Monthly Archives: April 2013

We’re health-crazed in California

gluttony_by_angiheartsconverses-d4i05th

Thank you gluttony_by_angiheartsconverses

But we don’t worry about what we ingest spiritually. We don’t worry to take in God’s word, praise or prayer. We consume vast amounts of internet dross, TV junk food, music bile. And it’s killing us spiritually. Virtually no one is attuned to the damage done.

But we are intensely aware of damage done to the body. We work out at the gym incessantly. The contrast alarms me.

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Too old?

Pastor Ralph laughed at me as he went off to the comforts of his own bed.

Pastor Ralph smirked at my fate as he went off to the comforts of his own bed.

I’m too old for this, right? I’m almost 46.

When Karina needed someone to chaperone her boys’ sleepover on Saturday, I volunteered. My son was one of the friends. Here were eight kids aged 10 – 13, camping out in tents on the front lawn of her suburb home for a birthday. The guys woke me up every 15 to 30 minutes until 3:00 a.m. with cackling at prepubescent jokes. I was afraid they’d wake the neighbors, who’d call the police for disturbing the peace. Yeah, my peace.

IMG_2673At 1:30 a.m. the 20-something-year-old girl across the street had some guy friends talking to her, leaning against the car. I crawled back into my sleeping bag on the porch because it didn’t look like any problem. Then at 2:30 a.m., two boys woke me up with hushed screams of terror. The guys, they said, had attempted to light the tent on fire (I think they may have thrown a cigarette or two in the street; from that, the imagined immolation). According to my boys, the guys were gangstas, hoodlums, “bad guys.”

IMG_2677Aw, shut up and go back to bed, I growled. It’s YOU guys who are the bad guys ‘cuz you won’t let me sleep. I curmudgeonly drilled my head into my pillow. Next thing I knew, the boys were putting their sleeping bags onto the cement driveway. I ask them why but, delirious with exhaustion, I comprehended nothing of their answer. I began to snore. The next morning I asked why they left the tent on the lawn for the bruisingly hard driveway.

“Because we were closer to you.”

This was Sunday. Hosea wanted to have a friend over. They handed out these lighted goggles at the party.

This was Sunday. Hosea wanted to have a friend over. They handed out these lighted goggles at the party.

A super-groggy, trying-not-to-be-cranky Christian camp dad attempted to crack the tent-packing code. (How does something so big fit into such a small bag? Where are those tent pegs sunk into the lawn?)  I dropped half the kids off at their homes and went to take a shower and gulp down 3-4 cups of coffee before church service.

“Thank you, Mr. Ashcraft.”

IMG_2679I tried not to grumble in response.

Kids need activities to make them feel special, to let them know how much God loves them. It’s up to us, the older generation, to help the younger generation know Christ. Today is Monday, and three cups of coffee have NOT achieved the desired effect. Through the haze of hangover-like sleepiness, I’m planning the next sleepover.

Are you too old to help kids?

Plodder’s prayer

  • How to pray?
  • Bible prayers
  • Persevering in prayer
From It's a Beautiful World on Tumblr

From It’s a Beautiful World on Tumblr

I’ve long lamented being a plodder: lack of panache, short on genius, without the glut of talent and personality that some people have.

From Grandmas Dreams

From Grandmas Dreams

Last night I learned the plodder wins the day. The IQ-overflow, overconfident swashbuckler doesn’t want to work. He expects everybody to do everything for him just because their enthralled with his personality. Persistent Igor blindsides him. Whoop!

The plodder goes to prayer. He patiently, persistently, perseveringly goes to God, day after day, not making “vain repetitions,” but continually assailing the throne with desperate needs until the glorious answer materializes. If you’re slogging through the mud, rejoice! The answers coming!

tumblr_m6y94ugees1qgk0bho1_500Everybody loves the heroic moment: David downs Goliath, Elijah makes fire from Heaven, Moses opens the Red Sea. The special effects are exciting. But we must realize that hours, days, weeks, months and years of prayer go into the making of that moment.

While the disciples slept, Jesus prayed. (While Jesus slept, the disciples fretted.)

