Monthly Archives: April 2012

A crumb’s enough

She asked for a crumb. And that was faith. A crumb was enough.

Jesus had refused the Syrian Phoenician’s request for a daughter’s healing in the most emphatic terms. First, the gospel to the Jews, not yet the Gentiles. She would not be discouraged by this.

Testing her faith and her persistence, Jesus next said, “You know, in this generation, the Jews call Gentiles ‘dogs.'” She didn’t react. She didn’t turn him in for hate crime. She didn’t sue for emotional damages.

She turned His insult on its head. When you pray sometimes, you have to turn things on their heads. You have to transform utter negativity into something beautifully positive — using faith and persistence!

Yes, she replied, but even the dogs get the crumbs off their master’s table. What she wanted was her miracle! She didn’t care about her treatment.

That was it! Jesus couldn’t hide a genuine admiration for her faith and persistence. He congratulated her and granted the miracle. As it turns out, a crumb’s enough. A crumb — when it comes from God — is something extraordinarily huge.

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Surprise!

I make plans for God. I pray for Him to do what I want, when I want. Then He does something totally different, and it’s always much better. It’s a miracle that I could not imagine. This pattern is Biblical: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him — 1 Cor. 2:9 NIV

Go ahead and pray for the good things you want. But be prepared to wait for His timing. Be prepared for His answer, which may be very different — and inevitably better — than what you hoped for. We are praying to a God who surprises us. He pulls the most amazing things out of His hat.

Surprise me today, God. I bring before you my desperate needs. Don’t give me the answer I want. Give me the surprise You have for me. God´s surprise makes being a Christian a lot of fun! I imagine God our Father being very much like a loving earthly father, who is thrilled to see his son/daughter delighted by a surprise gift.

Apparent no

He was told to shut up. He clamored all the more. She was told she was dog. She asked for a crumb off the table.

What do you do when God appears to say no? Bartimaeus kept asking. In fact, he yelled all the louder (Mark 10:48). The Canaanite woman didn’t get mad. She said, “Yes, but…” Jesus tested her strongly. First he didn’t even talk to her. Then He mistreated her. She kept insisting. Even the “dogs” get crumbs off their masters’ tables.  This impressed Jesus. Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted,” he said (Mat 15:28).

It’s hard to know when “no” is truly and definitively “no” from God. So if what you are asking for doesn’t contradict the Word of God, keep asking and patiently believing. You could ask for something that God won’t give you. But the other extreme is worse: you could lose heart and faith and stop believing.

How Magic Mountain helped develop the Stealth Fighter

Very few people know this. Engineers at Lockheed’s secret projects Rye Canyon facility shot a radar at Magic Mountain’s Sky Tower, a rotating hexagonal compartment that ascends and descends for a panoramic view. The surprise? The tower was invisible to the radar.

And that is how engineers designed the Stealth Fighter with small flat triangular panels, all reflecting off into the atmosphere in different directions. If it had a rounded surface, the radar would pick it up.

You’ll be surprised what get when you shoot off into the heavens. When Lockheed engineers shot radar across the valley to the Valencia recreation park, they got something that could be incorporated into sophisticated military technology. When you shoot a prayer up to Heaven, God may give you more than you bargain for.

Don’t worry, be happy

With 10 years of literary worked planned ahead, Fyodor Dostoevsky got into argument his sister over their aunt’s inheritance, he burst an artery in his lung, and within  a few days he died. He had just completed his masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov, a 1,000-page novel that confirmed his genius and earned him financial stability, for the first time in his life.

Then he lost his cool — over money — and lost his life.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Money is small stuff. It ONLY helps you do what you need to do: Eat, drink, pay rent, buy clothes, pay for gas, continue in ministry. Don’t stress over $$$.

If you have lost in this recession, relax. In Sierra Leone, Christians eat only one meal a day — because they can’t afford more. Life expectancy is 30. Recently an American doctor saw a Gambian with body aches because he walks 5 miles to and from work. The doctor told him: “You need to buy a bike.” The man replied, “I don’t have money to buy a bike.” If you are reading this, the simple fact that you have access to Internet says you’re doing much better than many Africans.

So count your blessings, don’t regret your losses, don’t stress about your debts, enjoy life, employ wise stewardship, pray for more finances, continue to pay your tithe, don’t lose your focus on ministry, and CHILL OUT about money. Money’s not worth dying for.

‘A hint from heaven’

As a Jew in Nazi-occupied Vienna, Victor Frankl knew the successive deportations would eventually target him. For a while, his profession as head of the neurological department of the Rothschild Hospital, afforded him a kind of temporary protection. Luckily, he got the visa to emigrate to the United States.

But he was thinking about leaving behind his parents. They would have no such escape. Should he flee to the States or stay with his parents? He waited for a “hint from Heaven.”

