Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

Pray With Intention And Trust

September 1, 2016

It was just a simple movement. Stretching across the driver’s seat to put some stuff on the passenger seat before I left for a business meeting in Cleveland. In that instant, my quadriceps muscle popped. I was on my back in the garage with the greatest pain I’ve ever felt.

Six years ago today. My first ambulance ride. First stay in a hospital since I was born.

You know, the pain was terrible. I remember being in pain. I don’t really remember the pain. Remarkable thing, our memories.

Thus began a series of unconnected events over the ensuing three years where stress affected my heart and I walked away from a couple of good-paying jobs.

An acquaintance told me sometime back there to pray with intention. Pray that God will open doors. Pray that people will come into my life when I or they need it.

And trust in God.

It’s amazing.

When I need some income, a project comes my way. When I was looking for a ministry, one came my way. People come into my life at just the right time.

The key must come from living life with intention. We don’t want to drift from situation to situation at the whim of whatever current swirls by. Choosing our intention is an ultimate freedom. Otherwise we are a slave to others’ suggestions or to our own emotions and desires.

Pray with intention and trust in God.

Why Are We So Offended?

August 18, 2016

Why are we so offended? Constantly, it seems. Do we go out of our way to seek offensive people or  statements?

Many people seem to think that everyone should be just like them. If they aren’t, these people are offended. And they voice it in their little groups. And complain.

Everyone to whom Paul  wrote (actually Peter, John, James, Luke, too) lived in a society where some of the most offensive practices were carried out openly. They wrote to help people live a good life amongst all of that.

I wonder at times whether we are so thin-skinned that any remark sets us off. Are we possessed of so little faith that it can be shaken by a remark? Or an act by someone?

That is why we practice spiritual disciplines. Constantly refreshing our minds with the proper thoughts and centered on God, helps us grow in faith and confidence.

Confidence–there’s a word that Paul frequently uses that is seldom heard. Can we move forward confident of the triumph of Go?

Offended? Maybe by living a life that is so enticing to others, we can show a better way. We turn being offended into an excuse to help someone grow.

That would be cool.


Learn to Speak Up

July 13, 2016

I am such a coward.

I have a certain talent for writing–at least that what people tell me. I appreciate the comments, especially from the ones who pay me to write.

Arguing is emotional. Sometimes emotions can run away from your control. Way over. It’s the way over that’s bad. Been there in my life. Once, a long time ago, I was quite argumentative. But it was always an emotional response. I don’t handle confrontation well. Always regretted it in the end.

I care about two things in the political realm (carries over into personal)–peace and justice. There was once a stream in the Democrat Party that was focused on peace and justice. Now, to me at least, it seems like they all are just out to see what they can get from the government. Different things for different people (whoever they think will vote for them, of course).

But, peace and justice come from within. If there are enough of us, then we’ll begin to see Shalom–that deep peace that we read about in the Bible.

Some of that starts from speaking up. In a forceful, but peaceful, way.

There have been many conversations I’ve witnessed over the past few months where I’ve heard some of the worst racial comments. And violent comments. Comments such as, “Maybe we would be better off to kill all the (name your hated group–gay people, people with different colored skin, people from different cultures).”

So far as I know, all the people would self-identify as Christian. Some were in church–that is a hint.

And, did I speak up as the lone dissenter and ask, “What would Jesus think of the state of your heart this moment?”

Jesus could stare down an angry group with rocks in their hands. And me? I whiffed.

Unfortunately, I’m sure there will be another time at bat.

Just What Are Spiritual Disciplines?

July 12, 2016

Spiritual Disciplines are merely activities that we do to enable us to receive more of Jesus’ life and power. –Howard Baker writing an introduction to Galatians in the “Life With God Bible”

Ever listen to little kids (under 10 or so) organize to play? There’s always at least one who assumes the burden of making up the rules of the game. Sometimes they spend more time discussing the rules than actually playing–or so it seems.

Then again, I know an adult who makes up rules all the time–well, actually, I know many–that include other people. Yet they may not always tell them. Then they are upset or worse if the other person doesn’t keep the rule.

