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Change

September 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

loose-change

I’ve got a little change in my pocket. Not a lot, mind you. Just a little. Not enough to make a phone call, as if there were any pay phones anymore. I expect the ones that are not completely vandalized or uninstalled probably have forgotten how to work at this point.

Change – it’s like a four-letter word to most people, but with 2 vowels – making six letters total, but it wouldn’t look right if it was “chng.” You’d all be thinking, “ching? What’s ching?”

If you’ve ever grown up, grown hair, grown fingernails or grown a chia pet, you have experienced change in some form or another. It’s constant, necessary, sometimes beneficial, sometimes not so much. But one thing is for sure in life – change is always coming.

Some people like their change in a mason jar on the shelf, where you can pull it out every now and then and snag a few quarters for a coke. Others like change similar to what Loki did to New York in Avengers. If you think about it, there’s really no in-between. It’s either grand and sweeping, or subtle and underplayed. But most of the time there’s pain involved.

Some people like change just for the sake of change. “I’m tired of the way it is, let’s change things up!” These types of leaders irritate me. If it ain’t broke, don’t break it.

Some people like change because of the possibilities it can offer – “This is broken and needs to be fixed,” or, “this could be better if we tweak it here and here.” I like those kinds of leaders.

I have been both in the past.

One church where I was an associate pastor, well, let’s just say I thought it was broken, and the only way to fix it was to totally deconstruct everything. I did not seek approval, did not seek wise counsel, did not even pray about it much. I just outlined a 12 month plan and dove in.

Nobody knew what I was doing except I was really pissing them off. Sorry – that’s what they literally said to me.

I went from 30 in the youth group to 10, back up to 50+ pretty quick, but because my thinking was off, it was never enough – I broke it, fixed it, tweaked it, shined it up and spray painted it and when I stood back to admire my creation, there was just not much good about it. Plus that whole losing the trust and good-will of the people thing.

After that I was gun shy, and vowed not to change anything for 12 months, and it ended up pretty much the same as before. I think next time I will at least pray a bit, and ask for some help.

I think that’s what leaders are doing on a world scale these days. It’s really broken. It’s bad. Nobody has a clue what to do about it and what is being done is breaking it more. And we are at each other’s throats.

Will prayer and wise counsel even work? For our nation? For our world?

I think yes, if we have leaders who are humble, who don’t think they know everything, who know they don’t have all the answers, but are willing to listen to “we the people” and accept that they are “we the people” just like you and me.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 exhorts us to pray for our leaders, so that life can be good for us. Life is not all that bad for me. It is pretty bad for a lot of people though – I wonder if prayer really does change things? I wonder…

We have been in a series on prayer at my church for the last several weeks, and I’ve been reading a book by one of the pastors at my church, Alan Smith, called Unveiled.  Some of the thoughts here are from his book, specifically the breakdown of the Lord’s Prayer.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to deepen their relationship with God.  Almost in spite of myself, everything I’ve heard and learned over the last few weeks has changed the way I think about prayer and my relationship with God.

I think prayer and faith are intertwined – not flip sides of the same coin but maybe one is like the Lincoln Memorial and the other is old Abe himself. They are separate, can stand on their own, but if you go to the memorial, you’ll see both.

Prayer activates faith.  Prayers, as a prerequisite, must be prayed in faith or they don’t produce action.  Prayers without faith are wishes.  Prayer is telling God what he already knows.  Faith is boldly expecting him to answer.

In western civilizations, we are taught, pretty much from birth, that what we can see, or measure or quantify, or explain – that’s what’s real.  In the universe God created – which is both natural and supernatural – whatever he makes real is real.  He owns it all, he created it all out of pure will, and he does what he wants with what’s his.

Our upbringing in a world that seeks answers is often times what keeps us from seeing what is clearly going on all around us.  God is at work in the world, and he wants to share it all with us.  To get what he wants, he first expects a relationship.

Prayer is asking of God what we are unable to accomplish on our own.  And we can do very little of substance on our own. Faith is the substance of unseen things.  Substance.  Something you can lay hold of.  And you can lay hold of a lot through prayer.  But how do we get there?  Jesus told us – he gave us a model.  He taught us how to pray.

Matthew 6:8-13 – Your father knows what you need even before you ask.  So pray anyway, like this –

Our Father who is in heaven – recognizing God for who he is – holy, powerful, righteous – and where he is – in a totally different place – a place where faith produces things of substance.

Hallowed be your name – holy, sacred, revered.  His name is above all names.  The people of the OT were afraid to even say the name of God.  Hallowed.  Taken together, these first two phrases infer that God is a God above all things, and His plans are all about His glory.  And we are a part of his plan.

Your Kingdom come – the word come in Greek is present imperative – it’s a command, a call to action.  We are to pray His spiritual kingdom into the physical world – not just once, but continually.  It is to become a longing for us.  We should yearn for his Kingdom to come from where it is, to where it is not.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven – another command – His will is done in heaven, and we are to pray that it also be so on the earth.

