Tag Archives: pray

Have an honest moment with Jesus

honest moments with JesusWe affect behavior in front of others and worry too much what others think about us. When have we taken a moment to be honest alone with Jesus? Drop the appearances, be yourself, ask for help.

Do you have time for Jesus in your life? Can you set aside the internet, the news, the funny videos? Read your Bible and pray a bit? Don’t be surprised if He responds.

Tear up your prayer list

medical mission The Gambia airport

As we deboarded in The Gambia airport on our recent medical mission.

When most of the requests are already answered by God, there comes a moment of great joy like a graduation.

When your relationship is almost entirely healed. When your children come back to God. When you finally get out of debt. When you finally get into ministry. It may take months or years. But when that day comes, tear up the list and celebrate with a cappuccino.

African children

They were happy just playing with two sticks, smacking them together like drumsticks.

Then make a new list. We’re moving forward and making progress. Today’s satisfactions fill us with hope and faith for tomorrow’s needs. Christianity is a forward-looking faith. Your petitions become praises. You get new petitions. It’s never stagnant, not static, always dynamic.

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Pray Like You Mean It

Pray Like You Mean It

Pray for my trip to Africa.

Africa Medical missionDr. Bob Hamilton has done medical missions in Africa for years, and finally I’m going. If the mustardseedbudget.wordpress.com has ever blessed you, then please pray God raises up $3,000 for air fare, hotel, food, visas, immunizations, etc. The trip is March 27 to April 6.

I have written in the capacity as a journalist about these medical missions before (a 3-part series that starts here), and now I want to report firsthand in support of this awesome ministry. Thanks for your prayers!

Oh yeah, you can read about the Lighthouse medical missions on its website here.

Prayer: Moses ‘rocked’ until he threw stones

frustration and prayer

Stop striking out in anger and calling people “rebels.” It won’t bring any good. Instead, pray.

Moses brought 40 years of ministry to a depressing demise because he acted out of frustration instead of faith. “Speak to the Rock!” God had told him. “And the waters will gush out for their thirst in this dry desert.”

Instead, Moses struck the Rock with his staff. And he called the people “rebels.” He upbraided them and appropriated the miracle to himself instead of giving God the credit.

As a result, waters came out and the people quenched their thirst. But Moses wasn’t allowed to to into the Promised Land. He was deprived of the crown jewel to complete his ministry. He was cut off from the flourish finish. In short, he was cut short, and 40 years of effective ministry became ineffective.

moses and prayerSuch a disappointing denouement is a high-pitched warning to those of us who want to persevere in ministry. Did he just burn out? Did he stop believing in prayer?

The New Testament identifies the “Rock” as Jesus. Did Moses lash out at God because “one more trial” was a critical mass for him? It is sobering to think. Let’s stick with prayer and faith and avoid frustration.

Jesus is enough

I needed to remember this.

Little prayers: how to pray

a cheap padlock

A $1 padlock like this one saved us!

 

My brother made fun of us when he visited our mission church in Guatemala. Too many padlocks, he moaned.

But one extra little padlock saved us from getting completely robbed.

The thieves sawed through an iron bar to enter at the window probably at 2 a.m. They served themselves leftover coffee and ate breads. They were in no hurry. Guatemalan police are overrun with crime and work fewer shifts at night. No neighbors would interfer; they could get shot for that.

How to pray

Sweet reunion with the much-loved Pastor Alex

They took our keyboard and a few other things. But one small padlock on the outside of the door kept them from walking off with our school’s computers. I

Faith, Pastor Steven's daughter.

Faith, Pastor Steven’s daughter.

guess they ran out of time because the $1 Chinese padlock was no formidable security. What they took had to fit out the upstairs window.

Sometimes, it’s the itty bitty things that save you. That little prayer — unaccompanied by fasting, with no fancy language — will make the difference. Don’t skip it thinking it’s a mere nothing. However short it may be, however unadorned, speak it to God with sincerity. That small “cheapo” prayer may be the single factor preventing the thief (the devil) from running off with everything.

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Why do we exist?

LivetoServe

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Don’t ignore

marriage

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Hurting Heart

hurt

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Hardship

hardship

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How to pray? Feel the power behind you

How to pray?

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Imprison negative thoughts

PositiveThinking

Erie Canal and the Realm of Possible: Prayers from the Bible

Prayers from the Bible teach us.

Erie Canal

Outmoded by the railroad over 100 years ago, the Erie Canal was reduced to tourism. Today, commercial freight is again using this waterway.

George Washington concluded the Erie Canal would be impossible. But New York Gov. Dewitt (pronounced: Do-It) Clinton thought otherwise and commenced the work. Critics and scorners dubbed it “Clinton’s ditch.”

Erie Canal locks

The system of locks compensate for rising terrain.

In less than a decade they concluded in 1825 the waterway linking settlers and commerce. A marvel of engineering, hydrology and American know-how even today, the Erie Canal upon completion was called the Eighth Wonder of the World. It grew into a 1,000-span of canals that brought produce to markets for decades until trains outmoded them.

Gov. Dewitt (Do-It) thought he could “do it.”

Erie Canal low bridgePrayer is believing that impossible is possible — if you’ll just start “digging” in prayer. The experienced pray-er confounds the experts who forecast failure.

From prayers from the Bible, we learn that Elijah sparked revival over his land, Moses opened the Red Sea, David felled the mighty giant. The faith-filled filled the Bible with their heroics because they chose to put God to the test where scoffers dismissed feasibility.

As Christians, we must learn to pray prayers from the Bible and see change.

How do I pray? Zach’s fall

How do I pray?

how do I pray?

Zach, staying off the left cheek, with his wife, Hillary

Zach plummeted 30-40 feet and missed the deepest part of the Malibu Creek Rock Pool, where only the manliest most insane dare to dive from the top rocks. He thought he broke his tail bone, but it only turned out to be muscle damage.

His freakishly swollen left buttock has been quite a novelty for teasing friends and family. Apparently Zach unembarrassedly bares butt for all interested gawkers to see and even photograph. I demurred.

no fear

On Thursday, Zach daredevil-dove at the Malibu Creek Rock Pool

We thanked God today for the miracle. He could have broken his back and been paralyzed.

