Monthly Archives: July 2012

Hitting the wall

A runner falls before the finish line in the Melbourne Marathon in 2006

At 18-20 miles, a marathoner can experience acute fatigue known commonly as “hitting the wall.” At that point stored glycogen depletes, and the body turns to fat, but the conversion is slower. Hardcore marathoners bring “energy gels” to supply easy energy.

I am not (yet) a marathoner. Just a few weeks ago, I could hardly do 2 miles. But I am preparing to do the 6-mile running leg of the L.A. Triathlon Sept. 30 as part of a relay team. So I am learning about long distance running as I train.

Christianity is not for sprinters. I have seen too many good men die after a spectacular mad dash. After so much promise and exhibiting boundless potential, they stop serving Him altogether. It is terribly saddening.

So far, I have been a born-again Christian for 33 years. I still have a long way to go. I want to continue growing and being useful. Most of all, I don’t want to pull the plug. I don’t want to hit the wall short of the finish line.

Somewhere in the years of ministry, stagnation, monotony, boredom and distraction take a toll. The leader falls tragically into sin. God help us to stay the course and finish the race. When acute fatigue sets in, take that energy capsule!

Clumsy prayers

Now happily married for 22 years.

I had three girlfriends. They broke my heart.

Then I had two girlfriends — at the same time. I broke their hearts. I think I was trying to get some kind of weird revenge, unconsciously. But I didn’t feel good about it. As a Christian — a lukewarm one — I knew that what I was doing was wrong. So either way, whether my heart got broken, or I broke hearts, I felt bad, really bad.

With our daughter

Finally something good happened. I got disgusted with the whole darn dating scam and quit totally. I prayed: God, I don’t want to have anything to do with girlfriends anymore. Just drop down from the Heaven my wife so that one day I’ll open my door and there she’ll be. The prayer contained more bitterness than faith.

The whole family today

A year and a half later, I opened my door, and there was Dianna. How she wound up there is a story for another blog. Clumsily, I had stumbled on a truth: You can trust God even for the finding of the ultimate match-up. Also: Prayers don’t have to be perfect. Clumsy prayers are better than no prayer.

Teen fights child sex traffickers

Jessica at right, during Bible conference

Jessica Gallegos is not your typical American youth. While her friends might be worried about makeup and flirting in malls, this Jordan, Utah, adolescent is fighting child sex traffickers. That’s unusual Christian moxie.

This image from Backyard Broadcast dramatizes this evil.

Jessica joined a youth movement called Backyard Broadcast to heighten awareness of this form of slavery occurring right under our ignoring eyes. More than 100,000 kids are exploited each year. Sometimes its the parents themselves to blame, sometimes its runaways, sometimes its drug addiction. Whatever the point of exploitation, this evil should be stamped out. Unlike most youths who only cringe at the topic, Jessica is actually getting gritty to fight it.

You can join the fight against underage human trafficking too! Check out their website at

Jessica is a heroine.

Research and development is prayer

In China, Research and Development consists only of tearing apart the latest iPhone to copy it. In the U.S., pharmaceuticals spend twice as much on marketing than R&D. What do those two facts say about their industrial strength?

Ever increasingly, a company or nation stands or falls thanks to its R&D. If this department is strong, cranking out new products that consumers want, prosperity follows. If it is weak, economy lags.

Prayer is the R&D of your ministry. You research the direction the Spirit is leading. You develop advances that you otherwise wouldn’t have. Prayer is the lifeblood of ministry. Where prayer is strong, the ministry flourishes.

Where ministers only copy others’ successes or dedicate more time to spin-doctoring than true prayer, ministry is fragile.

Don’t be a chicken

When I was a missionary in Guatemala, one day at an open-air market I saw two live chickens tied to each other by some twine. I asked the lady why they weren’t tied to a stake, or a rock, or in a covered basket. Couldn’t they just run away?

Her answer surprised me. No, they never run away. Even though there was essentially nothing to keep them from making a break for freedom, they never run in the same direction. They always pull at each other and thus never venture far. If they would run in the same direction, they could avoid becoming Kentucky Fried. But no. There’s a reason why “bird brain” is an insult.

Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. — Mark 18:19 NIV. If only we could unite and agree in prayer, how much more impact we would have! But many times, we are like those chickens, pulling in opposing directions, not able to even get two of us on the same wavelength in prayer. Only two.

