Tag Archives: pastors

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.

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.

‘Reproduce’ is better than ‘produce’

Night-fishing-Li-River-Guilin-ChinaActivity is good. Better is to produce. Still better is to reproduce.

from Ben Rogers blog

from Ben Rogers blog

Being busy is good. But mere activity could be just spinning your wheels in gravel. With production, you have something to show for your work.

But production is still inferior to “reproduction.” As Christians, we are ultimately called to reproduce Christians, not just “produce” things like manuals and seminars. Reproduction is the highest rung.

It’s also the hardest. With hard work and competent strategy, we get from activity  159596380514897663_sUvR2kbH_bto production. But only God can bring about reproduction. (Just ask couples afflicted with sterility!)

That’s why you shouldn’t just sprinkle prayer on top of your ministry like sugar. You should make it a main ingredient, like flour.

Remember, the disciples fished all night without catching anything. Then Jesus sent them out once more, and when they threw the nets, they were so full they were ripping!

Victory is preferrable, so pray

287386019942799257_zcxEPJdx_bThe praying Christian triumphs over insurmountable odds. One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised. — Josh. 23:10 NIV. Joshua recounts the extraordinary victories God wrought to the wandering Israelites as they settled into the Promised Land.

Because they carefully depended upon God, they achieved the impossible. Prayer is careful dependence on God. Prayerlessness is reckless and baseless self-confidence. It’s no

from Adeel Butt

from Adeel Butt

wonder we fall on our face when he neglect prayer.

You will overcome 1:1000 odds — if you pray. Don’t fret about mounting bills as you try to establish God’s promise for your calling, don’t panic and surrender, don’t bail out. If you remain steadfast, God will deliver you. Trust and wait confidently in the Lord. While you wait for the miracle, keep praying and believing.

Support man

Pastor George Neos prays before the Apple Valley outreach.

Pastor George Neos prays before the Apple Valley outreach.

I was reminded how lonely and hard is pioneering a church. You leave the loving mother church and go with your family to a new city and pass out flyers and knock on doors to invite people to a small building, usually a park room that’s cold and smells bad.

You do this for years and eventually rent a

Pastor Mike Jones and Pastor John Murless coordinate passing out the flyers

Pastor Mike Jones and Pastor John Murless coordinate passing out the flyers

storefront. You work night and day. You have to support your family with a job, but your real job is pastoring, and you neglect your own family to take care of your the fledgling  spiritual family. Forget about your own entertainment. There’s none of that.

What you long for — and what you least get — is

We came across this random shopping cart with tumble weeds in it. I teased the locals that tumbleweeds is what you shop for in the High Desert.

We came across this random shopping cart with tumble weeds in it. I teased the locals that tumbleweeds is what you shop for in the High Desert.

some support. People come into the church wanting to be served, not wanting to serve — at least at first. Well, I joined a Saturday outreach in Apple Valley, the high desert city practically founded by cowboy Will Rogers about 100 miles out of L.A.

We knocked on doors inviting people to an

Frank Cervantes enjoys the chili dogs served between outreaches

Frank Cervantes enjoys the chili dogs served between outreaches

evening concert and revival services. One lady pulled up with a caravan of three cars loaded with family. She gave her heart to the Lord that night.

We live in the age in which everyone wants to be the still-undiscovered internet sensation who swoops onto independent fame and riches as soon as our self-importance is

This girl was a trooper. She walked miles in both outreaches and stayed up late enjoying the concert. She never got tired, never cried.

This girl was a trooper. She walked miles in both outreaches and stayed up late enjoying the concert. She never got tired, never cried.

discovered. Ha!

It’s better to support a cause greater than yourself. It’s better to help. When we bless and serve others, God takes care of us.

The prayer warrior is a support man. The troops on the battle front desperately need the support of the military’s infrastructure. There is nothing less important about being support crew.

 

Prayer is love

155303887120533101_tLMVCI2C_bWho gives, gives, gives and gives? Answer: the prayer warrior.

Love drives him to his knees. Desperation keeps him there. He is the unknown engine of revival, working unseen to change the winds of history. Behind every conversion, there was somebody praying. Behind every miraculous offering getting the church out of debt, a prayer warrior did battle.

142637513169993642_cH1SkDdz_bHe goes unheralded. Others get the credit. Still he prays — and Heaven rains in response. No one claps him on the back. No one thanks him. In fact, people wonder why he’s “wasting time” praying.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another — John 13:34 NIV. Prayer is one special way to love.