Zach is an enigma to me. He’s equal parts bravado tough guy (he played football for UCLA) and compassionate nice guy. There’s not a dare he would skip or a rebellious punk he wouldn’t empathize with. For the last six years, he’s performed the unlauded labor of church cleaning for no pay, even though it deprives him of sleep and his wife. Cleaning starts at 5 a.m. He speaks of the “cleaning greats” at the Lighthouse Church, the men who taught him how to tame the wild beast of ubiquitous dirt when our K-12 kicks in.

Malibu Creek Rock Pool

After the plunge.

I am intrigued by Zach. I want to be like him. He seems to me to be a Christian ideal. Like Zach, we must be tough. We must withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and remain faithful to God. Like Zach, we must be compassionate. Without empathy, we’re shrill Pharisees. We must feel the hurt of so many millions who have been defrauded by the promises of sin.

Prayer must be tough enough to persevere. It must come from compassion and empathy. Can we feel people’s pain as God does? How do I pray? With toughness and with compassion.

How to pray? Thrills seekers

How to pray?

thrills seekers

Whee!

All of a sudden, my friend, Zach, fell from the sky like a bolt. We were at the Malibu Creek Rock Pool where kids dive off the rocks into the waters below. But he hadn’t warned me he was going to fling himself from the highest perch — 30-40 feet up. When I saw him appear in the sky, my heart leapt.

I guess he knows what he’s doing, I said to myself. His head bobbed up in the water, and he swam to the side. It was my first time at the pond, and I watched in horror as other kids lunged from lesser heights. I’m a chicken for such thrills-seeking.

Malibu Creek Rock Pool

Ouch!

Zach, a 25-year-old former UCLA football player, hit a rock. He clambered out of the lake in pain. He had broken his tail bone in the depths of the pool. (UPDATE: Either prayer healed him or he didn’t break the bone, doctor now says! PTL! Just swollen.)

Not everyone likes this brand of fun. But as human beings, we gravitate toward excitement. Some like the thrill of a pay raise. Others, a business venture. Others, work out hard at the gym to turn eyes in the restaurant.

How to pray? Thrills seekers

Jenny flung herself from a lower perch. Still, it struck fear in my heart.

Actually a hardened prayer warrior is not a bored person. He likes thrills too! His thrills, though, derive from answers to prayer. It may takes months or years, but when you see a person change (get off drugs, improve their marriage, whatever), there’s an interior thrill of knowing you affected positively the course of human affairs. This is how to pray.

high diveMaybe you’re not interested in waiting months for an answer to prayers. Maybe you like weeks of bed rest instead.

Maybe my friend Zach will be praying a lot these days — because he won’t be doing too much else.

Never futile: Prayers from the Bible

  • Prayers from the Bible
  • How to pray?

How to pray?Jonathan decided to attack the Philistines with only his armor-bearer. Surely, it was folly for one man to attack an entire army alone. I supposed he got bored sitting around doing nothing. He wanted to do something. And his Biblical reasoning worked better than his realistic thinking: The Lord can save with many or with few – 1 Sam. 14:6.

How to pray?

Prayer is an easier investment than getting into your car.

He realized that God is God. The supernatural outflanks the natural, no matter what Westpoint graduates might tell us.

Too often Christians formulate explanations for why prayer doesn’t work. They say things like: Well, you must be holy. (Who is holy but God?) Nix the explanations and keep praying. Don’t look for reasons why prayer seems ineffective. Most of the time, we just need to keep praying and not give up.

Prayer is never futile. Jonathan smote 20 Philistines and sparked panic among the enemies. The rest of Christianitythe Israelite army rushed in to finish off the job. Who would have thought that one man could vanquish an entire army? Who thinks that one man praying can change the course of history?

Be that man. Or woman. Or youth. Or child.

Prayer is never futile. Prayers from the Bible work. How to pray? Believe it’s never ineffective.

Ugly dude gets cute girl: How do I pray?

  • How do I pray?
  • Prayers from the Bible
  • Faith
Dianna Ashcraft

and these are not her brothers. They’re our sons.

My college roommates were incredulous. How did I, the nerdiest, get the hot girlfriend, while they, suave boys all, had no one to hold their hands in the movie theater?

God moves

Lou filming an event at our Christian high school

Twenty years later, my friend Lou rues botany class, where there were gaggles of giggly girls but none would go out on a date with him. Lou’s one of those classy, confidence-full, handsome Latin lovers who usually makes girls swoon. And me? I’m the kind of guy who started yammering about poetry because I’ve run out of other things to say on a date. Today, Dianna is my wife.

It wasn’t the cologne. It was prayer.

After 2-and-a-half clumsy heartbreaks, this knucklehead finally got it. Give up on my own efforts (to get a girl) and let God do the work! I prayed (fresh with breakup bitterness): God, I don’t want to have anything to do with the girls (Actually, I used a vulgar word: chicks). Just drop from Heaven the one that is for me that I one day I’ll open my door and find her. You know, stork-like. Not exactly Elijah faith-praying or Mary submitting admirably to God’s will, but I stumbled upon a key. The first time I saw Dianna, it was on my doorstep. Revenge of the prayer nerd.

How do I pray?So even with something so personal, so private, so nerve-wracking as finding your life’s soulmate, you CAN pray and wait on God. You can ease up on the duds, going to the gym and tanning salon, and rehearsing cool lines to say. Take off the shades, be yourself, and just pray.

How do I pray? What can we learn from prayers from the Bible? Don’t panic, just talk to God. Trust, relax, wait, seek. Enjoy serving God.

I love Lou. He’s a great friend. And I’m praying for him to find a godly girl who will see all the good qualities that are in him. But he needs to pray that too.

How do I pray? Confession

  • How do I pray?
  • Bible prayers
pic per anders lundin

pic per anders lundin

Your most spiritual moment is when you confess your sins to God.

When you achieve virtual sinlessness, you can fall in pride. But when you are broken with having failed God, in that moment your closer to God than ever.

How do I pray? If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness – 1 John 1:9 NIV. Notice that the verse does NOT say that WE are faithful. To the contrary, we are sometimes quite faithless. At that moment, only God is faithful. And He is faithful to His love for us. If our sin displeases him, our confession and repentance is His special delight.

pic per Andrew Doz Photography

pic per Andrew Doz Photography

This is good news for those of us who walk with our feet on the ground. The more you sin, the more grace abounds (disclaimer: no permission to sin.) But where sin increased, grace increased all the more. – Rom. 5:20 NIV. Forgiveness is not just the start of salvation; it is a continuing reality of Christianity.