The individual prayer is important. But so is praying together with other saints in agreement. Let us strive for unity — in our prayers.

Fishers of men

The fisherman THINKS he knows how to catch fish. He has done it all his life. He knows the behavior of the fish, where they are based on wind, sun, temperature and time of day. He is so much the expert that he forgets who truly brings in fish.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” — Luke 5:4-6, 8 NIV.

After this, Jesus commissioned Peter a “fisher of men,” which is what we are. Never forget the difference between the expert fisherman and the Expert Fisherman. Depend on Him to make the catch. Pray.

Superglue in your ear



Not Ferret.

Ryan Liam Upton, 27, squirted superglue into the ear of Ben Ferrett, 28, in 2009 at a party in Brisbane, Australia, in an act of drunken wisdom (‘scuse the sarcasm). It was meant as a joke, but Ferret suffered permanent partial hearing loss.

Don’t let the devil fill your ear with demonic superglue. He does it to keep you from hearing God. Yes, prayer is listening time! You shouldn’t talk only. Stop rifling off requests and take a moment to actually listen to God. He might have a request for you! Or a direction. Or an answer to a question.

When Samuel was a child, he couldn’t recognize the voice of God. He kept going to Eli, his master, thinking it was the high priest who was calling him. After three times, Eli understood that it was God talking to Sammy. Maybe you need to become accustomed to hearing from God. (Of course, He’s not going to tell you to sin.) Communication — and prayer is communication — must be a two way street.

Justice cracked down on Upton. But Ferret still can’t hear that well. Don’t fall to such a fate in your prayers.


Sowing doubt

“Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the public.” — a memo from a tobacco executive in 1969, outlining the smoking industry’s marketing strategy to suppress the then-growing body of evidence linking smoking to cancer.

They generated attack after attack to put in doubt what the studies increasingly found. If they didn’t sow doubt, they would lose clients.

Similarly, the devil’s main product is doubt. He will launch attack after attack against your faith. His goal? To keep his clients. To keep you out of prayer. To keep you discouraged. Don’t fall prey to him. Pray with faith.

* Adapted from Goldacre, Ben, Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks. Faber & Faber: New York, 2010. p. 109

Don’t cry if you won’t fight

Muhammad XII surrendered the grandiose castle complex of La Alhambra in Granada, Spain, without much of a fight in 1491. Built on a hill on three sides, this last outpost of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula could have withstood siege indefinitely. But it is told that Ferdinand and Isabella sweetened a bloodless surrender offering untold riches to the sultan.

As he slowly left La Alhambra on his horse, Muhammad cried at thought of nearly 800 years of glorious Muslim reign in Spain coming to an end. His mother reproached him: “Don’t cry like a woman for that which you wouldn’t fight like a man.”

Christianity calls for us to fight. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers… — Eph. 6:12 KJV. We are not to sell out or otherwise surrender easily. If we have a price, the devil will buy us out.

Fight in such a way that you show you really intend to establish and maintain the glories of God’s kingdom.

Worth $1 million


She had only a vague notion that her jade pieces might be valuable. But by the time the Antique Roadshow expert was done, she was flabbergasted. Four pieces were worth $1 million. An army man in China in the 1940s, her dad had collected them and bequeathed them to his children.

Sometimes we underestimate the value of the pieces God has place in our lives. This is especially true for the disciples under our care. Peter certainly didn’t seem like a headhunter’s prize, a highly capable exec stolen from a competitor. Our disciples have a latent value that suddenly explodes on scene when we least expect. Believe in the disciples God has brought you, because unexpected value is liable suddenly appear and be useful in the extension of God’s kingdom.

She’ll probably stop serving M&Ms out of that bowl. If we only understood the true value of our prayers… of our people…



Your words = your reality

Biblical authors rightly reasoned, inspired by the Spirit, that if a person’s negative words could convert into reality, a positive confession would also.

The first instance of confession-prophecy was when the Israelites complained to Moses that God had brought them out of Egypt only to die and not inherit the Promise Land. God responded: So be it; your negative confession shall be a prophecy.

As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall–every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me — Numbers 14:28-29 NIV.

But the principle works both ways. If negative words could lead to bad, positive words would also be honored by God. So in Jesus’ time, if you confessed faith in Jesus, He healed you. The proverbist said: Death and life are in the power of the tongue — Prov. 18:21 KJV.

When you pray today, make a positive confession.

No milk? No problem.