One day, he asked his dad about a chunk of marble. It was part of the rubble of the synagogue razed by the Nazis, his dad replied. In fact, it was part of the ten commands, he added. By chance, it was part of the fifth commandment: Honor your father and mother…”

This was Frankl´s awaited “hint.” He stayed in Vienna and was eventually deported to a concentration camp. He was one of the few who survived.

Being in ministry — choosing to live with less — requires uncommon courage. It is counter-intuitive; no one understands what you´re doing. Why not flee to the life of money and ease? But inspiration keeps you marching. A “hint from Heaven” is all you need to pursue your calling.

Three days of plundering

Certain defeat changed into the spoils of victory. SO MUCH TREASURE IT TOOK THREE DAYS TO GET IT ALL? SIGN ME UP!

Jehoshaphat feared the vast advancing army of allied nations. But God prophesied victory, so the Jewish King deployed the praise worshipers first for battle. When they came to the enemy camp, treachery had divided them, and they destroyed each other.

Jehoshaphat and his men didn’t even have to raise the sword. All they had to do was swoop on the spoils. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount … more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. — 2 Ch. 20:25 NIV.

Pray for God to turn your crisis into celebration, your lack into luster, your shortage into glut, because this is what He does. Pray and praise — and watch God bring the turnaround.

He refused to escape

Repeated times, friends urged Janusz Korczak  to escape before the Nazis deported him to a death camp. As an internationally famous author and intellectual, the Jewish pediatrician, head of a Warsaw orphanage, would get special treatment — if he wanted it.

But Janusz determined to stay with his charges, 192 Jewish orphans. When Nazis deported them to the Treblinka extermination camp, Janusz lied to the tykes. He told them to wear their finest clothes because they were going on a field trip. They filed out in pairs that August day of 1942. At the head, according to one observer, one kid played a violin. At the tail, Janusz carried a couple of the younger kids who were not so able to walk. They ignored their fate because Janusz didn´t want them to suffer crying.

For the kids, there was no hope. But Janusz could have saved himself. Urban legend holds it that an SS officer, who loved Janusz´s children´s book, urged him to flee to freedom. He refused. He would stay with his kids to the end — and die with them. This year, 2012, is 100 years since he opened his orphanage.

Janusz — for his kids — paid the ultimate price. What are you UNwilling to do — for God?

Your big fat godly dream

The first time Lou met Eugenia, she performed a funky one-woman show on open mike night at Venice’s Cow’s End. People politely applauded. Following her, an Andrew Dice Clay-would-be cut her up for being unfunny, unattractive and — um — unskinny.

Lou felt so bad for Eugenia that he approached her over coffee. “Hey, everybody has a bad night,” he said. But after being publicly humiliated, Eugenia wasn’t crying. “I’m doing this for me,” she responded.

From then on, Lou would wave at Eugenia, whenever he bumped into her around L.A. Then she performed her act at a major theater. Impressive, but Lou  didn’t think much would come of it. After all, Eugenia and her husband had financed the whole thing.

But something did come of it. By chance, Rita Wilson, Tom Hank’s wife, came to the theater one night. She liked it so much she decided to back a movie. It became the sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, one of highest-grossing independently produced films ever. Eugenia stage-named Nia Vardalous.

That night when Eugenia bombed at the Cow’s End, Lou remembers predicting success for another stand-up comedian, a cute redhead who brought the house down. The redhead was never seen again.

Never underestimate the power of persistently pursuing your dream. Believe in your dream; believe in God. Ignore the Andrew Dice Clay detractors around you.

What Jesus rebuked most

We Christians rebuke “sinners.” But Jesus didn’t hardly do that.

He rebuked the religious leaders aplenty, BUT his strongest and most frequent rebuke TO THE CHURCH was for its lack of faith. Over and over again, Jesus is reprimanding, not the disciples’ fleshliness or lack of spirituality, but their lack of faith.

There is a different focus here! While we denounce lukewarmness, Jesus is losing patience for shortness of faith. Re-read the Gospels and decide for yourself if our message coincides with Jesus’ — if we give the same amount of time and space to what was of interest to our Lord and Savior.

Now I’m certainly not saying we can’t rebuke sin. But what I am saying is that probably we don’t give enough emphasis to having faith. What percentage of the Gospels (stuff directed at the disciples, not the Pharisees, Sadducees and other bad dudes) is eliciting greater faith? It almost looks like the greatest sin (for Jesus) is to come up short in the area of faith.

In truth, there is a profound lesson here. We need to have more faith. Focus on increasing your faith. When you pray, don’t whimper. Proclaim with faith, ask with boldness.

Attitude is everything

Like with so many things in life, attitude is everything — in prayer.