How do I pray? Prayer should not be only making requests. It is also restoring relationship with God. After we renew right relationship, then we petition God.

How to pray? Surgery and Rehab

How to pray? Bible prayers

Valley Presbyterian Hospital

Rob’s teammate came to visit him.

Is there life after death? Definitely. Is there life BEFORE coffee? Hardly.

LOL! Last week I spent the night in the hospital with my son. He got operated on his torn ACL, a soccer injury. The doctor harvested from his hamstring to reconstruct the ligament. The next day, he was in pain, I was groping for coffee.

Santa Monica United

Through the pain of injury… through the pain of life… we must seek healing. Prayer heals the spiritual and emotional hurts.

Robert is facing six months of rehabilitation before jumping onto the pitch again for Santa Monica United U16 blue.

torn ACL

After the operation

Excuse the pun, but we live in a fallen world. They get injured — both physically and spiritually. Prayer is a spiritual surgery to reconstruct after the damage is done. Continued prayer is the rehabilitation that brings you back to striking strength.

And coffee? Coffee is good for morning prayer. Otherwise, I would be mumbling incoherent drowsiness instead of caffeine-invigorated, forceful, pressing prayers.

 

How to pray?

prayer-motivation

What will it take to get us to pray? Do we need a crisis to remember God?

(Thanks for the original artwork to the Pure Savagery blog!)

Instantaneous answers

  1. How do I pray?
  2. Prayers from the Bible
Unfulfilled expectations lead to frustration

Unfulfilled expectations lead to frustration

This is my wife. Do you remember you prayed for me last June to get married? We got married in August.

I wish ALL of my prayers got answered so quickly. I wish prayer were always so highly effective. This guy recognized me at Bible conference and asked me to pray. I didn’t even know him. He knew me because he had seen my picture in the testimonial reports magazine from previous years.

20120215-073644The vast majority of prayers are answered only after a looooooong time. Sometimes it takes days, sometimes weeks, sometimes months, often years, sometimes decades. Failure to understand the nature of prayer accounts for:

  • Christians not praying (they see it as a waste of time because they expect instantaneous results)
  • Backsliders turning away from God (why didn’t God answer my prayer? Maybe you gave up too soon)
  • Atheists  denying the existence of God.
Yeah, when we get bored we take the bear out to play on the trampoline, and you? (Photo thanks to Andy Duann)

Yeah, when we get bored we take the bear out to play on the trampoline, and you? (Photo thanks to Andy Duann)

Sometimes, God flatly denies our petition (and we don’t know why). Other times, we just give up too soon. Occasionally, there’s an instantaneous answer.

Why do we understand intuitively:

  • Schooling takes time and perseverance
  • Athletic training takes time and perseverance
  • Making a marriage work takes time and effort
  • Anything good and worthwhile is a long uphill battle

but when it comes to pray, we assume it must be instantaneous?

 

 

 

Pray sooner

  • How to pray?
  • Bible prayers

15dd97f58bbe4601e9444631fc7c139aJonah was appalling. He was thrown overboard into a storm-whipped sea. He was gulped down by a huge fish. You would think he’d be praying immediately. Nope, not him. What? Me worry?

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. THEN Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly — Jonah 1:17-2:1 KJV.

THREE DAYS IN THE BELLY OF THE FISH????? and only then it occurs to him to pray?

Raging_Sea__s_by_The_ImmortaloneSometimes people skip prayer, but this takes the grand prize of all the ages.

Do you ignore scoldings for prayer like

  • your dentist reminding you to floss?
  • your doctor telling you to get your weight down?
  • your environmentalist friend telling you to recycle?
  • your mother telling you to write your aunt thanking her for the sweater?
  • your finance-savvy buddy telling you to put more money in savings?
from Be Better Not Bitter blog

from Be Better Not Bitter blog

Yeah, you’re right. I SHOULD do that. And then we don’t. We become dulled to urgency others describe to us for the shoulds of life. I understand putting off prayer like I understand putting off organizing tax documents. It’s not the most exciting way to spend my Saturday.

But only one of these things affects eternity. People get passionate about whatever procrasti-nationmoves their heart and mind. But as a Christian, hopefully God’s cause moves our hearts and minds.

Jonah was a prophet, for crying out loud. He more than anybody should’ve known to pray. Why did he take so long to “get it?” How long will we take to “get it?”

Prevailing prayer

  • How to pray?
  • Prayers of the Bible
my family, 3 years ago

my family, 3 years ago

A mother prays for her Muslim son-in-law, and he gets saved. A man prays and gets healed of cancer. A church grows in membership and finances and becomes a church-planting church. Why do some people seem to have prevailing prayers?

keystoprayerJPGI don’t believe God has favorites. Nor do I think they’re holier than the rest of us humble folk. God is moved — the New Testament says emphatically — by faith. No one is righteous, it also says emphatically. So what up?

Here’s the scoop. YOU can up your answer percentage — just like them. People who pray successfully — we call them prevailing prayers — all tend to find their success in certain factors:

  • Quality (and to some extent, quantity) time with God.
  • Growing faith through:
  1. Tracking track record of positive results.
  2. Fortifying your heart with ongoing Bible reading, church attendance, praise and testimonies.
  • Persistence. People who prevail in prayer persevere because they believe more in God than in “reality.” They don’t give up ever. When things take a turn for the worst, they don’t hang the prayer shawl; they dig in and intensify the attack.
My daughter on our marching band outreach team more than 3 years ago

My daughter on our marching band outreach team more than 3 years ago

That’s about it. You can massage and adjust certain factors, BUT THERE’S NO MAGIC to it, there’s no “spiritual secret.” You don’t have to buy a best seller written by some slick preacher hyping elusive “keys” to prayer.

Brighten your worldview

  • How to pray?
  • Bible prayers
Guatemala mission

The church I left behind and now is being worked by Pastor Steven Fernandez

Sometimes Christians adhere to Elijah’s perspective: I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too – 1 Kings 19:10 NIV. Our outlook is bleak, and we whine annoyingly at “sinners.”