George Muller launched his orphanage on a whim of challenging a cobbler that he could trust God for finances. The cobbler wouldn’t come to church on Sunday because he needed to work to earn for his daily sustenance. Muller told him God would provide if he put God first, and the cobbler demurred.

At first, he prayed for hours for milk and bread to be donated, and it always was. On one occasion, he had the orphans sit down, say grace with no food available. By the time they finished their prayers, a milk cart broke down in front of their orphanage, and the owner gave them his milk. A baker showed up with enough bread for all.

As God met needs, Muller, a German missionary in England in the early 1800s, undertook bigger challenges. By the end of his life, 10% of the country’s orphans were under his care, and he sent money to missionaries around the world — about $2.7 million in today’s equivalent. Without knowing that  Hudson Taylor needed traveling money for his missionaries to escape during the Boxer Rebellion, Muller supplied the needs for the Chinese Inland Mission.

At the end of his life, Muller declared it’s easier to get money from God than men worthy to receive that money. His life was marked by intense prayer and faith. More than any other biography, his has inspired me and is the reason of this blog.

Roman roads

Roman roads were built in seven layers, with technology to resist freezing, permit drainage and to last with as little repair as possible. They were smooth and straight, designed to transport heavy building materials and move armies quickly from one province to another.

With the advent of the bicycle and later the motor car in the early 1900s, durable roads were needed in both Europe and America. Drawing upon their Roman ancestors, the Europeans initially outperformed American in road engineering. It wasn’t until after clumsy attempts with wood and even iron that Americans perfect the art. The incipient trucking industry potholed our first roads.

A pastor and a Christian leader is paving the way before new converts to walk in the Way. Christ said, I am the WAY and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me — John 14:6 NIV (caps mine). Ravines were filled in and passes were cut through mountains. The stability of the Empire depended on this network of 400,000 kilometers of roads. You as a leader must forge the path before the new convert to achieve his stability. It is labor intensive, so that’s why Christ has commissioned you. Engineer your ministry in such a way that your construction of Christians helps them go the distance.


The race that remembers the feat

Leonhard Seppala braved -50 degree Farenheit blizzards to carry serum 91 miles, the longest and most perilous stretch, in a heroic dog sled relay run to stave off a diphtheria outbreak that threatened to wipe out the native Alaskan population of iced-in Nome in 1925.

Through the impenetrable, swirling snow, he pressed on and on, risking his life and the life of his dogs, to save a population cut off at a time before reliable airplanes could link it with the rest of the world. Without the serum, perhaps all the natives would fall to a white man’s disease against which they had no natural immunity.

Leonhard Seppala

The whole team of 20 mushers and a combined total of 150 sled dogs trekked across 1,000 miles of treacherous mountain passes, iced tundra, vast expanses of uninhabited frostbiting snow, in a record five-and-a-half days. Their heroics are commemorated in the annual Iditarod Race, named after the barren frigid trail that was the original route for the town’s salvation.

Seppala and his mushers inspire me. As carriers of Nome’s only hope, they held back nothing in their effort to save people. They should inspire us to withhold nothing in our Christianity today. For us now, the serum is Jesus Christ. And the epidemic decimating humanity is sin.

Can we give more of ourselves? In prayer, offerings, evangelism? Can we brave difficulties? Can we set aside distractions and dedicate ourselves to penetrating the snow storm that separates the sinner from salvation?

By thunder and lightning

Without sword, without spear, without shield and bow and arrow, the Israelites crushed the Philistines at Mizpah.

The mighty enemy army quickly mobilized and blitzkrieged the Jews while they held a service with the Prophet Samuel. Surprise-attacked, the defenseless Israelites resorted to their only option at hand: prayer.

While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. — 1 Sam. 7:10 NIV.

Other battles were won with weapons — that is, human weapons. This battle stands out in the whole Bible for the wild delivery wrought by God. It shows us to trust more in prayer than human mechanisms. God responded with a terrifying display of the elements of nature.


Don’t miss the miracle

Literally tens of thousands of Israelite soldiers missed this. Saul and his 600 men rushed out to the battle and found the Philistines killing each other — 1 Sam. 14:20 (Living Bible). Jonathan had sparked panic and confusion on the enemy with only his armor bearer.

And the rest of the 300,000 soldiers (see 1 Sam. 11:8-9)? They were hiding in caves, wells, bushes and even running across borders into foreign countries. They missed witnessing God’s sovereign and wondrous move!