Into my kids

Rarely do the authorities catch kidnappers.

Rarely do the authorities catch kidnappers.

Maybe I’ve gone vicarious. I’m really into my kids.

I’m into their soccer. I take them to practices ceaselessly. I film them make goals. Since I teach at my daughter’s high school, I try to have lunch with her. Almost everything is for them. They’re my #1.

A friend didn't like the extreme violence of the movie about Jesus' sacrifice. But I wondered WHAT did she think happened?

A friend didn’t like the extreme violence of the movie about Jesus’ sacrifice. But I wondered WHAT did she think happened?

Which is why I’m thunderstruck at what God did. He sent His Son to die for my sin.

Into My Kids 3

Trained in Guatemala, Robert has done well in America with soccer!

I sort of had the opportunity to do something similar. At the end of almost 16 years of ministry in Guatemala, we had a kidnapping threat. I hightailed it and headed for America.

Maybe, if I wouldn’t have had kids, I would have just thumbed my nose at the threats and continued to minister, trusting in God (recklessly?). But because the threat breached the unbreachable, the holiest sanctum of my life, my children, it was intolerable.

Into My Kids 2

Hosea, amid his teammates

God handed His only Son over to the horrible Roman kidnappers. Sometimes the Guatemalan kidnappers cut off a finger or tortured their victims to hurry up ransom payments. While that is frightening and nightmarish, it’s silly nonsense compared to the disfiguring whippings and bloody beatings which they subjected God’s Son to.

As I think about this right now, I’m NOT inspired to praise Him. I feel throttled, numbed by the shock of it. When I get over this, I’ll praise Him.

Into My Kids

At left, Rebekah is with her friends, Gia and Jackie

I guess if you’ve never had a kidnapping threat, it’s easy to make light of what God did. Maybe it’s easy to trample under foot His sacrifice. It’s not easy as a human being to be understanding of you as you mock God, hate Him and blame Him for God-knows-what reason. Maybe you need to go through something like this to understand what He did. He did it for you — and despite you not taking it into account in the slightest, He still L-O-V-E-S you. So I’m doing my best to love you too. Most Christians try to reflect His perfect love, and most Christians fall short. I hope you can understand: Only His love lacks in no area.

from WhoWillYouServe.blogspot

from WhoWillYouServe.blogspot

Having kids has definitely deepened my understanding of God.  But what has really helped is my being unwilling to give up my kids to danger to be able to reach lost people. I love my kids too much to sacrifice them for others.

God loved you too much to hold back His Son.

She’ll never hurt again

She'll Never Hurt AgainLCA grad Casey McNamara bounced around five foster homes when she was a kid. During a 3-month stint back with mom, a 7-year-old Casey cared for her little siblings while mom abused meth and cocaine. “It was hell,” she said.

Casey gave her heart to Christ when she met her now-husband, Max, and enrolled in the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica, CA, as a junior. She now teaches at the Lighthouse Church’s preschool. Expecting a baby next month, Casey has traded her nightmare for a fairy tale.

Casey had been forced to return to Mom by a judge who wanted to give the lady a chance to go straight. Instead, while mom was doing drugs, Casey and her 3-year-old sister were taken advantage of by men that her mom had brought home.

226255_1947007828610_2702427_nCasey pulled syringes out of her brother’s foot. Baths were optional, and she attended school little. Sometimes Mom locked the kids in a room while she fed her addiction. Three times, Casey and her siblings slept in a neighbor’s backyard while Mom partied.

“Dinner and breakfast was Lucky Charms,” Casey said in a live interview. “Taking care of my two younger half-siblings was like playing with life-sized dolls — it got old really fast.”

Eventually, school officials reported her truancies and poor hygiene to authorities, and the judge eventually granted adoption of Casey and her brother, Will, to the Mendelsons.

Though life became a dreamworld at the Mendelsons’ with a white-picket fence and a golden retriever, Casey fell into depression at age 14 because of all the emotional baggage she was carrying. Mean kids harassed her and called her “skinny.” She worried about her half-siblings and felt guilty for enjoying the Mendelsons.