So what is God’s worldview? God saw all that he had made, and it was very good – Gen. 1:31 NIV. Now, sinners are bad because they’re sinners. But why are Christians downers? Honestly, I don’t blame a lot of sinners for not wanting to convert to Christianity based on what I see in my brothers and sisters. If that’s joy, then who needs it?

church in Guatemala

People are true riches

If we truly believe God wins in the end, then we should have a victorious, joyous attitude always. We should pray with confidence, not with woe.

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty – Psm 91:1 KJV. We need to dwell on God and NOT dwell on the bad things that drag us down.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things – Phl. 4:8 NIV.

When you go to prayer, don’t bring your rants. Knowing God will convert the sinner, heal the sick, provide for the needy, turn the tide of evil, pray with this mindset.

When I passed the Porsche on PCH

When I passed the PorscheI drive a give-to-the-poor-missionary-back-from-Guatemala Ford Escort dredged out of Paleolithic strata. The sun has scorched off paint in places, the lining is falling down onto my kids’ heads.

When I passed a Porsche

My son liked this car at the autoshop

So when a Porsche stalled in front of me on Pacific Coast Highway at a stoplight, something inside of me wanted to shout as I roared past: “Get a real car!”

Hmmmmmm. Where did this envy come from? I thought I was free from that.

Sin has a way to lurk in when you least suspect.

When you pray for finances, you need to be on your guard against envy. What is your motivation? To bless others or to bless yourself? To keep up with Jesus or to keep up with the Joneses?

define-necessityGod promises to provide, but many times our idea of provision falls squarely into the realm of “want,” not “need.” It became popular among Christians a number of years ago to call ourselves “children of the King.” The logical conclusion is we want to live it up like princes and princesses. The biggest problem with this reasoning is how Jesus, being much more a Prince than us, lived in poverty: The Son of Man has no place to lay His head (Matt. 8:20).

We can trust God to provide for our needs — and we ought to guard against confusing needs with wants.

Why the DMV is such a great place!

Time for prayerBecause the interminable lines give you time to pray.

What you need for prayer is NOT money, nor talent, nor poetic words, nor theological profundity. What you need is time.

And that’s what the Department of Motor Vehicles gives you lots and lots and lots while you wait only to find out that you’re in the wrong line or that you don’t have some obscure piece of paper and you’ll have to come back tomorrow.

Also good for prayer:

  • bank lines
  • mechanic shop
  • dry cleaning lines
  • meetings! (Let the boss drone on about what he thinks is important. In your head, pray.)
  • airports and flights

Distractions to prayerTime-robbers include:

  • cell phone
  • TV
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter (Why don’t you tweet God instead?)
  • did I say “cell phone?”

These are just some of multitudinous ways of distracting yourself from what is truly important: prayer. Money is not the most precious resource; time is. God really appreciates all the time you make for Him!

 

 

Can’t fathom passion?

DownloadedFileI can understand the terrorists.

I have felt their passion. I have risked my life for God. But the difference is they believe killing people pleases Allah. They need to get to know Jesus.

All this goes to show what an intellectual fraud the “comparative religion” folks have perpetrated. Maybe they should study “contrastative religion.” We are told that the older Boston bomber became more “devout,” then this.

imagesAs I become more devout as a Christian, I give of myself. I sacrifice. I love. I pray. I evangelize. I give money to the needy. I don’t kill.

Actually, atheists are all highly intelligent people, so their failing to discern between religious and economic motives behind so-called “Christian wars” is more willful than accidental.

Christ called his followers to lay down their lives. To turn the other cheek. Those who have taken up arms in the name of Christ are following their own folly, not Jesus. Yes, Popes asked for Crusades, but the guys who actually did the fighting were mercenaries seeking fame and fortune.

God calls us to carry our cross, not arms.

God calls us to carry our cross, not arms.

Again, it is willful neglect, not genuine, to fail to discern the clear demarcation between Old Testament and New. Christ, being the conclusion of God’s progressive revelation of salvation in the Bible, represents the maximum expression of God’s plan, the finality. Thus, several Old Testament norms go outmoded and are replaced by Christ’s law of love.  Ethical conduct is reaffirmed; such things as temple rituals, sacrificing animals, and violence are suppressed. I can understand a simpleton failing to grasp this, but not a smart guy who’s academically honest.

It is with great heaviness I write: We Christians bear much responsibility for the evil surge in our world. We have become lightweights, neglecting prayer in favor of “our best life now.” Let’s pray for Boston.

And let’s pray for the gospel to advance in all the world.

Pray, pray, pray again

  • How do I pray?
  • Bible prayers
  • Faith and perseverance

Or is it “try, try, try again?”

What if Lincoln had given up?

What if Lincoln had given up?

My heart goes out to atheists, agnostics and struggling Christians whose experience with prayer has been negative. Typically, they gave it a try, and nothing happened. No answer. Just silence.

I wish to gently suggest that in many cases, nothing went wrong. You just need to keep praying. The Bible talks directly and indirectly about persevering in prayer.

From Exchangewisdom

From Exchangewisdom

Now, if your loved one passed on, I don’t want to sound trite. I want to give you a hug. I don’t know why prayers “didn’t work.” The Bible says that God knows what He’s doing. Many times what we want doesn’t correspond to what He wants. Forgive me if this “answer” doesn’t “answer” your legitimate hurts. I am not criticizing or making fun of your efforts or experience. Some people cannot assimilate old age, sickness and accidents in a fallen world, and plain old mortality. Why is God blamed?

From Pam Boyd's Blog

From Pam Boyd’s Blog

In other cases, you simply need to keep praying. God hasn’t responded negative. He just hasn’t responded as quickly as you would like. In Luke 18 tells of an unjust judge. What’s extraordinary about the story is that most parable don’t have an explanation; it’s open to your interpretation. But this one says: Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up Luke 18:1 NIV.

From invivo

From invivo

The judge accepted bribes, but because a certain poor woman demanded daily justice, she wore the corrupt judge down. Just to get her off his back, he ruled in her favor.

The parable works by contrast: how much more so will the Just Judge in Heaven rule in our favor? But we must continue to pray.

No magical formula: HOW to pray

IMG_2444And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words – Matt. 6:7 NASB.

It seems clear enough to me that there is no right way to pray, no right words, no right syntax. God looks at the heart. As a matter of fact, Rom. 8:28 suggests that “groaning” can be prayer. I’d say God definitely looks at the heart and understands even the unspoken. So there’s no “aberacadabra.” Your attitude is what counts.