Organizations and even societies make up those rules designed to differentiate outsiders from themselves.

The other day I was sitting in a nice little storefront Middle Eastern restaurant. A gentle and humble woman and her husband owned and ran it. She was so nice to us, if I lived in the town, I’d go back to eat. Oh, she was Muslim–from Palestine. Came over here for a better life. Works hard. Has a good business. Great Turkish coffee.

While sitting in that restaurant, I opened Facebook to check on something for business. But the “news” stream pops up first. The first post was a “photo” of a saying from a politician about how bad all Muslims are and how we need to ship them all back to where they originated. Someone made up one of those “rules.”

The irony was too much. When we stop labeling and start meeting, then we see that people are people. Name your group–Christian, Muslim, police, black man, liberal, conservative. Some are good. Some are filled with hate, anger, evil. Every group includes some of both.

Paul wrote Galatians to teach us how to live beyond rules. “Live for God,” he said. “The law (rules) was our disciplinarian until Christ came,” he added.

Spiritual disciplines pursued with an open, loving heart, bring us closer to Jesus and to the ability to live a life focused on God. We don’t need to focus on others and how we’re better than them. We only focus on God. Open our hearts to God. Then when we leave our prayer room or chair and live with others in a way pleasing to God.

Disciplines? Study–not to reinforce prejudices but to learn something new about God daily; prayer–to focus our minds on God; worship–for the joy of singing and praise; service–to be like Jesus was during his  ministry physically on earth.

Living Faithfully Amidst Secular Neighbors

June 28, 2016

I’m writing this on a plane heading toward “sin city”. A technical conference awaits me. Not the slots, the shows, the girls. I was pretty much a boring geek in high school, and I remain so.

On the other hand, Paul wrote letters to early Jesus-followers who lived in cities just like that (without the lights).

You see, those early Christians knew very well that they were living amidst a secular society. Paul urged them to live so differently that people would be attracted to their way of life. And in so doing, they could attract more disciples of Jesus. Just what we are supposed to be doing.

I have recently become a fan of John Fischer and his daily email The Catch. Yesterday he wrote:

In an article this weekend in The New York Times called “The Bad Faith of the White Working Class,” author J.D. Vance pointed out that the politi cization of the church has led to widespread thinking that the main enemies of our faith are external. The bad guys are all out there – the secularists, the “evil elites,” the Muslims, etc. And while preachers preach against all the evil out there, Christians on the inside are pulling further and further away from the world and more into isolationism and finger-pointing. This isolation and fear of encroachment from the outside and tendency to project complex problems onto simple villains is fueling both the current political campaigns here in America and the decision in Britain to leave the European Union. It is a widespread fear that has gripped the white working class in the Western World that the world as we know it is changing.

This  is true, but pulling in and building walls is not going to stop it. Actually, nothing is going to stop it, and as believers, we need to be better equipped to handle these cultural changes with grace and love. That’s why, here at the Catch, we emphasize the Gospel of Welcome and grace turned outward. God’s arms are open to everyone without discrimination, and the grace we have received, we are eager to extend out toward everyone, everywhere.

So many rural people that I know and associate with think that cities are (or should be) just like the little towns they grew up in. Everyone went to the same church. Maybe one or two families didn’t go to any church and were watched carefully.

But we Jesus-followers have always and throughout history lived in a secular society. People may have nominally belonged to a church because that’s where the social center was (plus you didn’t want to be ostracized in a village of fewer than 1,000 people).

The question we really need to ask is, “Are we living the kind of life that attracts people to Jesus, or are we living the kind of life that repels people?”

That is a crucial question. None of us are perfect. But are we living as forgiven? Or as Pharisees who followed rules and pointed fingers at whoever fails to follow the rules? Let’s see, which ones did Jesus prefer? It’s not a trick question.

Connecting With Other People

June 23, 2016

I’m finishing up some thoughts on Henry Cloud’s latest book, The Power of the Other.