“Why do I deserve a good life when my siblings can’t?” she wondered frequently. “I felt very alone, very empty. I was confused and angry.”

At one low moment, Casey contemplated suicide. But then she heard a male voice say, “TEACH.” It halted her suicidal thoughts, gave her a hope and ultimately led her to her current career. God was on the move in her life.

He began to move more when one day on the Promenade Max saw her. While Casey was hanging out with friends, Max McNamara was joking around with fellow Lighthouse students. He saw Casey from a distance and immediately announced to his buddies that here was the girl he was going to marry. He introduced himself.

One day soon after, Max was driving to football practice by chance on Casey’s street and saw her in her front yard raking leaves. He now knew where she lived.

For a few weeks, he would try to strike up conversations with her on Myspace social media website. Then one night, Max and his LCA pals were standing outside her window and threw pebbles against the pane to get her attention.

When she opened the window, Max asked her to hang out. She very nearly freaked out. “He seemed like a stalker,” she said. But talking to Max with some other buddies didn’t seem like a dangerous situation.

Married with Max

Married with Max

“That’s when I first laid eyes on Max,” Casey explained in an email. “The second I saw him I couldn’t turn away. He was different, different from any other boy I had met. There was a gentle spirit about him. That night on we were inseparable. We started talking on the phone, and he eventually met my parents. One thing I will never forget him telling me is that I would always be safe with him and that I would hurt no more. How right he was!”

caseymcnamaraMax invited her to Lighthouse plays and to revival services. Coming from a Catholic background, Casey at first looked for an excuse to back-out on the church services. But as she was stalling, she happened to see in the distance her younger brother drugged up, beat up and looking like a homeless man.

Right then and there, she resolved to NOT be like her mother. “I was going to break the family curse,” Casey said. “I was going to be someone different, I was going to change my life — if not for myself, for my siblings.”

She went to church that night and passed up to the altar. She was flooded with an unspeakable peace.

Next, she enrolled in Lighthouse high school, where she loved the sense of family. While she had met rejection in the public schools, at Lighthouse she was loved by all.

At the Lighthouse preschool, where she has taught for three years

“The most important thing that Lighthouse taught me was forgiveness,” Casey said. She is looking forward to seeing her dad more next year when he gets out of prison. She is working on mending her relationship with her mom.

Her relationship deepened and progressed with Max. The couple was supported by staff and students as they maintained a formal and serious courtship. She graduated with honors in 2010 and came just short of her AA degree in child development at Santa Monica College.

She is currently working on her BA in Early Child Education and plans on getting my Master’s in Childhood and Adolescent Behavior and Development.

In 2012, Casey and Max were married. Ultrasound revealed their baby’s a girl. The happy ending is almost complete.

“I still have bad dreams,” Casey said. “But I have good support. I think I’m going to make it.” She can’t wait to see her biological dad and is working on the relationship with her biological mom, who has been clean for a year.

“I’m at a good place now in my life. I married the man of my dreams. I’m expecting my first child. I have the world’s GREATEST parents, I am working on my relationship with my birth mom and my birth dad, who has recently given his life to Christ and is being released next year from prison. God is good! ”

*** This article was originally published in the Lighthouse Christian Academy’s newsblog, which I edit. http://www.thelighthousechristianacademy.com/

It was written by a student, Alex Myles, a sophomore. She also blogs on wordpress under the name Wolfbane15.wordpress.com (or something like that!)

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.

Prayer: refusing ‘acceptable’ religion

Credit: Washington Post

Credit: Washington Post

Prayer is about breaking bounds set by secularists, who want to limit Christianity to pious crying.

The day after the April 15 Boston bombings, Christians held vigils for the victims, and the worldly applauded. But the dead stayed dead. Mourning didn’t change our country.