Some kids at my church.

Some kids at my church.

I remember when I was in junior high, we said the pledge of allegiance every day. Truthfully, I mouthed the words from memory without weighing their significance. It was perfunctory, a civic ritual void of civic feeling. Maybe you said the pledge with burning passion everyday. I wish I could say that of myself. It was more like playing a recording.

So prayer ought to be with the burning passion. If you repeat “the Lord’s prayer,” savor its every word. Otherwise, dissect it, understand it completely like a Shakespearian sonnet, and follow it’s patterns with original prayers. In my next post, I’ll give you a quick dissection of the Lord’s prayer, which I personally use more as a example than a magical formula.

Great in the sight of God is the prayer warrior

This is my buddy, Vincent. He's just starting out with Christ in the Hesperia, CA, church.

This is my buddy, Vincent. He’s just starting out with Christ in the Hesperia, CA, church.

A Christian who doesn’t amount to much in this world should be glad, for he is great in the sight of God. – James 1:9 Living Bible.

I’ve been tripping out on this verse lately. I guess I’ve been knocked down a few rungs. I used to the general pastor in Guatemala, with four churches under my jurisdiction. Now I’m one of approx. 50 kabillion assisting pastors, and I hardly ever get a chance to preach.

Hahaha! No this is not my car. This is my son, though. This car was at the same mechanic where I took my car. My car is a Ford (almost like a Model T... well, it's old, but not a classic).

Hahaha! No this is not my car. This is my son, though. This car was at the same mechanic where I took my car. My car is a Ford (almost like a Model T… well, it’s old, but not a classic).

I used to be founder and principal of the Guatemalan church’s school. Now, I’m a teacher kicked around by students. Yes, it’s been time to eat humble pie.

But while I have “descended” in worldly status, I have “ascended” with God. I have more time to pray. I have time to write (being too busy to write was my black eye neglected gift for eons). I have more time to pray.

Leanna is one of my nice students. She's also very funny. She wasn't feeling well on the day of this photo, and so she thought she didn't have to answer any questions in Spanish class -- hence the post-it on her forehead "Be nice to the sick girl. Don't ask her questions."

Leanna is one of my nice students. She’s also very funny. She wasn’t feeling well on the day of this photo, and so she thought she didn’t have to answer any questions in Spanish class — hence the post-it on her forehead “Be nice to the sick girl. Don’t ask her questions.”

Did I say that I have more time to pray? That is special. The “lowly” brother isn’t “lowly” to God. He can work anonymously and accomplish a lot more than the church’s showmen. He can pray.

So really, what I said was a lie: I haven’t been knocked down rungs. I’ve been catapulted into new dimensions of ministry with God. Never scorn the ministry of prayer. Kick things up into high gear — pray!

Restore the passion: prayer and service

Staying in prayer is key to staying in leadership. How to pray? Pray with faith. Prayers in the Bible.

My son, Robert, tracks the long punt, hunting to convert a goal.

My son, Robert, tracks the long punt, hunting to convert a goal.

To watch those kids jog during the soccer game made me disgusted! How do they expect to win if they won’t run? If they only play half-hearted?

Then, I saw myself on the field. I was jogging.

Rob faces a dilemma. How do you turn a losing team into a winning team?

Rob faces a dilemma. How do you turn a losing team into a winning team?

A fairly steady stream of withering criticism took the wind out of my sails. When I returned to my sponsoring church after 16 years as a missionary in Guatemala, I threw myself into ministry. Then I started cutting back — why give my ALL when ALL I got was negative feedback? God spoke to me through a State Cup Cal South tournament. Instead of running, I was jogging. How did I expect to win?

I cut the oranges for the kids' halftime.

I cut the oranges for the kids’ halftime.

Handling criticism is no piece of cake. Making transition from head pastor to just one of the guys has not been easy either.

I wanted those kids to run with everything they had. Who cares if they were losing? Who cares if they made mistakes? Who cares if the coach screamed at them? Run — for the love of the game — run! Don’t give up.

It’s pretty easy to see others’ faults. But when I saw my own faults reflected in those kids, it was horrifying. I’ve got to run — for Jesus (not for detractors). Thank You, Jesus, for helping restore me to the intense servant I always was. Forgive me for becoming a mechanical, half-hearted servant. Thank You for showing me to renew my passion for service.

So why do we pray anyhow?

How to pray? A series on prayers of the Bible.

Prayer is like beauty, nearly impossible to explain but marvelous to experience.

Prayer is like beauty, nearly impossible to explain but marvelous to experience. Photo Tumblr

WHY do we pray? There are two things I must say about this question.

1) For me, there is no satisfactory answer. For years now, I’ve meditated answers from renowned Bible teachers and theologians — and all the answers come up short. I tend to agree with the atheists: if God is omniscient and infinitely benevolent, then why do we need to pray?

stunningflowers2) The second part is critical. The effect of not finding an adequate answer to the question WHY is… disaster: we stop praying. If you ask why too much, you will conclude there ought to be no need for prayer. Regardless of the “soundness” of reasoning, stopping praying is soundly adverse.

241857442458513822_YDtvMSC3_bGod doesn’t bother to explain the WHY of prayer. He simply commands us to pray. And the weight of scriptural evidence implies that certain blessings won’t happen if we don’t pray. I’m not denying God’s unquestioned sovereignty. There’s an uncomfortable tension here that I’m comfortable with. I may never resolve the WHY, but I have decided to never abandon the WHAT*.

Just pray. Don’t look for explanations any more than you would look for an explanation of falling in love. Scientists try to reduce romance to hormones, to evolutionary theory, to getting the best mate in order to pass on genes — oh brother! talk about deficient and boring reasoning. I’ve noticed that atheists don’t stop falling in love just because there’s no adequate explanation.

From Susan's Poetic Blogosphere.

From Susan’s Poetic Blogosphere.

Prayer is falling in love with Jesus. It’s your relationship with Him. It also accomplishes powerful things in the universe. But you don’t get your every whim. You trust God to exercise His discretion. When you align your prayers with the Bible, you can be confident that He will answer (that is faith). When it doesn’t seem like His answer is best, we can trust that He will not defraud us.

*It is my experience in 33 years of Christianity that the theologians who are strong on emphasizing God’s sovereignty, don’t pray. While they are right about His sovereignty, they are wrong to disobey the Bible’s admonition to pray.