In some ways I think that we keep trying to figure out what Jesus meant when he said to love each other and that you’ll know his followers by that love.

One obvious problem of course is the lack of good, specific words in English to describe the great variety of meanings that the word love connotes.

Cloud doesn’t talk specifically about this, but reflecting on his list of what makes for a Corner Four connection fleshes out just what we’d like to be and to experience in our relationships.

  • Connection that fuels.
  • Connection that gives freedom.
  • Connection that requires responsibility.
  • Connection that defangs failure and learning.
  • Connection that challenges and pushes.
  • Connection that builds structure.
  • Connection that unites instead of divides.
  • Connection that is trustworthy.

Standing back and trying to absorb this list, I think that if I could live out all of these then I’d be a long way along the journey of love that Jesus talked about.

The idea isn’t to follow a list. It’s to make the list part of us reflected in the quality of relationships. Then by referring back from time to time during quiet time, we can remind ourselves where we’ve fallen short and need to improve.

I’ve always thought that faith is in the living out toward others not in talking at others. This reminder is an aid.

Know That You Need To Ask For Help

May 25, 2016

The Lord helps those who help themselves.

That is not in the Bible. Sorry. Grace is not dependent upon our works. It is dependent upon our attitude–the attitude of turning to God and asking for help.

Henry Cloud’s new book, The Power of the Other, is all about the power relationships–good, bad, indifferent–hold over our lives.

He was talking about his work as a consultant and coach. He has sufficient track record and fame, that boards of directors of companies, even large companies, send their failing CEOs to him to turn them around.

A man came to him one time who had failed terribly. It was a personal failure, but the results bled over into every aspect of his life–marriage, family, business, volunteering. Being a highly successful and driven person, he came with a list. He asked for help, but then he laid out the plan that he had devised to correct the situation.

Cloud said it was sad. Every point depended upon the man’s action. There was no place for relationship with another.

Cloud said that he’s reached the point of life that he really doesn’t want to waste time with people who are sent to him to be fixed but who think that it all depends on themselves.

I understand. In my consulting and coaching career, I have met several people who only wish for outside reinforcement. They don’t understand why nothing changes.

At some point, you must come to the realization that it’s not all dependent upon your own effort.

Ask someone for help–and then listen.

Ask someone close to you how they feel about the situation–and then listen.

Humble yourself (that means be willing to not be the person in charge) and realize that others will help if you ask.

Thank people for helping.

Remember God gives us grace. It’s there for the asking. Be open to receiving it.

You ultimately are not in charge; stop acting as if you are.

The Lord helps you, and so will others, if you ask and are willing to listen and absorb.

All God’s Children

May 17, 2016

“Your wife told me that you’ve been to Germany recently,” the older guy said to me at the gym. He came closer obviously wanting to make a point.

“Did you see a lot of those Muslims there?” he asked in a confidential whisper. “You know they are everywhere over there. The people hate Merkel for letting them in. They don’t assimilate like other people. They just keep to their own communities.”

When you grow up in a white-only area of a southern California city and then move to a rural area where total “non-white” population is less than 8%, I guess you form weird ideas about people. Add in that his only source of news is Fox…

I’m white, I suppose. Grew up and still live in the area. People always assume I share the same beliefs. But I went wrong somewhere. Traveled extensively. Did business around the world for the past 35 years. And maybe I took the New Testament teachings more seriously than most. (By the way, not all people in west central Ohio share that guy’s belief. Many do, though.)

Thoughts of poor Peter right after Jesus’ resurrection flashed through my mind. A gentile named Cornelius had a crisis–a crisis of health and a spiritual crisis he didn’t even realize at first. Peter was called.

Now Jews didn’t assimilate into the broader Greco-Roman culture. Peter was forbidden by his law from going into Cornelius’ house. From eating his food. From having any more to do with him than business.

But Cornelius had a problem and Peter had the solution. God had been whispering (maybe even shouting) to Peter to prepare him for this occasion. Peter sucked it up, went in, healed, shared the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, converted the entire household.

