Saturday, October 31, 2015

Overcoming Problems: Compassion - A Caring Heart

Focus passage: Nehemiah 1

The worst sin is not to hate, but to be indifferent to everyone’s pain. 

In small town America, a fire at a neighbor’s home was to topic of discussion for weeks. In the big city, a murder in the next block might not even be noticed.  I do think we find it harder to be compassionate. We touch too many lives to grieve for them all. We hear of so many deaths on the television every night that we become callous. They are people we don’t know and places that we seldom visit. Yet, I know that God calls me to care about the people around me. I need to let my heart be broken by the concerns of others. Nehemiah shows me what compassion is. He shows me a caring heart.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Story: Judges - Downward Spiral

Focus – book of Judges

There are times that we are doomed to repeat failure again and again. You work out, eat better, and lose 25 pounds. Yet, little by little it came back. Now you have to work at it all over again. The same is true with other behaviors like getting up early, stopping smoking, or cutting back on television. It is easy ot commit to something drastic when there is a crisis, but when things start going well, we fall back in the old habits. Doomed to repeat our failures is the theme of the book of Judges. Over this 330 year period, the people fell away from God, were conquered by a neighboring people, and helped by God only to do it all over again. They just couldn’t remain loyal to God.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Prayer Problems: Practice - 4 Relying on God in Prayer

Focus passage: Luke 11:11-13

A child should never have to ask for a roof over their head, for food or clothing or even the chance to go to school. It is what they should know that their parents will give them gladly based on their parent’s character and love for them. The second parable in this text is about God’s character. His children don’t have to beg Him for help. They know that God wants to give His children more than they could ever ask for. They know His love for them and eagerly come to Him for help.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Prayer Problems: Practice - 3 Persistence Pays Off

Focus passage: Luke 11:1-13

When I was a music student, I found some passages had to be practiced over and over. It wasn’t good enough to come close to the music on the page, I needed to get it right. I had to be in sync with the accompanist or those I was singing with. Sometimes, we pray as if we care less what the result is. “Lord, heal John or help Sally. If you don’t, I guess that it is OK.” In the first parable, Jesus shows a man whose persistence pays off. He gets what he wants. Jesus’ point is that we should pray with persistence as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Story - Joshua- Do We Dare?

Focus – book of Joshua

For forty years, the people have followed Moses. Now Moses is gone just as they are ready to enter the Promised Land and claim the promises given to Abraham long ago. The giants are still in the land like they were forty years before. How will they go and claim the opportunity that the Lord has given them? Who will lead them into the Promised Land? Joshua is the story of God building a people so that they can go and do the impossible. He will build up leader and people so that both are ready to claim His promises. He will show them that they will succeed if they follow Him and fail when they try to move forward without Him.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Prayer Problems: Practice - 2 Let It Be Natural

Focus passage: Luke 11:1-13

The hardest part for me of playing the piano is that a good pianist seemingly plays without a lot of effort. When they want to play a “C” chord, their left hand move effortlessly to those notes. When they want to play a scale, the right hand knows exactly what fingering to use. 

They have practiced until playing becomes so natural that they don’t have to consciously think about what their hands are doing. Such a pianist gets there by practice. Prayer becomes more natural as we practice it as well. We want our prayers to just flow out of us and not be labored.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Prayer Problems: Practice - 1 Prayer Is Caught, Not Taught

Focus passage: Luke 11:1-13

I am amazed at how often Jesus can be found praying. There are eight instances that I know of in Luke alone. You would have thought that Jesus didn’t need to pray.

Yet somehow prayer seems essential in His ministry. It is as if He needs the time with the Father if He is to go on. I shouldn’t be surprised. I find that I need prayer. It calms me down helping me with my worries and fears. It brings me confidence so that I try things I might otherwise shy away from. Maybe the disciples saw that in Jesus. Maybe that was the reason that they asked Him to teach them to pray. They saw the connection that He had with the Father and they wanted that for themselves. They never asked Jesus to teach them how to preach or do miracles. They just wanted Him to teach them how to pray.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Story - Exodus Wandering - Follow the Leader

Focus Passage: Numbers and Deuteronomy

The diamondback roller coaster at Kings Island sounded like a great idea. The three high school boys laughed and joked as they waited for a half hour in line. Yet, when the tension bar came down over Ted’s shoulders, he was starting to have second thoughts. The ride started with a jolt and Ted began to wish that he was still in line. Tens of thousands of people rode this ride safely each year. Would he be on the one trip that would miss some turn and dash into the ground? As Israel wanders in the desert, the nation had to follow the Lord to the Promised Land. This story is one about their disbelief and what happens when you and I don’t trust the Lord to lead us, but rather try to tell God what to do.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Prayer Problems: Getting Started With Confidence

If you have not been active in prayer, getting started can seem like a major problem. 