In ministry, there’s definitely a need to hang in there. When war clangor strikes fear in a normal man’s heart, you must remain stout, unmoved, waiting patiently on God. The guys who run, miss out. Pray and remain. In fact, the key to winning is just staying when God is involved. The only ones who lose are those who quit.

Miracle-seeking missiles

Testimony time is exciting because it reminds us of God’s great power. The trouble is when these miracles are only in the distant past. Church become boring.

If you’re facing potential devastation right now, you are in line to receive a miracle today! Praise God for your problem, however big it may be, because it is only a prelude to His power.

We ought to seek miracles! They manifest God’s glory. They shut up the atheist. They’re undeniable. God wants to do miracles. But we must reinvigorate our faith to seek them — just like heat-seeking missiles.

There’s an advocacy of this: The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me — John 10:25 NIV. The best apologetics don’t compare to a brush with the Supernatural God. Hunger for miracles. Don’t fear problems because God is only setting up a miracle opportunity that will make your ministry grow!

Old soldier

His acts of heroism are forgotten now. No longer honored, the old man is a target for  kids’ sport. He moves slow and can be easily provoked. What do they care about some war he fought in before they were born?

In his breast, he knows what he has been through. He is tired, cast off from society. But that doesn’t take away the satisfaction. He has served his country — and he has served it well. The kids are free because of his sacrifice.

Though the world scorns an old soldier, God never does.

TODAY… keep serving God. Anonymous. Unappreciated. Never forget where your true applause will be.

Fury from Heaven

When a tornado touches down on terra, it’s power is microbial compared to the fury from Heaven when you simply pray.

Computing power

The smart phone in your hand has more computing power than what sent the the Apollo Mission to the moon. And you take it for granted.

The heart in your chest has more potential power than Jesus Himself. Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do EVEN GREATER THINGS than these, because I am going to the Father — John 14:12 NIV (my caps). And you take it for granted.

From panic to FUN!

If you have ever spearheaded a major undertaking in a church, you have felt panic. It hits you at some point, probably close to the stage call, when it occurs to you that everything, instead of coming together, is falling apart. You fear being disgraced, being a laughingstock.

I just mounted a July 4 parade for our church, with a marching band, choreographed elements with Chinese ribbons, and even a flying bald eagle in the style of the Chinese dragon run by four men. More than once, I experienced the sinking feeling.

But on Independence Day, God was faithful, as He always is, to make it a success. We had a blast! There is nothing better than serving God.

So don’t panic. Trust, pray, do big things for God. Don’t make serving God boring by scaling back your vision and just staying with what is familiar and “safe.” Dream big and dare to carry it out.

An invention for ministry

Zippers were invented to replace 20 to 40 tiny buttons on each shoe. Soldiers in the Spanish Civil War, upset that their chocolates melted in their pockets, imagined a protective, candy coating — giving birth to M&Ms. Charles Goodyear accidentally left Mayan rubber on a warm stove with sulfur and lead and stabilized it.

Inventions have made life quicker, more productive, more enjoyable. These days, smart phones and internet advances are mushrooming at dizzying speed. Disneyland once featured a “house of the future” exhibit that got outstripped by the future itself.

Read about artificial intelligence online and you’ll find pundits who not only foresee robots with human intelligence but humans with artificial intelligence. Implant a chip in your brain, download a course of study, and it will interact seamlessly with biological thinking. Get Italian before you visit Venice!

Somebody should invent a faster, more productive, more enjoyable way to do ministry.

Oh yeah. They already did. It’s called prayer.

A sense of destiny

In Spain’s semifinal triumph over Portugal in the recent Euro Cup, Cesc Fabregas experienced “a funny feeling, a premonition,” before the game that he would score the winner in a penalty shootout. His was the fifth shot, and the daisy chopper ricocheted off the post and into the goal, out of reach of the goalie.

Now, I don’t know if Fabregas is New Age, psychic or just plain creepy. But he exhibits something that you as a Christian leader must not lose: a profound sense of destiny.

You won’t be able to carry on your labors if you forget that God has destined you to success. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do — Eph. 2:10 NIV.

A sense of destiny will carry you through the valley of the shadow of death. It will keep you looking up as you suffer blow after blow. A right focus will sustain your courage and encouragement.

