Think about him so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying.”

When we face challenges in our day to day lives, it’s OK to feel frustrated and challenged.  Jesus did too.  But, He didn’t let those things get in His way for too long.  As Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Whatever challenges, trials, obstacles or even opportunities that you’re facing this week, know that you’re not facing them alone.  Jesus is right there, ready to support you in whatever way you need.

New Spring, New Life

It’s finally here, a time of rebirth, new life and new hope!  I love spring and am so thankful it decided to come back again this year.

With the arrival of spring, it’s time to take stock of your life and see what needs to be removed, and what new opportunities are coming your way.  Maybe you’ll find that just a little spring cleaning is necessary this year, since last year you did a big cleanup of your life.  A word of caution though, if you don’t let the changes happen in your life, not only will you hurt, those around you will too.

To get started, sit down and take a good look at all aspects of your life: personal and professional.  Look at what has and hasn’t changed over the past year and also notice areas that you’re dissatisfied with.   Make a list with 3 columns: the good, the unchanged and the bad.  Categorize the friends, family, spending habits, work/job situations and other aspects of your life in the 3 categories.

Take a good look at the categories and where you’ve placed things.  The things in the “unchanged” category are the ones you’ll want to tackle first.  Decide what you would need to do, or what would have to happen, to make that item move to either the good or the bad category and take appropriate action.  Then look at the “bad” list and decide if you’re going to eliminate things from it, and from your life, or what you can do to move them from the bad to the good.

This spring, I encourage you to actually make the changes you know you need to make in your life.  Seek out a coach or friend to help you take the necessary steps to achieve the new life you want.

Joy in the Journey

“It is faith that what happens to me matters to God as well as to me that gives me joy, that promises me that I am eternally the subject of God’s compassion, and that assures me that the compassion was manifested most brilliantly when God came to us in a stable in Bethlehem.”  Madeline L’Engle

According to history and tradition, yesterday the journey to the cross was completed again, Jesus rose from the grave, defeating death and giving believers the hope of heaven.  It’s always a difficult journey to consider, no matter how old you are, or how many years you’ve considered it for.  It’s a journey that began in an unassuming place, a stable in Bethlehem.  It’s a journey taken completely on faith: God’s faith in Jesus, Jesus’ faith in us, our faith in Jesus and God.

It’s a journey that ultimately means we’re not alone in the world.  God cared enough about us to send His own son to die for our sins, to give us the freedom to be saved and have eternal life.   In most religious histories you don’t find the gods actually caring about humans.  They may feel guilty about something or feel generous and sprinkled a couple treasures down to earth, but no one else actually, truly seems to care about humans.

But even bigger, God’s heart is an example of how we should treat others.  Jesus spent His time on earth healing, caring, loving and sharing.  As imperfect humans we’re not likely to always be loving and compassionate, but we can certainly try.

This week, as you reflect on Easter, know that you’re cared for by God, He won’t let you slip away.