Give us this day our daily bread – provision – bread is physical and spiritual – bread is the most common form of food throughout the earth, and it is a representation of the sustenance God offers us.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors – we both need forgiveness and can grant forgiveness.  The construction of the sentence reminds us that when we forgive, we can then be forgiven.  This is about restoration and healed relationships.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one – freedom and victory – freedom from sin, and victory over death – which Christ bought for us with his death and resurrection.

For yours is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory forever – Telling God that at least some part of us is capable of acknowledging who he is.  We know he created it all, he owns it all, he sustains it all, and he will establish his kingdom on this earth and it will be never ending.

When we pray like that, our father in heaven hears our words, sees our hearts, and our prayers prayed in faith become things of substance – the veil between the natural and supernatural is torn down and we experience all that God has for us.

But none of it will come to pass without prayer.  I said before it begins with a relationship.  We have God’s word – it’s his revelation to us.  But what if we didn’t have it?  Would God still be able to speak to us?  Do you believe that God can speak directly to you?

That’s what prayer is – an open channel of communication between you and your creator.  He’s got the walkie all fired up – he’s just waiting for you to start talking.

I was encouraged a few weeks ago by a pastor from Cairo.  You realize that the muslims getting saved generally don’t go out and buy a bible and start reading it, nor do they attend services at the local corner Baptist church.  Jesus is going directly to them, speaking to them, revealing himself to them, and in turn they pray to him – they communicate with him – and are saved – without ever having seen or read the bible.

God is real, he’s alive, he’s wanting a relationship with you – one that is formed and sustained by prayer!  And when you pray, He brings heaven down to earth, he changes your life, and he changes the lives of those around you.

I never knew what I was missing out on.  I’ve never prayed enough.  I’ve relied on the gifts he has given me and I’ve done it all on my own.  I’m convinced that I’ve been wrong.  I wish I could go back 20 years and do it right, because of all the time I wasted thinking I was so awesome, when in reality I’m nothing with God.

If you don’t pray, start today.  If you don’t pray enough, pray more.  Expect God to move.  Ask him to fill you with his spirit and bring his kingdom to where you are – he’ll do it.  You’re life and the lives of those around you will change forever.

God Answers Prayer

February 22, 2010 — Leave a comment

If I said that we had been going through some financial difficulties lately, well, that would not do the situation justice.  Cheryl was out of work for 3 months – she has a great job now with the City of Fort Worth – and I was off work for over a month when I ruptured my achilles tendon.  So, basically 4 months of not getting paid really messed us up.  We are stuggling to catch up now, and just beginning to pull out of it.

So, when my “check engine” light came on about 2 weeks ago, and my truck started running like I was going over an old Oklahoma dirt road filled with pot holes, I didn’t have anywhere else to go but to God.  We just can’t pay for car repairs right now.

I remember the very thing I said: “God we can’t do this right now.  I need your help with this.  Otherwise I’m just going to drive this truck into a ditch and leave it.”

Fast forward almost exactly 2 weeks.  The old truck was running worse every day.  I had already worked out in my mind what was wrong with it and how much it would cost to repair.  I was praying for that one deal where you pray a bunch and go out to the mailbox and there’s a check for that exact amount.  No matter how much I checked the mailbox during this time, all I got was bills.

One more prayer of desperation – “Lord please fix this.”  I parked the truck on Friday afternoon, and got up to go out on Saturday – it started right up, it sounded great (dual exhaust!) and it drove as good as it ever has!  I was thinking, out loud, “Are you kidding me?  It actually worked!”

Well, yeah, dummy.  God delights in blessing His children.  Even me, even when I am less than faithful, apparently.  I have been such a nucklehead, and I know this, that I don’t deserve his blessings at all, but here I am getting them anyway.  I didn’t ask for much of anything – except for something I had no hope of providing for myself at this time.  And God, being who He is, not only gave me what I needed, but so much more.

I have had so many doubts lately, so many questions, and very little in the way of answers.  If you read the last update, I just about gave up – on God, on me, on everything.  It was such a little thing for God to heal my truck.  He created the whole universe just by speaking, so yeah, he can make my truck run probably without raising so much as a pinky.  I wonder if He even has a pinky…But, in this one small act, it’s almost like all my faith has been restored as well.  I never should have doubted.  I did, and God proved faithful anyway.

So yes – God answers prayer.  It’s pretty much that simple.  I won’t test Him by praying for a brand new Camaro or a winning lottery ticket.  But I’m still praying that He’ll take away our student loans.  They are the epitome of evil.

Thank you Lord for simply taking care of me and my family.  You already give us so much more than we deserve.  Thank you for being patient with me and for loving me inspite of myself.  Thank you for restoring my faith and being everything I ever needed.