Effective, substantial prayers

rocket19How do I pray effectively? Can prayers of the Bible teach me?

It can feel useless. But faith is a solider (more solid) base than what might you think. Now faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen – Heb. 11:1 KJV (caps mine).

The KJV’s word “substance” is hypostasis, which is translated elsewhere “confidence.” It’s a foundation,  a basis.  Words uttered with faith are not wispy sounds that disappear into thin air. Their sound waves may die, but their essence moves angels into action. God spoke, and the world was created. He made us in His image — with the ability to speak into existence things that are not.

Jesse Rentaria, of Hesperia, CA, was told his cancer wouldn't give him many more months of life. But today he is cancer-free.

Jesse Rentaria, of Hesperia, CA, was told his cancer wouldn’t give him many more months of life. But today he is cancer-free.

With the strident monotony of blah-blah-blah bombarding us continually from the television, the radio, the internet, we can forget that words CAN have meaning and impact. Don’t compare prayer to the media’s drivel.

Prayer activates — like the propulsion of a rocket launch. Prayer unlocks — like a password. Prayer smashes down strongholds, builds up Cities of God. It is quicker than a Google search, more effective than the U.S. military taking on North Korea. It moves unseen behind enemy lines and converts to Christianity its sworn enemies (like Paul).

The Bible says faith can move mountains. We have so many more metaphors today.

Heaven is listening — pray

How do I pray? Prayers of the Bible. Grow in faith.

Coach Ray instructs my son, Hosea, on soccer attacking.

Coach Ray instructs my son, Hosea, on soccer attacking.

The Faith Hall of Fame is Hebrews 11. It’s exciting to read how :

  • Noah prepared the ark for 100 years
  • Abraham held out for a son until he was 100 years old
  • Moses started ministry at 80 years old
  • Rahab got out of prostitution and helped the spies
  • David killed Goliath with a slingshot

Through faith they subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection – Heb. 11:33-35 NIV.

IMG_2382

Love those shiny new cleats!

Better than 007, than Die Hard, than Brave Heart (ok, yeah, I’m not that young). The inspiration of Hebrews 11 makes you want to go out and call down fire from Heaven or face off with Jezabel or Pharoah or Planned (un)Parenthood.

How about this? Let it inspire you to the uninspiring task of simply taking to your knees right there in your home — and praying with faith. It may not be a cinematographic moment with rapturous surround sound, but praying with faith today is huge heroics for God. The audience in Heaven is listening.

Pray prayers that make a difference:

1) finances
2) healing
3) salvation
4) revival

Let your faith grow like the seed

  • Make faith grow
  • How to pray?
  • Prayers of the Bible
It may start small...

It may start small…

Actually, Gideon didn’t start out with a lot of faith. He doggedly doubted God. A splendorous vision of a heavenly angel didn’t sway him. A supernatural calling didn’t impress him. He argued with God. Then, he tested Him with a fleece. The first night, he asked it be saturated with dew and the ground dry, the second night the fleece dry, the ground wet.

God patiently built up his faith.

from Dump a Day

from Dump a Day

Don’t stress out about “lack of faith.” Just ask God to build it. Don’t strain trying to conjure faith. There’s no magical incantation to muster faith in the human heart. Faith comes from:

1) Reading your Bible and hearing it preached (Rom. 10:17)
2) Praying and experiencing God’s answers (John 4:48)
3) Focusing on what God has done in the past to encourage yourself on what God will do in the future. (Phil 4:8)

Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head – Mark 4:28-29 NIV.

You don’t make your faith grow. You can only provide optimal conditions for the seed — soil, sun, water, protection against plague and erosion. It’ll grow all by itself.

Even more impossible: prayer’s power

  • How do I pray effectively?
  • Prayers of the Bible
  • Pray for finances
  • Inspiration for prayer

First they were 32,000. Then they were 10,000. Then they were 300.

8ac8d84fb90e993cd71eeca974a98e24The shocking attrition was actually good news. If Gideon had too many, Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved Me (God)’ Judges 7:2 NIV. By making victory even more impossible, God assured He’d get the praise.

If your situation is steeply difficult, don’t despair. Don’t calculate “possibility.” A miracle, by definition, is contrary to natural law and contrary to reasonable explanation. Do you have:

  1. church rent due with no foreseeable income to cover it?
  2. big dreams and small budgets?
  3. restrictions on what you can do for God due to finances?

Rejoice! When Gideon won against the Midianites, everybody got whooped up! Don’t glower, don’t be glum. God is going to move! Just pray with faith! Watch and see! Act and know that God will do what you cannot!

Video

PB&J all day! (Prayer, Bible & Journal)

A reminder to pray, read you Bible and journal your dynamic walk with Christ.

100% — not 99%

imagesAmong other things, the 99% movement was about the disenfranchised and powerless getting power. It didn’t work because the oligarchy won.

Prayer is also about the powerless seizing power. When in this world, you have no means to deliverance, to health, to change lost friends or relatives. You only have prayer. You feel helpless to do anything, and you turn to God, who CAN do everything.

prayboyfieldNo power structure, conserving its privilege, is going to be able to subvert God, the Power over every other power. Don’t just stand idly by, wringing you hands, woefully wishing things were different. Seize power and change your world: pray today. God has 100% of the power.

You’re supposed to injure the other team

On every other day of his life, he's been fantastic.

On every other day of his life, he’s been fantastic.

Teacher Edwin was a NICE guy, a fabulous teacher and a sensational soccer player. I was happy he was on my team in Guatemala on the day of staff bonding! (Good thing the accountant was on the other team. His accounting was straight but his ball-kicking, crooked.)

In a midfield confusion on a header challenge, Edwin came back down to earth with all of his weight squarely on my left toe. The toe nail cracked. I crumpled.

A soccer field to envy.

A soccer field to envy.

“Edwin! You’re supposed to injure the OTHER team,” I yelled, writhing on the ground. “You’re not supposed to injure me.”

Prayer is about injuring the other team. There are actually people in the church who think their gifting is criticizing others. But no, the gifts, according to 1 Cor. 12:8-10, are:

  • word of wisdom
  • word of knowledge
  • faith
  • healing
  • miracles
  • prophecy
  • discernment
  • tongues
  • interpretation of tongues

Whatever those are, there is clearly no gift of criticism. When you criticize, you help out the Accuser of the Brethren (the devil, according to Rev. 12:10). Hey, let the devil do the accusing, and let’s not do it for him! When you criticize, you injure your own teammate.