Let’s face it. You are talking to a God that you can’t see and struggle to hear. You often need Him most at the times when you are struggling and your life is about to go down the drain. You throw up a prayer to heaven and wonder if any one heard you.

If that sounds like your prayer experience, take a deep breath and realize that you are not alone. The problem is that prayer is talking to God and most of us are not very good at talking to strangers. Our experience is like talking to a stranger at the Department of Motor Vehicles when you have lost your car title. You don’t know this person at all and you desperately need the stranger’s help. So let’s go through a few things that can help you.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Prayer Problems: Power - 4 Do I Give Up Too Easy?

Focus passage: 1 Kings 18:41-46

I prayed for family night and none of the people I had invited came. I sat by a friend in the hospital who we had been praying about for weeks, but he only seemed to get worse. 

I began to wonder if it was not God’s will that our outreach would have success or that Jack was going to get better. How many times should I pray? How many times do I keep saying the same words toward heaven without getting the results that I so desperately want? Elijah doesn’t let go. He kept on praying even though there had not been a drop of water in three and a half years.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Prayer Problems: Power - 3 Will I Risk Myself?

Focus passage: 1 Kings 18:16-24

I wrestle with putting myself on the line. 

I may pray that someone I know comes to faith. Will I risk our friendship to actually say something about Jesus to them or am I too afraid that they will push me away? Will I stand up for what I believe when people trash God or just pray that the Holy Spirit will change their hearts? Earlier, God had told Elijah to hide himself during the famine. Now it was time to present himself and put his whole life on the line.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Story - 10 Commandments Create a Little Heaven on Earth

Focus Passage Exodus 15-40, Leviticus

 It seems like a picture out of one of those epic movies. A half million ragtag refugees come out of Egypt into the desert. They have no rules and no real leadership as they flee the land that their God has just punished with ten plagues. They have freedom, but they are not a nation. God leads them to the sacred mountain where He will plant three seeds that are needed to build a community. By the time that they get to the Promised Land, they will have the tools that they need to build a lasting society that will become a powerful people. This is the story of the transformation from exodus exiles to one nation under God.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Prayer Problems: Wednesday Discussions

I want to thank those of you who made comments or posed questions on prayer. I would like to focus on a question that Leslie posed. She wrote, “I often wonder if I am praying for the right thing.” That is a great question and it deserves an answer.

There are often times when we pray and nothing happens making us wonder if there is something wrong with our prayer. After all, we think that if the prayer is good, that God will surely give us what we are looking for because God is powerful enough to do everything and is a loving God who wants to help us. Three thoughts help me when I face that question.

Royal Gorge Bridge at Canon, Colorado

This summer, my wife and I visited the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge with some special friends from our seminary days. The bridge hangs almost 1000 feet over the Arkansas River. We were fortunate to be there on a clear day when we could enjoy the bridge, the cable car and all the other sights. If you walk across the bridge, you can see the river below between the wooden slats and feel the bridge gently sway as groups or motorized vehicles pass you by. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Prayer Problems: Power - 2 Do I Believe Enough to Pray?

Focus passage: 1 Kings 17:1-24

I want to pray with faith, but I sometimes find that hard.

The problems of our world seem so big. The pains of those I am called to minister to seem so impossible. I find that I still need to grow in my faith if my prayer is to be very powerful. What is comforting is that Elijah had to grow in his faith before he was ready to change the world with prayer. God helped him grow because you don’t send someone out against 850 false prophets unprepared.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Prayer Problems": Power - Is Prayer Worth Anything?

Focus passage: 1 Kings 18:16-38

I felt humbled and more than a little ashamed when I read this section on Elijah and prayer.
He believed so strong while I sometimes struggle believing God will work miracles with my prayers. It isn’t that I don’t pray. It is just that I don’t think that I have the confidence that Elijah has in prayer. I accept the power that prayer has, but I sometimes don’t act like I really believe it. I want to pray like Elijah. Three things strike me about Elijah’s prayer.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Story - Deliverance Pharaoh, Pharaoh, Oh, Oh, Let My People Go!

Focus Passage: Book of Exodus

We all have them. You know, those tough stretches in life. The car breaks down, the company cuts back on salaries or benefits, someone you love gets sick. You may not be having one of those times, now, but you know you will. What will it take you to cry out to the Lord? How bad does it have to get before you pray about it for five minutes or for an hour? How bad does it have to be before you ask others to really pray about it? Usually it has to be pretty bad and that is a shame. We cause ourselves a lot of pain by not crying out to the Lord. The book of Exodus is the story of a nation crying out and a God who delivered them. God was waiting to help, but it took a long time for them to call.