Iker Casillas didn’t have to do anything to win! In the boring Italy-Spain Confederations Cup semi-final, Casillas just stood there on the penalty shoot-out that settled a sluggish 0-0 into overtime match. As a matter of fact, Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon didn’t stop a single shot either.
It could have been a spectacular show of goalkeeping prowess, but neither could stop any PK.
On a few penalty shots, Casillas dove. But after one cheeky Italian chipped it straight and center, he apparently decided to stop diving. He just stood there uselessly. The dives were pretty much pointless anyway because both teams drilled home unstoppable PKs. So Spain won 7-6 because Leonardo Bonucci launched his to the moon instead of the net. Here were the world’s two best goalies, and neither made a single save.
The penalty shoot-out reminded me of prayer. We can try. We can dive. But ultimately, the victory has nothing to do with us. Victory comes from above. Effective prayer does more than doing more.
That’s why the overworked minister who neglects prayer commits a fatal mistake. He spins his wheels. The lion’s share of the work belongs to God Almighty, and the minister (not almighty) tries to do it.
If you yearn for greater effectiveness, pray more and work less! Pray effective prayers.
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
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.
The High Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) today. The decision was celebrated by tweets and bloggers who are again announcing that those who support natural marriage are on the “wrong side of history.” Public opinion on the issue of gay marriage is changing, no doubt aided by the overwhelming media bias. Unless some drastic awakening occurs in our country, gay marriage will likely be the law of the land within a decade or two. So, am I on the “wrong side of history”? If the purpose of marriage is to fulfill the desire of adults, then I most assuredly am. But, if there is a purpose to marriage outside of what the individual adults want, then best not bend to the un-American identity politics of our day and stand for right, however unpopular.
Two (or three or four for that matter) individuals may share love, finances…
People think prayer is talking. It is also listening. Don’t be surprised if God talks back to you. After all, communication, if it is to be communication, is a two-way street.
Three times, young Samuel went to the Priest Eli because the elder called. Three times, Eli told Sammy to go back to bed. He hadn’t called. Then, Eli understood: It was God calling Samuel. This was the beginning of ministry for Samuel. He hadn’t recognized the voice of God because he was unaccustomed (1 Samuel 3).
At Bible conference in Tucson.
Our church just finished a 40 day fast. We didn’t fast all food. We fasted something. Some fasted Facebook. I fasted sugar.
The incredible thing was God spoke. He told to start afresh. He told me to clean the slate. Through the 40 days, He restored relationship with some people in the church. I’m glowing with elation. I want to keep fasting sugar, and keep hearing from God. It has been a time of restoration.
Breakfast before the Bible conference.
How to pray? When was the last time you heard from God (or maybe never)? Believe it or not, God is actually wanting to talk to you. Can you take a break from the electronic devices long enough to listen?
How to recognize the voice of God?
Don’t expect a booming voice.
It will never contradict scripture.
It will never authorize your sin.
It will probably come straight from scripture.
The effect will be to align you with His will.
God doesn’t foretell the future. He tells you to trust and what to do.
So the next time you bend the knee, slow down the “blah blah blah” for a moment and tune in your ear. How to pray? Happy listening!
El Niño Torres scored an unheard-of four goals against Tahiti in the Confederations Cup, and I was happy. Lately he’s been underperforming, and lynchmob of critics has persecuted him. They’ve even mocked him for being a nice guy, a decent human being (Maybe they Luis Suarez better, the Uruguayan racist who also bites opponents.)
James Lebron led the Heat to the NBA comeback final victory, and I was happy. He has been unjustly criticized for choking in finals, for betraying his first team, even for his skinny teams. They trash-talk him.
Tim Tebow talks Christianity, and they shut him up. Collins talks homosexuality, and it´s national news. He’s a hero.
I think people despise the nice guy because the nice guy makes them feel like bad guys — by comparison. Thus, the rant, the hate, the cackling of “good guys finish last.”
So… I love it when good guys finish first. I’m trying to be a good guy too! And, yeah, good guys DO finish first. If you don’t believe me, just show up on Heaven’s Judgment Day. (Everybody will show up, even those who don’t believe in God.)
Joshua mucked up by not praying . He basically authorized terrorists (Gibeonites) to live among the Israelites by failing to consult God before striking a deal. Lesson: To avoid failure, we ought to pray (the subject of my last post).