Though I’m suspicious of Fabregas’ source of inspiration, I admire the simple fact that he plays inspired soccer. We must deliver inspired ministry.

Discipline: Unleash your potential

There are two kinds of discipline: 1) self imposed, 2) imposed by others. The second is virtually useless. The teacher, coach, parent, judge punishes the infractor, who supposedly repents and redirects his life. Instead, he resents and seethes.

But the first is the maker of every greatness: athletes, inventors, successful people, ministry leaders. We may be saved by grace through no self work, but we become heroes through much work. We advance God’s kingdom through much work.

Don’t wait for God to discipline you. It will be unpleasant. Discipline yourself. Salvation is free and easy. But doing good and getting blessings from are the product of effort. Without self-discipline incalculable potential is only wasted. Unleash your dynamism today. People will marvel at your impact. You’re destined for greatness but it remains unseen because of lack of discipline.

Discipline yourself to pray. Discipline yourself to Bible study, to church attendance, to fellowship.

Without discipline, Joseph’s dreams would have remained only dreams. Without discipline, Elijah’s vision for apostate Israel never would have sparked revival. I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. — 1 Cor. 9:27 NIV.

The ‘God’ particle

Physicists found the “God” particle this week, and it took a $10 billion atom smasher to do it. If you want to find God Himself though, all you need to do is pray.

Actually, the subatomic particle is more correctly called “Higgs Boson.” Why is called the “God” particle? Because it reportedly proves the physical laws that back up the scientific theory of the universe’s beginnings. Maybe God used a Big Bang when He spoke Creation into existence.

Physicist Peter Higgs theorized the particle’s existence in the 1960s.

To find God Himself, you won’t need 17 mile track like the CERN lab on the border between France and Switzerland. You won’t need to search for five decades. You won’t need to harness incredible amounts of energy.

You just need enough energy to get up early. Or enough energy to turn off the television and turn on the God-vision.

Scientist cried at the momentous discovery. Now if they would only be as excited about discovering God as they are about His particle.

Thank God for the problems

All the miracles in Bible have one thing in common. They first were problems.

Big, small, horrible, terrifying – all kinds of problems led to all kinds of miracles. The bigger the problem, the bigger the miracle. The worse the problem, the better the miracle. The more desperate the problem, the more glorious the miracle.

Are you going through tough financial stuff? Start by praising God for the shortage. That is faith. Praise Him for the problem because a BIG miracle is coming. Today you are anguished, tomorrow you will laugh with joy. Start laughing today, rejoicing in what God will do tomorrow.

You can’t see how God will answer. If you could it wouldn’t require faith. And the people of the Bible couldn’t foresee answers either.

Praise as prayer

For years, my prayer time was a worry session. No longer.

At some point, I realized I needed to praise God for answered petitions, not just machine-gun through the unanswered ones. As a boon, I discovered it bolstered my faith.

In addition to my long list of prayer requests, I have an ever-growing list of praise reports. Daily I write down at least one thing that was good, something God did. During prayer, I thank God for each and every one of them as part of my prayer time.

I have found that if I only ask for needs, I tend to get depressed. But if I also remind myself of His provision and bounty, it injects optimism like an energy-shot.

Adding praise reports has revolutionized my prayer time. I strongly recommend you do it to.

Teams, not individuals, win

Fernando Torres, winner of the Golden Boot

Spain showcased masterclass soccer yesterday to beat Italy 4-0 and become the first nation to win three major titles consecutively: Euro Cup, World Cup, Euro Cup. And it did so without a clash of egos.

By contrast, Netherlands melted down in group stage and fell well short of expectations. Arjen Robben ripped his jersey off and stormed out of the stadium  because he was upset over being substituted by the coach. The rifts were evident.

Unity leads to victory

Spain demonstrated how to win. Top-notch players weren’t selfish, setting up goals for others instead of taking it themselves. Fernando Torres humbly hooked a pass to a comrade on a shot he could have easily made himself. It was the last goal of Cup. Such selflessness could have cost him the Golden Boot award.

This team triumph is a lesson for the church. Our culture tells us that individuals get the victory (Superman, Rambo and a host of movies promote this myth). But the Bible tells us it is His church, a collection of people, that will prevail. I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. — Mt. 16:18 NIV.

To achieve this utterly crucial unity (see Acts for examples of unity = revival), there is a need for humility, always out of vogue with the flesh. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. — Lu. 14:11 NIV. Robben should learn from the Bible.