Tag Archives: how to pray?

You’re supposed to injure the other team

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

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

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

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

A soccer field to envy.

A soccer field to envy.

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

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

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

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

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

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‘All authority’ includes finances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fellowship after church

fellowship after church

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

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

‘It’s hard to care when all you do is lose’

Robert Ashcraft

Robert Ashcraft

My son, a freshman, who led our small high school’s varsity soccer team out of last place last year into fourth place this year, said this. I had no immediate response. The sheer profundity had to sink in slowly.

This was the game when we engineered the leagues biggest upset. The other coach was mad at his players. To be sure, they suffered from overconfidence at the beginning and depression at the end. But my players were sharp and worked hard. Robert wrecked havoc.

This was the game when we engineered the league’s biggest upset. The other coach was mad at his players. To be sure, they suffered from overconfidence at the beginning and depression at the end. But my players were sharp and worked hard. Robert wrecked havoc.

His response was to my urgings to see more leadership from him. His club team is losing. He scores goals, they lose anyway, he clams up. I told him to stop being such a nice guy, get in the face of his teammates and tell them to man up (they are afraid of the ball)*. I was completely unprepared for his answer. (You ought to listen to your teenager.)

It is hard to care when others don’t, when all around you is discouraging. Too true!

Lighthouse Christian Academy had its best season ever.

Lighthouse Christian Academy had its best season ever this year.

And yet this world needs desperately people who care — when it is hard. We need Christians who care when it seems like we are being overrun by the loud voices of hate. We need evangelizers when we get ignored, heckled, mocked. We need people not lulled into a false sense of security, hypnotized by the American good life.

This was our high school's first game, when they got a tie and started to believe in themselves.

This was our high school’s first game, when they got a tie and started to believe in themselves.

Maybe the reason why we don’t pray more is not laziness. Maybe we just don’t care. We need to care enough for others to pray. Jesus viewed with multitude “moved to compassion.” The disciples viewed them as a nuisance, or as a means to an end.

It’s been a week, and I’m still trying to formulate a response to Robert. How can I get him to care for his soccer team?

_________________________

*Don’t worry. None of his club teammates or teammates’ families read this blog.

An inside job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In regards to prayer, remember:

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

Out of pain, blessing

from blue pueblo

from blue pueblo

He was pain in the … But he got prosperity.

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

from Beautiful Mother Nature on Tumblr

from Beautiful Mother Nature on Tumblr

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

Don’t:

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

Do:

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

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

 

 

Unpaid here

with my family

with my family

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

I'm hamming it up again.

I’m hamming it up again.

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

with a Chinese friend. Man, is he serious!

with a Chinese friend. Man, is he serious!

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

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

But first you must invest

goal_1690382aLike other mortals, I was stunned by Barcelona’s 4-0 snuffing of AC Milan to blaze with canons firing into Champions League quarter finals.

d1cf09c4846b44ae9efbcf1b1e9ce6bb-e5cac050bd644db6b32f1d3af7fa3e1c-8With confounding feet, Leonel Messi fired out of a throng of Milan defenders high into left corner at minute 5, leaving Goalie Christian Abbiati looking like a tree planted in the ground, his vision blocked by his own defenders.

article-2292371-189C5EF3000005DC-744_634x414Just before the half, Messi again caught Abbiati wrong-footed with a low torpedo through defender’s legs that sank Italian hearts. A third curling goal from David Villa marked victory, and a lung-bursting sprint from Jordi Alba, picking up a cross from Dani Alves, made it four.

201303121615585444821-p2The Barcelona Symphony, directed by Messi, played a command performance, overcoming a 2-0 deficit on the away game — a feat never before seen in the Champions League.

With brimming reason, Messi has been named an unprecedented four times best world player. But first, Barcelona had to invest in him.

messi-began-playing-soccer-at-the-age-of-fiveAt 11 years of age, the Argentine showed early promise but suffered from growth hormone deficiency. His dad, a poor steelworker, could not afford it. The legendary Argentine team River Plate recruited Messi but balked at the $900/month treatment.

article-1382260-0BCCEDFD00000578-821_634x516Investment-risking on a potential starlet, FC Barcelona forked over for his treatment and moved him to Spain, where he rose through the ranks of their youth academy.

With consistent admiration from coaches, players and commentators around the world, Messi is perched atop the pyramid of soccer prowess. Any team would love to contract him. They would be willing to pay multiple millions of dollars. But Messi remains loyal to the Catalan kings because he’s grateful: when he was needy, they were there for him.

First you must invest to reap a harvest of blessing. Invest your most precious commodity: time. Pray.