Peter finally experienced the power of the gospel. It is for all God’s children. God loves every human being and wants to draw them all to him. The New Testament, as much as many wish, is not full of doctrine and theology. It is full of the need of all of us for grace and God’s wish to extend it to us.

Back to my acquaintance at the gym. I burst his bubble. At least a little one.

“No,” I said, “I didn’t see many Muslims. But I have many Muslims as friends. They are all great people. There will be several posts a day in my Facebook feed in Arabic.”

Not willing to leave well enough alone, “Be careful what you trust as far as news on TV. They manipulate pictures to show things as more dramatic or worse than they are for effect. Remember, they aren’t bringing news. They are selling ads.”

And I leave that for you. Be careful what you allow to fill your mind. Are you in a vicious circle of negativity? Are you filling it with God’s word so that when an opportunity arises you can respond appropriately?


May 10, 2016

The wind blew across the soccer complex at a nearly constant 20 mph. Sun was shining.

Even just standing and walking, dehydration overtakes you before you realize it. When you begin feeling thirsty, it’s almost too late. Especially if you’re going to be running in a bit.

I suddenly realized that I had been so busy that I had not had anything to drink all morning. Put away 80 oz of water in the afternoon. Came back from the brink of dehydration.

Even if the dehydration is not severe during your normal days, you may notice a little less energy and enthusiasm. Maybe concentration isn’t quite there.

We become dehydrated spiritually, too.

One pressure follows another. Another decision needed. Another report to write. Another irate customer. Another employee situation to calm. Illness–your own or a loved one.

It’s hard to relax. Mentally step back and take a physical breath.

It’s spiritual dehydration.

I think of Jesus who met the woman at the well. Picture a hot, dusty day. Constant wind coming down from the mountains scraping across the plain. She needed water. He needed water. But she needed more.

Her life had gone into a spiral. One defeat after another. Trying to find salvation in a man, any man. It didn’t work. She was drying up spiritually. Outcast, tired, dispirited (in many ways).

Jesus asked for water. He was dry and  wanted to avoid physical dehydration. But then, maybe he just wanted to talk. So he asked for water.

Then he tells her that he can give her water that will always quench her thirst. She’ll never dehydrate wandering from affair to affair. Lost. Dry.

We, too, can know about a source to keep us from this dehydration of loss. It’s spiritual. We get in touch with it by reading and through right relationships. That’s our discipline. Quench our thirsts and live live fully, with energy, enthusiasm, purpose.

On Becoming A Whole Person

May 9, 2016

Isn’t it a joy when you hear about someone or maybe have heard them speak and then you meet them and they are just like they seem?

And maybe you develop a relationship where you see them somewhat frequently in a variety of social settings, and then they still are that same person?

I was thinking about so many people I know whose words are so far different from their actual lives.

Their political philosophy says one thing (“I hate taxes” for example”) yet they have had jobs working for the state (paid by tax revenue) and retire with a pension (which many people don’t get and by the way also paid by taxes). I’ve seen people vote anti-union yet are union members and then complain about losing income and benefits.

But that’s trivial.

How about someone who speaks often of Jesus’ love, yet seems to love only self? How about someone always preaching “family values” or “Christian morals” and whose life is a shambles of moral decay?

Why do we run into so many people who are so clueless about themselves?

They can read the words of Jesus and other teachers on the subject, yet they do not see the irony that their lives do not come close to reflecting those values.

Jesus actually saw those people. And then he set the bar even higher for them. He saw people try to define morals such that they could achieve them yet still be able to point to others their shortcomings.

Matthew has a long passage of reporting Jesus’ teachings. (Chapters 5-7) It’s good–not for reading which is challenging but as a mirror.

Jesus said, for example, that it’s easy to talk about loving. Especially those who are like you. But, he said, the real test of love it to love and pray for those who are opposed to you. He raised the bar too high to be attainable. Especially when he said to be perfect just as your father in heaven is perfect.

But when the way we live reflects those values we preach, people see. And they will respect us.