Of 10 lepers healed, only one came back to thank Jesus. (Luke 17:17-18) Gratitude for what we already have is important as we ask God for more. It should not stop us for asking for more, but praise and thanksgiving should accompany petition. By prayer and supplication WITH THANKSGIVING  let your requests be made known unto God. — Phil 4:6 KJV (my caps)

Another pitfall is trying to convince God that OUR plan ought to be HIS plan. How ridiculous! Yet, we are guilty frequently. First accept whatever God’s plan is, and then pray for better circumstances. Even Jesus said, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Upon entering your prayer closet, examine your attitude. Are your prayers desperate cries of faith or selfish complaining? Do we have the things of God in mind or our own things? Remember: it is not  the right words you say in prayer but the right demeanor. A correct attitude leads to correct prayers leads to answers!

‘Dad, we need a shed’

My son, Hosea, learning to surf

How to discern between need and want? Your Father knows what you NEED before you ask him. — Matt. 6:8 NIV (my caps)

Undoubtedly, finances are the fuel for ministry. You will be limited in outreach opportunities by lack of resources.

But where finances have lacked most, the gospel has spread most. The church in China exploded in the 1980s and ’90s with growth while they had precious few pennies.

A leader needs great wisdom. And he needs contentment with what God has granted. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with praying for more finances for ministry.

My son yesterday told me we need a shed. We need it for the bikes, and now for a beginner’s surfboard. Bikes were stolen out of our backyard, so we are stowing them inconveniently overnight in the church. But we’re renters without a lot of money, so a shed may not be the best option.

We Americans always “need” something else. The new IPad. A new car. New clothes. I used to be a missionary on a shoe-string budget. Sheer lack helps to distinguish true needs. When are “needs” in truth only “wants?”

God picked you

One of my teams wins, the other loses, so it’s not the coaching that makes the difference. It’s the kids.

As I watched my Napoli team demolish their foes, I realized the victory lay not in brilliant tactical coaching or in superior training. The victory was won when I picked the kids. Simply put, I picked players who worked well as a team, each efficiently executing his position.

God picked you for His team! And of course, He has a winning team. For we know, brothers loved by God, that HE HAS CHOSEN YOU. — 1 Thes. 1:4 NIV (my caps).

You were chosen for salvation. You were chosen for ministry. God picked a winning team, and you are part of it! Let motivation fill your heart as you face another day of unappreciated labor. Your unapplauded work for the Kingdom is part of the victory.

In soccer, people cheer the goal scorers. But soccer launches from the defense. It progresses forward through the midfield and only culminates with the strikers. Everybody who gets a touch on the ball has his part in the victory. You are fulfilling the plan of God.

Unseen resources

Are we blinded by despair? The resource was there all along. Hagar cast her son under a bush in the desert and wandered off howling. She refused to see her son die. God responded with mercy. He didn’t CREATE water — say, out of a rock. He simply SHOWED her the water that was right under her nose, so to speak.

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. — Gen. 21:19 NIV

Is the resource you’re desperately crying out to God for, right under your nose? It may very well be. You are driven to despair and can’t see any way out of your problem. The compounded frustration blinds you to the solution. You have the resource — God has provided. But you can’t see it.

Don’t pray today for resources. Pray that God opens your eyes to see the resource you already have and are not using.

Hagar’s son, Ishmael, was saved. He went on to become a great nation. And contrary to condemnations from all sides, he was blessed by God. Somehow, he formed part of God’s plan. His descendants, the Arabs, need salvation just like every other sinner in the world.

End of the drought

Droughts can´t last forever.

Droughts are painful. Droughts can bring death. Nobody likes those times when finances are short, attendance is down and trials outnumber blessings. We can whine, complain, blame God and even quit ministry.

During the times of drought, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind: Droughts DON’T and CAN’T last forever. Just pray for the end of the drought and hang on.

Joseph oversaw seven years of grain distribution in Egypt during a drought. Those seven years came to an end. Elijah prayed for three-and-a-half years of drought. They came to an end. The early church’s persecution came to an end.

The devil tries to get you to quit in a season of drought. He reminds of a time when your wallet was flush with cash, when you weren’t doing ministry. He wants to get you to sell out on the Almighty God in search of the Almighty Dollar. Don’t quit. Hang on until the end of the drought. Rain will come. God will prosper you again.

Just a test

Some kids at the Guatemalan church today

He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. — John 6:6 NIV

Lack is only a test. We need to learn to get an A.

Multitudes are coming, and Jesus casually asks Phillip how they’re going to feed them. Phillip failed the test. He said eight months wages wouldn’t buy enough food. Phillip saw the lack with human eyes — not with eyes of faith.

How do you see your need? You pass the test when you see your need with eyes of faith. Thousands were fed as Jesus multiplied food miraculously. Don’t despair with your circumstances. Jesus can multiply whatever you need. As missionaries in Guatemala, we scraped by month to month. We always had just what we needed. Don’t doubt God. Your crisis is just a test. You need to pass the test. You will keep receiving tests until you learn to pass it.