Credit:TheTimes

Credit:TheTimes

Trying to constrain Christ to a reduced role of “acceptable” activities is nothing new. When Jesus saw his dead friend Lazarus, he cried. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” — John 11:36 NIV. Crying was acceptable. Raising him from the dead was not. From that day on they plotted to take his life. — John 11:53 NIV. Jesus was taking their thunder.

the-bible-lazarus-tomb

Credit: The Bible Episode 4

It’s impossible for Christ to remain benign. His followers should not cower either. If you only want to lament the demise of this world, wring your hands. But if you want to see Christ transform this world, get in contact with resurrection power now — through prayer.  I am the resurrection and the life, said Jesus (John 11:25 NIV).

Credit: Prayerprayer.net

Credit: Prayerprayer.net

Break out of the limitations they set on you. (They don’t conceive supernatural power.) Work in prayer for miracles!

You would think they would have rejoiced at Lazarus’ resurrection. To the contrary, it made them furious (because it meant their loss of political power). But Jesus didn’t play their game. He used power. And that same power is available to us today.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing prayer vigils and mourning for victims. I would have participated, had I lived in Boston. What I’m saying is that we Christians can’t limit our activities to religious actions devoid of real power. We must pray for our countries, for our cities, for our neighborhoods, for our churches, for our families.

I’m also not talking about being obnoxious. Is there anything worse than a shrill “Christian” scolding the world for its worldliness? No, I’m talking about crying out to God and making impact, not being a self-appointed moral policeman for people who don’t have slightest idea about morality. First, let’s bring people to God, then teach them the way.

The world is eroding. We must resort to prayer.

The relevancy of church: a real smile beats an emoticon

Instant friendship because we share Christ. On outreach in San Diego.

Instant friendship — because we have Christ in common. On outreach in San Diego.

The handshake communicates affirmation, human warmth. A real smile always beats an emoticon. You can’t turn off the preachers just because his message is not exactly to your liking.

My fellow teacher, Kathy Payton, holds her granddaughter in service.

My colleague, Teacher Kathy Payton, holds her granddaughter in service.

In spite of futurists’ predictions, the e-church will never overtake the real church. As much as I enjoy “fellowship” on the blogosphere, I still crave that which only the local church can provide. I have yet to drink a coffee with a fellow blogger*

I’ve attended church for 33 years and haven’t found anything as vital and relevant as the living, breathing body of believers, despite its drawbacks and imperfections. The lifeblood of the church is its people — sometimes annoying, sometimes comforting, always interesting. The church is suffering no demise, even though outsiders forecast doom (but as

Everet liked the laser sound I can make. As we walked door to door inviting people to service, we became friends.

Everet liked the laser sound I can make. As we walked door to door inviting people to service, we cracked jokes and became friends.

“outsiders,” they simply don’t “get it” that the church is founded on Eternal Truth, not the shifting sands of popular opinion).

Here in Los Angeles, restaurants boast they serve “real food,” not processed, chemical-injected, nutritionless, unhealthy products. Yeah, get “real church.”

*If you’re ever in Santa Monica, let’s down a veinte at Starbucks!

Prayer: Lord’s prayer as a model

1AkUnLeScReWs2I can but don’t parrot the Lord’s prayer. For me, it serves as a model, a how-to prayer. Here’s what we learn of how to pray (Matt. 6:9-13):

  • Our Father – not impersonal, unfeeling, but loving family; not an amorphous force field.
  • Who art in Heaven – not only inside us, not a human projection, transcendant, above all in power and in person
  • 17781_10201034065479011_1840161065_nHallowed by thy name – ultimately we serve Him, not He, us
  • Thy kingdom come – ultimately the purpose is reaching others for Christ, not filling our whims
  • Thy will be done – ultimately, it’s about His will, not ours
  • On earth as it is in Heaven – obviously there’s a great lack of perfection here on Earth that we want to realize, just like Heaven is perfect
  • Give us this day our daily bread – notice the redundancy (hence it is important to God) or our provision
  • Forgive us our trespasses – we humans daily miss the mark of God’s required perfectness, hence we ask forgiveness
  • As we forgive those who trespass against us – it is critical for us to forgive others!
  • Lead us not into temptation – yeah, good idea to steer clear of that stuff!
  • Deliver us from evil – may we not fall prey to merciless destructiveness
  • Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory – it’s all His, not ours
my old church in Guatemala today!

my old church in Guatemala today!