It’s a four-letter word

If you lose millions of dollars, you can get it back. If you lose your health, you can get it back. You can get back just about most anything. But the one thing you can never get back is t-i-m-e.

Many things we think are a “waste of time” are not. Those things we hold to be a best use of time, actually are a waste. Time will run out into the ocean of eternity one day and will stop marching forward. On that day, you and I will be in either Heaven or Hell. What we do here on earth in favor of eternity is the best use of time.

Have you hugged your family yet? Have you hugged God in prayer today?

We couldn’t enjoy the remodeling

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

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

Pointless.

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

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

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

Text without ceasing

smallbusiness.chron.comIt used to be that Bible teachers would downplay pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17) because — they said — it wasn’t possible to talk to someone 24/7.

We now know this was wrong. It is possible to communicate with someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The texters do it.

You scold your kids for texting at the table, but why? You text in the boss’s meeting. People are constantly texting in church (hey! no hypocrisy here — I’m guilty also). Some people, if they wake up at 3 a.m, empty their bladder and inbox at the same time. Others keep the phone by the pillow.

I’m a teacher, so I know about texting answers. Some students are so proficient, they text in their imagespockets without evening removing the device to see what they’re spelling. How they see the response is still a mystery for me; I’m the teacher and can’t figure out all their tricks.

So don’t pan prayer without ceasing. It can be done! (If you can stop texting long enough to say Hi to God!)

If you have needs (I do), then text them to God.

Every attempt works

from blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com

from blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com

Out of frustration, we called it burro-cracy. (Get it? A variation on bureaucracy.)

547750373398755794_zDvsmcus_bThe burro is not a flattering term in Spanish. When we would try to get paperwork done, they would tell us one thing was wrong. We would go to a lawyer or notary and fix it. Then we would wait in line again, usually an hour. Next they would tell us something else was wrong. This process repeated itself for days and weeks until finally months later through lots of diligence, we would finally get approved.

AARGH! WHY COULDN’T YOU JUST TELL ME AAAAAAAALLLLLLLL PROBLEMS THE FIRST TIME?????????

from blue pueblo (the best pics!)

from blue pueblo (the best pics!)

Thank God, prayer’s not like that. It’s easy. You don’t have to get a bunch of papers signed, notarized, stamped, authorized, officialized. You don’t have to walk for kilometers on your knees. You don’t have to…

All you have to do is talk, and you’re instantly in contact with the Almighty. Every attempt at prayer — no matter how clumsy, no matter how imperfect you are — brings the will of God. I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing — 1 Tim. 2:8 NIV. They may be filthy, but when the hands go up, they become holy.

The extraordinary in the ordinary

beechwoodcross.blogspot.comjpg

from beechwoodcross.blogspot.com

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

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

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

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

Vying for attention

350-woman-smiling-computerSEOs battle to rank for Google’s first page. You have to jump through hoops to discover the inscrutable indices of Google’s bots to get a 3, 4, or 5 that can land you on the first page of search. After months of ingenuity and sweat, you may get it. All this for the attention of the consumer.

To get God’s attention is much easier. As a matter of fact, you’re his page-one top hit. It doesn’t require months, nor weeks, nor days. Not even hours. Just 30 seconds of prayer

You have His undivided attention de facto.

You have His undivided attention de facto.

is enough to have His undivided attention. In the Kingdom of God, everyone ranks a 10 because God is omniscient — He knows everything all at the same time.

Actually, it is God who is vying for your attention. He’s doing everything in His power, but you rank Him waaaaay down on search page 157 — or lower. Stop playing hard-to-get, and let God rise in your ranking of things clamoring for your attention.

As soon as you pray, you’ll pop up on His screen. Sooner.

Like a motorcycle gang

outlawsRiddle: What’s small but huge?

Answer: prayer.

It is so small that even a child can do it — without much effort. It’s so huge because tectonic plates are moved in the Heavenlies, which we habitually underestimate.

mischief3n-4-webIt’s huge because we make a big stink about how hard it is, like it requires soooooo much effort.

Well, it does require a lot of effort, but not because it’s like looking for the Higgs boson. What’s hard is to push out the raucous crowd of activities that clamor for our attention. For some people, 15 minutes of prayer seems like an eeee-t-e-r-n-i-t-y. For me, it is hard to find over an hour.

Nevertheless, when I do pray, I always savor it, I always marvel at the results.

prayeronbeachI swear I’ll never give it up. But then the next day the disgusting boisterous crowd of leather-clad activities roars in on Harley Davidsons and refuses to be dislodged. Can somebody come over here and clear these ornery thugs out? I need to pray.