I ‘kneeded’ this

Those Tweener prayer warriors.

Those Tweener prayer warriors.

I'm no match for Rob, in blue, freshman on a varsity team.

I’m no match for Rob, in blue, freshman on a varsity team.

Two months ago I konked my knee playing street soccer with my varsity team. At the time, it didn’t seem abnormal, not too bad on pain. I even kept playing. Later, however, it had a clicking that worried me. I consulted a doctor, and he feared a torn piece of cartilage was lodged in there. After two months, it wasn’t much better.

from pinterest

from pinterest

Then I got prayed for. The boys in my Sunday School class — called “Tweeners” — had just heard about faith and were pumped to pray. I am back to playing soccer! Jesus healed me! (Being able to play soccer is about as important for me as a U.S. president attending his own inauguration!)

The Bible says that kids have special words — of praise — unadulterated because of their

from pinterest

from pinterest

sincerity and innocence. And I say it’s good to be in God’s service, not matter how small or insignificant. Today I scored a goal in beach soccer against my son’s team! Ha! And at the end, we won! Ha!

As soon as the pros hear about this, I expect they’ll be heading to their local, Bible-believing church to cut their injury time.

Welcome to the Hotel Prayer-ifornia

from Pinterest

from Pinterest

Marie Colantoni Pechet from adventuresinspiritualliving points out a common failing: prayer is our last resort. We try everything else, and when nothing works, then and only then we finally turn to God. It shouldn’t be that way. We ought to seek God first.

Instead of being a last resort, God should a five-star resort. Hahahaha! Why not? Being with God is better than a sumptuous buffet! His rest is better than the king-size bed! The panorama of the Bible is prettier than any Caribbean view. Etc.

But we allow so many distractions to pull

from cloud lounge (where I always find the best photos)

from cloud lounge (where I always find the best photos)

us away. The good-old-do-it-yourself spirit of America is strongly ingrained. And often we simply don’t believe until we have no other option: the doctor gives us six months, the bank forecloses, I go 10 years of virtually stagnant ministry until I finally get it. AHA! I should have started with what I ended (prayer).

 

If it’s going to be, it is up to…

20120215-075618… God.

Having lived 16 years in the Third World, I decry poverty mentality that blames “destiny” and takes no action to improve oneself. Thank God I learned the Protestant work ethic from childhood: through study, hard work, turquoise-turbulence-bruarfoss-fludir-icelandcreativity, one can achieve any dream. Third Worlders see themselves as powerless to get ahead; as a result, they just goof off and be lazy.

BUT, I have witnessed the short comings of a strong work ethic. Too often, too much hard work is not rewarded with results: it’s a lot of spinning wheels. I labored intensely as a missionary, and the church did NOT grow. After more than a decade of killing myself believing in the do-it-48730235-068d-4b0e-8daa-8e9e3ea245c1yourself mentality and seeing an essentially stagnant church, I tried prayer.

Things exploded. When man moves, it’s never as good as when God moves. I am NOT denouncing work. I am just tempering it. 141863456983057170_n4YYSVdB_bThere’s a balance. If you’re tired of tiring yourself out without seeing results, try entering more God into the equation. He may be waiting for you.

If it’s going to be, it is up to me God.

In others’ condemnation lies our own

animation_mort_lourde-1

Animation thanks to On r’fait le film

I was completely unprepared for my 9th grade class to so roundly criticize Willy Loman from Arthur Miller‘s Death of a Salesman. He’s meant to represent the average American male in futile pursuit of the hoax called the American Dream.

The students admitted no merit to the man. He was unfaithful, a failed businessman, a liar, prideful, insane, a sufferer of delusions of grandeur. He deserved no sympathy in his stupid and tragic end. Never mind that he was hard-working, sacrificial, concerned about his family, the class ganged up on me when I spoke of his redeeming qualities!

When I was a pastor, I was neither as good nor as bad as people said. Some praised me excessively; others criticized me too much. The truth was and is that I am a mixture of both good and bad, saint and sinner, hypocrite and sincere, neither black nor white — just gray — like the rest of humanity.