Pray along these lines and you’ll do well! The Lord’s prayer tells you to whom you are praying and for what you ought to pray! I think it’s best to use your own words. Keep in mind the start off: He’s our compassionate daddy, not a cruel tyrant or stone-faced taskmaster.

 

You need to know…

This is for a dear friend, Carol. Jesus loves you!

This is for a dear friend, Carol. Jesus loves you!

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!

Why pray? For answers to prayer

How to pray? Bible prayers. Answers to prayer.

What has saved me from depression? I largely credit prayer. (Dianna is my wife)

What has saved me from depression? I largely credit prayer. (Dianna is my wife)

If you want logical explanations, you will most likely surmise the futility of prayer. But if you want results, then you will pray.

An atheist can scorn my prayer times. He can dismember its logic: “If God knows everything and is already motivated by compassion, then why does He need us to pray?” Good argument.

An onslaught of articles, books and programs urges that church is irrelevant. But I still go to church.

An onslaught of articles, books and programs urges that church is irrelevant. But I still go to church.

So why do I pray? Plain and simply, it works. (It doesn’t reason.)

If you want powerful reasons, become a philosophy major or a lawyer and feel proud of your rhetorical capabilities. If you want powerful results, pray and don’t fret about the anti-God hubbub.

I have seen answers to prayer. I cannot deny healings, salvations, turnarounds, miracles of money. My marriage is happy. Three times God healed my back (from separate injuries).

When it comes to prayer, why? is more important than what? when? where? and how? If you don’t know why, you won’t pray. But if you pray, what, when, where and how are all secondary because God looks mostly at your heart.

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.

The resurrection trumps all arguments

from thedeliverancedoctor.com

from thedeliverancedoctor.com

You can observe the atheists working overtime to dismiss the resurrection. It proves Christianity. Here’s why:

  • The disciples had great fear (as manifested by primary sources) before it and were emboldened by it to give their lives.
  • The disciples, being uneducated, would have been incapable of inventing it.
  • The primary sources agree that none of the disciples thought of resurrection before Jesus’ death. They clearly expected Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom. Peter used sword to defend Jesus from his crucifiers, then denied Christ three times to protect himself. This supports the idea that the resurrection surprised and transformed them.
  • It is true that religious groups have given their lives for delusions before, but an important difference must be made between those who have been duped, and those who are imposing the hoax. The atheists allege the disciples committed fraud by making it up. The trouble with this is is that it is highly unlikely they would then give their lives to martyrdom — separate from each other, with no one around to egg them on. If you create a delusion, it usually is to achieve some self-serving end, not to die for it. If you know that the resurrection is fake, it is highly unlikely that you will die for it. Maybe one would dare to give his life for a fraud, but eleven?
  • It is true that religious leaders have possessed genius to invent fantastical accounts inventing religion, but these have been individuals — Mohammed, Joseph Smith. With Christianity, it is a group of 11 disciples. How could they agree unless they had actually seen Jesus resurrected?
  • How did Christianity progress under persecution? The Romans were killing Christians. You don’t just convert to your death sentence — unless you know that the resurrection trumps any death sentence. Islam, by contrast, was an easy ticket to join because it was a booming success militarily and politically. The early believers joined Christianity not because they were signing with the winning team.
  • It is nearly impossible to allege that the 11 disciples fell under some sort of collective psychosis. The evidence shows the contrary: Thomas was missing from the initial meeting with the resurrected Christ and was determinedly decided against believing in His resurrection.
  • If the disciples got together and concocted the account, they surely would not have made women, in their patriarchal times, the first witnesses.
  • Even a non-Christian historical source, Josephus, tells of Paul’s switch from persecutor to promoter. How can you possibly account for this unless he really did see Jesus?

Resurrection Day is a great holiday for Christianity. Though I’m not a professional apologist, I believe the raw, unadulterated evidence is highly in favor of the resurrection being true. My blog has hosted some pretty lively discussion in the past and welcomes all comers to join the debate, though I ask everyone refrain from curse words and treat each other respectfully. I believe in comparing ideas, not ad hominem attacks.