You’re supposed to injure the other team. I’m taking medicine now — seven years later — for it.

Terbinafine is fine

No, I'm not going to upload a picture of my yellow toe. You should be glad. It's gross.

No, I’m not going to upload a picture of my yellow toe. You should be glad. It’s not the most attractive thing. The lady is my better half.

I have to take this medicine for 3 months. Maybe 6.

Apparently, it won’t knock out quicker the fungus that turned my toe nail (excuse me, this is not for the squeamish) yellow.

My son Hosea.

My son Hosea.

If a medicine needs to treat consistently over a period of time to fully eradicate the infection, why do we expect prayers to revolutionize our lives instantly?

Compared to some of the infections in our souls, the toe fungus is a simple matter. It makes sense to me that we need to treat consistently and over a prolonged period some of the troubles besetting our hearts. Don’t give up if the answer doesn’t come quickly.

It’s nice to see my toe turning flesh color again! It’s also nice to see my heart becoming less of a stone. For my heart, I’ve been praying for 33 years (not always consistently). Be patient with me. Jesus is not done yet.

Stay calm and keep praying.

‘All authority’ includes finances

With Gary Case, missionary extraordinaire, when he was on a layover at LAX. He's now in Japan pioneering a church

With Gary Case, missionary extraordinaire, when he was on a layover at LAX. He’s now in Japan pioneering a church

When you spearhead a ministry, the devil will resist you even with the rent. As a missionary paying a mortgage with a small church, I prayed a lot for finances. I discovered reading the Bible some incredible verses to pray. Here’s one:

Pastor Ralph and Brenda Bowen planted three churches in Africa during 20 years.

Pastor Ralph and Brenda Bowen planted three churches in Africa during 20 years.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, resurrected Jesus said in Matt 28:18. Typically, we Christians think of His authority over demons, over sin, over sickness, etc. We forget that “all” includes finances. He has authority to send finances.

My purpose, unlike so many other American Christian pastors, is NOT for you to pray for luxury. It is for you to NOT quit ministry because finances are

fellowship after church

fellowship after church

scarce. Don’t close the doors to your church just because you’re on a shoe-string budget. Instead, keep performing fruitful ministry and simply pray for God’s provision.

It seems people in America get twisted about praying for finances. Some think God doesn’t attend such matters. Others think it’s wrong. (Well, yes, greed is sin.) But when you have lived the day-to-day anxiety of will-we-make-it?, then you understand how praying for finances brings more than just peace of mind. It brings answers.

Famine? It’s YOUR moment

from I am Yoga

from I am Yoga

 

Don’t worry about the famine. It’s your chance to shine.

Joseph was rotting in the jail. If it weren’t for the famine, he wouldn’t have gotten the chance to show his strengths before Pharaoh.

If you are passing through a time of famine in your life,

  • don’t quit your strengths
  • don’t despair and give up
  • don’t give in to hopelessness
  • don’t lose patience
  • don’t stop believing in God and in yourself

Joseph was wrongly sold into slavery (by his brothers!?!!). Then he was falsely accused and thrown in jail. But he kept a good attitude and worked hard. As a slave, he was put in charge of all Potiphar’s household. As a jailbird, he made administrator of the prison.

150px-Sandboarding_in_DubaiSo when God sprung him, he was named vice president of all of Egypt. He kept his relationship vibrant with God and was able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. In his new post, Joseph prepared the nation for a coming 7-year famine that catapulted Egypt into world dominance and paved the way for the launching of the nation of Israel (with Egypt as its incubator).

What Joseph’s brothers intended for evil, God turned into good. Joseph instructed his brothers to not be overly angry at themselves for having sold him into slavery: God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance – Gen. 45:7 NIV.

An inside job

For a change, I'm actually posting a photo I took. This is Santa Monica's beach. Sorry. I don't mean to make my friends in the Northern States and Canada jealous.

For a change, I’m actually posting a photo I took. This is Santa Monica’s beach. Sorry. I don’t mean to make my friends in the Northern states and Canada jealous.

The motorcycles caught us 5 miles away from the bank. As one of four guys banged the window with a pistol demanding our bags, I had no doubt that it was the bank teller who tipped them off. He had changed our check to cash. Because all our information was in our bags, I figured they’d come back for a kidnapping, so we had to return to America, our 16 years as missionaries in Guatemala at an end.

My 10-year-old son, Hosea, calls this the Leaning Tower of Pizza. I bought these for the Lighthouse Christian Academy's sports banquet yesterday. Go Saints!

My 10-year-old son, Hosea, calls this the Leaning Tower of Pizza. I bought these for the Lighthouse Christian Academy’s sports banquet yesterday. Go Saints!

God does an inside job too! Don’t bother to make external changes in yourself — they lead to (false) religiosity. Instead, surrender to His Holy Spirit in prayer daily, and let God transform you from the inside. Once you are saved, you are forgiven, you are new creation, but then God begins a work of perfecting you that will continue for the rest of your life. But it’s on the inside.

Pastor Ludving from Guatemala sent me this T-shirt. Translated: Everyday I wake up handsome, but today I'm off the charts. Thanks for the joke, Pastor Ludving!

Pastor Ludving from Guatemala sent me this T-shirt. Translated: Everyday I wake up handsome, but today I’m off the charts. Thanks for the joke, Pastor Ludving!

In regards to prayer, remember:

  • A little bit is better than none, but God wants to work on us daily, so pray daily.
  • A little bit more will increment value and power to prayer.
  • The best prayers are ones inspired by the Bible or simply taken from the Bible. Jesus dismisses “vain repetitions” — mumbling by rote words penned by another. But there is much to learn and apply from the experts, the Bible heroes.
  • The Big D (that’s Devil) constantly bombards you with thoughts that prayer is useless, a waste of time, meaningless, etc. He does this because he knows how effective it is.
  • As you pray for others, God also is transforming you — from the inside out.
  • Enjoy prayer! Think of it as a romantic date. You are spending time with your Lover, God.

Out of pain, blessing

from blue pueblo

from blue pueblo

He was pain in the … But he got prosperity.