The saddest thing is NOT perfectionism, puritanism, or Phariseeism. The depressing thing is that hyper-critics eventually wind up in their own crosshairs. Eventually you stub your own toe, and then Satan echoes back to you every harsh word you uttered over others’ failures. When this happens, you fall away from Christ: since there was no grace for others, there’s no grace for you.

Wisely, Jesus said: Judge not lest you be judged. If you have mercy on others, you’ll get mercy yourself. Prayer is NOT for exulting your superiority; it is a time of empathy and compassion for others.

Compassion’s evil twin

imagesWhen I was kid, I felt sorry for myself intensely. When bigger kids pushed me around and my mom wouldn’t go out and make it right, I gloated on my woes. Self-pity has been an evil that has plagued me even up to the present.

from Kathy Long

from Kathy Long

The good thing is that she has a twin called Compassion. As with many “evils,” you can flip them and make them good. When I took aptitude tests in high school, I scored low or average on everything — but they didn’t even measure the deep well of gifting God had given me. Compassion and empathy have driven years of successful ministry. Feeling others’ pain keeps me in prayer.

Self-aggrandizement is a wicked

from Three Chad Presents Stunning Photos

from Three Chad Presents Stunning Photos

motivation to get in ministry. The only true calling is serving others. Consider the contrast: Jesus reflects on the hungry multitudes, “I have compassion on them.” The disciples reflect harsh realities, “And where are we gonna get the money to feed them???” (Matt 15 32 – 39).

Are there others in your world or just yourself? Pic from Unbelievable Pictures

Are there others in your world or just yourself? Pic from Unbelievable Pictures

Are you more like Christ or his disciples? The case is all the worse if you realize the disciples HAD the money to buy enough food (Luke 8:3) — they just were selfish! Compassionlessness is ugly.

So if you suffer from self-pity, don’t despair. Just turn your eyes outward, and you’ll become a marvelously effective servant of God/ of humanity!

Praise protocol

images-1Esther didn’t just leave a sticky on the fridge.

Even though she was queen, she couldn’t just address the Persian Emperor casually. She had to dress appropriately, prepare some meals, and then make the formal petition. Haman, the enemy of the Jews, was done for.

funny-133There’s a parallel in prayer. When you go before the Emperor of the Universe, you might want to observe certain protocol (we Americans know nothing about protocol, but the rest of world does!). You might want to prepare your heart with praise. “I will enter His gates with thanksgiving.”

ATT001904You might want to “enthrone” God first. There’s a place for addressing God as our Daddy, and there’s reason to dismiss much of the religious ritual used by dead and dying churches. BUT, we ought not be overly casual with the Almighty and err at the opposite extreme.

If you present yourself before the Queen of England, a 6’4″ guy will brief on correct behavior. You probably don’t want to use vulgar language and expect a high five. So too before God, enter with confidence to His presence, but go in with praise!

Want superpower?

imagesHey Dad! If you had a superpower, which one would you want?

I HAVE a superpower. It’s called FAITH.

My 10-year-old son was not images-1impressed. He wanted to know if I would fly, or fix things with a magic touch, or superhero type stuff. He asks random questions.

If it weren’t for his question, I wouldn’t have realized exactly what I have. Yes, yes, yes! It is a superpower because faith connects you with the only nonfictional power outside of nature.

What WOULD you have? You DO have! Do you use it? Do I use it enough?

The need for beauty — and prayer

from pinterest

from pinterest

The reason why Instagram, Pinterest and other photo-hosting sites are popular is because people crave beauty. I consider observing beauty a basic urge, on par with receiving love.

When I was a literature major, I hungered for a good book, one with jeopardy, three-dimensional characters, and a reasonable but surprising denouement. Above all else, it must evoke meaningful themes that leave reflection lingering.

This is why I pray. I am pursuing the happy ending to the senseless chaos in the lives of people around me. You can watch a drama.

from pinterest

from pinterest

You can admire an art. You can take pictures.

Or you can create living art, the transformation of lives freed from the dungeon of lostness, liberated to the thrill of love, purpose and family found only in God. Some snap photos, others brandish brush, I bow my head.

Broke girls as praying girls

from Pinterest

from Pinterest

Being broke is good — for prayer.

I often rued the crushing mortgage that crowded my prayer time. Wouldn’t it be wonderful just to pray for souls and not have to worry about dollars? Alas, now I no longer have such mind-numbing payments — and now (I’m ashamed to admit) it’s hard to raise the temperature of my prayers.

from Pinterest

from Pinterest

Don’t despair the problem driving you to your knees! Worse is flatlining! The Salvation Army’s founder went so far as to say he wanted his workers in debt to guarantee they would constantly pray!