But I don’t want a downer. Who hasn’t tripped up? According to George Barna, approximately 100% of Americans fail significantly at some point in their life. Actually, I’m lying. That’s not a George Barna statistic. It’s a Rom. 3:23 statistic. And it’s experience. How many times have I failed? At least a zillon. And that’s just counting starting in 2013.
Here’s the takeaway to the bummer story. Joshua owned up to his mistakes and turned them into a winner. When fellow Canaanites realized the Gibeonites had “sold out” to the invading Israelites, they ganged up to lynch them. The Gibeonites, with a contract whose ink wasn’t even dry yet, cashed in on their new alliance and asked the Israelites to defend them. Joshua set aside his smarting and used his smarts: he vanquished all the other Canaanites. The Gibeonites had tricked him, but he used his embarrassment to his advantage.
God’s power promptly materialized. Not only did they utterly smash their enemies, the Israelites witnessed the third most extraordinary miracle confounding the laws of nature (#1 Jesus walked on water, #2 Moses separated the Red Sea): On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” — Josh 10:12 NIV.
This gave them time to continue winning the war. The enemies couldn’t escape in the dark of night.
Before utter disaster is Joshua’s prayerlessness. Commanded specifically to NOT make a treaty with the Canaanites, the Israelite prince is quite flattered by the appearance of visitors who — apparently — come from far away to see the marvels of God. Even though he senses a red flag, he falls for their ruse (they wear old clothes in their caravan) and skips the step of prayer in his hurry to sign peace.
But the Israelites didn’t consult the Lord. — Josh. 9:14.
Thanks In My Melon blog
Think of getting all the Canaanites out of the Promised Land like the Homeland Security’s mission to clear America of potential terrorists. How many bomb-exploders do you want lurking in your neighborhood? But once they give their word, the Israelites have no choice but to let the Gibeonites live.
Can’t get motivated to pray? Think about averting disaster. Before you decide, pray. What consequence for not dispossessing the Canaanites of the land? The Israelites themselves were dispossessed of the land centuries later (in the captivities).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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)
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?
Jonah 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?
Sometimes 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
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 moves 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?”
Joy Womack could have resigned herself to failure when she was kicked out of the renowned Kirov Academy at age 13. They cited her inflexibility and predicted failure for her.
Joy’s hand is raised
But Joy didn’t give up. Today the 19-year-old is the first American ever to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy — and the first American to be contracted by the Bolshoi professionally. (Ok, so she wasn’t good enough for Kirov? Now, she’s winning roles traditionally reserved for Russians at the world’s preeminent ballet company, a reign of unquestioned dominance that has lasted for 200 years.)
Joy, a vibrant, Spirit-filled Christian, embodies her name. She got saved as a child and attended our church before her family moved to Texas. Her Twitter account says “I dance for Jesus.” She evangelizes everyone she meets.
with her dad, Clay Womack
I had scant conversation with her when she was a kid because I was a missionary in Guatemala when she was growing up in the church. But as I think about her overcoming failure, of her rejecting rejection, I’m inspired myself.
“She worked really, really hard,” her mom, Dr. Eleanor Womack, said. “She sought coaches and other techniques to improve her flexibility.” From the looks of the photo above, she’s not lacking flexibility anymore.
The video below was produced by the New York Times when they broke the story of Joy.
Thank you, Joy! (All photos are from Joy’s Facebook page)
Then-new L.A. Rams football coach Chuck Knox told his players that his squad would be 1) tougher, 2) smarter, and 3) in better condition. Walk-on Rob Scribner figured he wouldn’t make the team, but he tried out just to prove himself right.
But those words energized Scribner for what they omitted. They left out a key word in sports: “talent.” Scribner figured he lacked the raw talent for NFL level to make the team. But he knew he could work hard at being tougher and get in better condition. While other guys were out drinking, he’d be studying his plays to be smarter.
In the end, Scribner made the team and played four years. Of him, Knox said, “Scribner was one of my all-time great guys.”
Lots of people have limitless talent. Not everybody is willing to roll up the sleeves, dig in and sweat a gallon. Too many pastors, leaders, and church members are set on cruise control. They’re lazy.
Scribner, at right
Too many are unwilling to log the hours in prayer or sacrifice their time in service. Is cleaning the church beneath you? Can you give up personal entertainment options to set yourself apart for His service. Do you want to charge the church for your expertise and talent? Are you getting “smarter” by reading your Bible?
Today Scribner is my pastor, at the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica. His phenomenal work ethic, his tenacity, his vision continue to inspire new generations of dragon-slayers. There’s genius in “just showing up” to rule the world, as they say.