When Jabez was born, his mother despaired. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain” – 1 Chron. 4:9 NIV.

from Beautiful Mother Nature on Tumblr

from Beautiful Mother Nature on Tumblr

But he prayed. Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request -- 1 Chron. 4:10 NIV. Prayer turned pain into prosperity.

Don’t:

  • play the victim.
  • feel sorry for yourself.
  • look for people to blame.

Do:

  • pray.
  • believe God to change circumstances.
  • look for people to support you in prayer.

Everybody wants bounty. The unavoidable path towards it is through difficulty, failure, reverses. Prayer carries you forward to the blessing.

 

 

Unpaid here

with my family

with my family

I became an actor briefly. It seemed like the logical thing to do to avoid the stigma of “unemployed.” Besides, this is LA — 60% of the people are actors, which means “unemployed.” I never took acting classes; I just declared myself an actor (it’s cheaper that way), and I no longer felt obligated to provide explanations for joblessness.

I'm hamming it up again.

I’m hamming it up again.

But soon I realized my folly. After all, I was a writer before I became an actor. About writers, let me say it is totally redundant and unnecessary to place the adjective “aspiring” in front of the word “writer.” Being a writer is another acceptable way of calling yourself “unemployed.”

with a Chinese friend. Man, is he serious!

with a Chinese friend. Man, is he serious!

Then too, I’m a prayer warrior. Boy, I keep chalking up the unremunerated professions, don’t I? At least here on Earth, it’s hard to get paid to pray.

Of course, in Heaven, it’s paid handsomely. Most people just don’t have the patience to defer their gratification that far into the future. (On second thought, given the brevity of life, maybe it’s not that long to wait for after all.)

We couldn’t enjoy the remodeling

ATT001935No sooner had we remodeled our home in Guatemala than we fled to America. A run-in with criminals forced us to leave. The trauma of the robbery at gunpoint took the foreground; the irony of our “lost investment” sat in the background.

ATT001997The stylized ceiling and modernized kitchen seemed like a good investment. We had lived in Guatemala for 15 years and did not foresee leaving our beloved missionary life. The threat of kidnapping changed that abruptly. The money already spent proved pointless.

Pointless.

Our stay in Guatemala was NOT permanent. It was temporary. So too our life here on Earth is short. ATT0020810Moses called his son Gershom, which means foreigner, because he felt like he didn’t belong in Midian. Peter says we’re only sojourners here on the globe. Our true home is Heaven.

What we invest for ATT0021412pleasure here is… well, it kind of seems pointless.

Was that what God was telling me? Whatever you do for eternity — even if it’s only five minutes of prayer today because that’s the best you can do — stands forever. We are here only briefly, so if all your effort is focused for this earth, try to enjoy these fleeting moments as much as possible. My recommendation: Work for eternity.

The extraordinary in the ordinary

beechwoodcross.blogspot.comjpg

from beechwoodcross.blogspot.com

Jesus and Peter had to pay the temple tax but had no money. So Jesus sends Peter back to his old vocation, fishing. Go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours – Matt. 17:27 NIV.

stock-illustration-10637597-coin-in-the-fish-mouthIf you are in His will, God will provide for your need. Prayer means getting the supernatural into the natural. If you’re working, you won’t have to change your routine, just request the dosage of God’s blessing upon your natural labors.

They call this miracle money, and after 33 years of being a Christian, I have seen God answer like this over and over, in my own life and others. It especially happened when I pastored in Guatemala, particularly when we bought a property and had huge mortgage payments.

define-necessityDon’t buy a lottery ticket. Just pray and believe. The extraordinary (miracle money) came out of the ordinary work (fishing), but it was blessed by God. Prayer is actively seeking that blessing.

Not greed

563071_494995527204662_794280061_nSatan targets the new pastor’s car, family health and finances. The unrelenting assault is designed to drive you crazy and make you quit. Out of this struggle when I was a missionary in Guatemala for almost 16 years, this blog was born. By “praying for finances,” I never mean greed.

Yabby curreyou CAN stave off Hell’s fury through prayer. You can see miracle money keep you in the pastoral business. Don’t grant soil to discouragement in your heart. Cultivate faith constantly and pray unceasingly. “Just barely making it” is the place where I have always been. Does it seem ironic that, while we established dominion in a church and school in Guatemala, we didn’t have great riches?

And yet we did have great riches! We had the precious souls of men, snatched off the precipice leading to Hell, transformed into valuable members of society. While the church prospered, our finances and those of the church, “hung in there.” We have no complaint. We had no lack, though many times I worried, many times I wondered where we would get the money to fix the car. Sometimes, we ran out of money, and it was unnerving, but we still had food in the cupboard.

George Muller prayed for bread and milk to feed the orphans in his care. He prayed for the bikepileheater to be fixed in the dead of winter. He prayed for hours — until the answer came. God prospered His work; He didn’t lavish luxury on His servant.

If you are not struggling financially today, I urge you to pray for some minister who undoubtedly is struggling. God will bless you for it.

He sees what can be

Coach Neos today with his wife, Bethany -- that certain pair of eyes. He now pastors in Hesperia, California.

Coach Neos today with his wife, Bethany — that certain pair of eyes. He now pastors in Hesperia, California.

Twice the lowly Lighthouse was runner-up in eight man football in California championship. With a student population of 50, that’s spectacular.

With his typical one-day stubble, just out of GQ.

With his typical one-day stubble, just out of GQ.

Those heady heights were owed to an extraordinary coach, George Neos, who served as principal of the high school for many years. Not only was Neos a Dartmouth football champion, he was well on his way to becoming a college coach. God interrupted his career launch and brought him to the Lighthouse Christian Academy of Santa Monica, California. Neos came to teach football and for a certain pair of brown eyes.

The hulking coach had a knack for seeing every milligram of potential in a player. He coached nuances to perfection so that kids produced stellar output. Neos never saw a kid as chubby, lazy, or out of shape. He saw what a kid could become, and he worked relentlessly towards that goal.

Tex Hagoski on this year's team.

Tex Hagoski on this year’s team.

When God looks at you, he doesn’t see your flops and your flabbiness. He sees your future fabulousness. God sees a finished product. And He’s willing to work with all your failures and flailings to machine out the ideal Christian leader.

If you are a Christian leader, you can’t get stuck in the present. You’ve got to see ahead, what can become of the sheep God has brought under your care. Prayer is believing in the future and striving for it.