When the answer does not immediately come, there is a need for patience. Don’t stress out, burn out or flame out. Stick to prayer. God is answering!

I haven’t seen the “Two Broke Girls,” the

from Pinterest

from Pinterest

latest drivel from Hollywood. I only know that being broke — whether you’re two girls, three guys, or a ministerial family — has a flip side.

Praying again

People don't stay too "long" with prayer. Pic from Pinterest

People don’t stay too “long” with prayer. Pic from Pinterest

It’s not that He prayed imperfectly. Jesus wanted to show us the supreme importance of persisting in prayer. Don’t quit; the answer’s coming!

Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored — Mark8:25 NIV. The first time Jesus prayed, the healing was partial. Not because he couldn’t pray right the first time. No.

He wanted to show what he taught in the

From Pinterest

From Pinterest

parable of the unjust judge in Luke 18:1-7.

That parable is unusual because most lack explicit interpretations. But Luke 18:1 says: Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

Is there anything faster than people giving up on marriage, a diet, and prayer? You ought to hang with all three because good will result!

Prove ’em wrong

Silence the naysayers. Pic from Pinterest

Silence the naysayers. Pic from Pinterest

I wanted to do a creative writing magazine in high school. One classmate told me I wouldn’t be able to do it. She didn’t believe in me. That piece of discouragement inspired me to carry out the project.

Every time I hit roadblocks and her got frustrated with lack of progress, her memory kicked in and gave me the energy to keep working. I had to prove wrong. Thanks for the demotivation!

Criticism hurts. But it can be turned into a help. The fact of the matter is doing good is taxing. It requires stick-to-it-iveness, boring hard work, and self-denial. What keeps you in the uphill battle? It could be someone encouraging you. And — strange as it may sound — it could be someone discouraging you.

Don't let them put out your fire! Pic from Pinterest

Don’t let them put out your fire! Pic from Pinterest

The human psyche is marvelously complex. Downers can pump you up. You can pull-off a fantastic reversal. You can’t stop people from mouthing off. But you can turn their poison into your passion.

I was very happy to see my couple of poems featured in that magazine. So were other kids. I didn’t hear anymore from the girl who didn’t think I would finish it.

I’m the Q. She’s the U.

IMG_1706

With the whole family

With the whole family

No resume polishing here.

I couldn’t have been the 16-year missionary without Dianna — she’s the heroine. She’s given unconditional support through 22 years of marriage and ministry. She’s tightened the belt. She’s shouldered burdens. She’s always IMG_0963had a good attitude.

Since we got back to the States, SHE HAS WORKED to support me while I continue to minister. More than a few would call me (and it hurts) a flake, a loafer.  I pursue the dream while she pursues the paycheck. (Working in ministry usually implies sacrifice. For every mega pastor abusing the system with an eye-popping salary, there are 10,000 pastors living at poverty level just to help people, but they don’t get the press.)

IMG_0920I’m the Q and Dianna’s the U. Without her, I’m completely useless. She’s the other half orange that makes me a whole orange (as they say in Guatemala). Any applause for me must be deflected her way.

This tribute also seeks to be an exhortation: Pastors, may the New Year bring more appreciation from you for your wife.

Don’t pray small

treeOften, the struggling pastor goes only for subsistence. He prays for just enough to pay bills and keep the church open. It’s true that God takes us through years of skinny cows, but He never wanted us to succumb to unbelief. He tells us to pray believing for ever bigger things. We fail to pass the test when we scale down our prayer requests, as if we ask too much, or as if God doesn’t want to give us. Bigger is in His interest because His kingdom grows. So go for something outrageously huge next prayer!

When lions are circling…

images-5Circling, circling around their prey, the hungry lions will overpower the man in an instant. The lions’ dungeon is capital punishment in the Persian Empire.

They stride steadily, eyeing the poor Jewish eunuch. At any moment, they will leap crush the helpless man with claw and tooth. Each minute seems like an eternity. And yet each minute passes and give way to another eternity. Strangely not a lion goes for the images-7kill. They menace, gaping hungrily at him. But the entire night passes, and they don’t eat Daniel.

Early in the morning comes the king, who was tricked into throwing his favorite administrator into this hellhole, to see if God delivered him. He calls, and Daniel responds: My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in lion-closeuphis sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king. — Daniel 6:22 NIV.

Similarly, trials are circling you. At every step, they threaten to sink you. Dont panic. Don’t run away. Don’t quit ministry. You only must remember how God delivered Daniel. Though the lions COULD overpower you, they WON’T. Pray and wait for the morning.

Poverty is not so bad

Friends and church are better than...

Friends and church are better than…

We enjoyed life while sustaining much self-denial as missionaries in Guatemala. I worried about IF I would be able to get deodorant. For the kids, a new pair of shoes only once every six months. The menu was beans and rice — and when you got tired of that, you could have rice and beans. It’s really not as bad as you might imagine.

My daughter at right.

My daughter at right.

There are other things in life that are more important than nice clothes, nice food, nice car. For example, having a loving and fun family is great. Serving a cause, though not applause, is another. True friends, a vibrant church, soccer. Hey, if you have enough to eat, ain’t got no complaints.

With my in-laws, eating out -- something we never did on the mission field

With my in-laws, eating out — something we rarely did on the mission field

Of course, we didn’t suffer poverty like the Guatemalans do. But even they seem to enjoy life through it. On the other hand, a lot of rich Americans are plagued by anxiety. Will I have enough when I retire? The Guatemalan doesn’t have enough now. Anxiety is worse than poverty.

This is the richness of my life! I teach these students at Lighthouse Christian Academy.

This is the richness of my life! I teach these students at Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Don’t be afraid of following your dreams, even if it is not the course of ambition. My family has been back in the States now for two-and-a-half years now, after 16 years in Guatemala. I suppose we could still be classified as “living in poverty.” My wife drives a 99 Ford Escort; I call it our Lexus. Why not make jokes and have fun?

Hey, Coach!

Lighthouse Christian Academy lost every single soccer game last year. This year, it took us one minute to score our first goal, and we finished tied 2-2 against a team that won 8 last year. I’m ecstatic because I’m the coach now.

The kids can’t contain their happiness after the game

I have coached before, first on middle school team, then park league. Then I stepped back from coaching for six months. My kids were on other teams, and I observed the other coaches, who are better than I. One is a Scot with the highest level accreditation for coaching. I’ve eavesdropped and spied.

No use thinking I know it all. I can always pick up something new from others, even if it’s what NOT to do (like cuss).

I see that life coaching is in

We prayed with the other team before the game

vogue. I’ve always enjoyed having a FREE life coach: he’s called “my pastor.” As a generation has distanced itself from the church, people look down their noses upon the pastor and his unwanted advice. As a result, divorce has skyrocketed; kids are cutting themselves in unheard-of numbers as the home disintegrates.

Because we are a small Christian school, we have great players and total beginners.

I’m not saying I’m better than anyone; I just enjoy the benefits of being among the dwindling number of Americans who still go to church. A coach — a pastor — is there to bring out the best in you.

Piano movers and piano players

Tex and Luis, after the blow to the nose.

A complete soccer team has its burly bruisers and its exquisite finesse players who can deliver a ball directly to the feet of a goal-scorer through a forest of opponents.

So Tex smashed Luis at high school practice today so hard that his nose bled out of both nostrils. I had to remind him to take out competitors, not teammates. Of course he did it unconsciously; without thinking the football player manifests.

A good soccer team is like the church. Everybody’s talents compliment and complete ministry in the church. No one’s is superior, nor inferior. We need people. Reaching out over the blogosphere is fabulous, but sometimes you need flesh and blood right nearby. I have prayed for other bloggers, but sometimes I need a church member to fix my washer. It is the combined effort that wins games.

It is the combination of so many different people that makes the church triumph over Satan. Surely, the church is guilty of so many crimes (judging others, drama, for example). I don’t like its ugly moments, but there’s nothing to take its place. Church is like marriage: detractors abound, but nothing better has every replaced it.

The hardest thing

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the Unite...

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945.

The easiest thing is to quit.

It requires no courage, no effort, no optimism, no reassessment, no analysis, no second attempt, no positive enthusiasm, no uphill battle.

My soccer team practiced on the beach

So much of Europe just surrendered as Nazi tanks rolled in. They didn’t even try to fight for their homeland. But England was whipped into resistance by Winston Churchill. He said: Never, never, never, never, never give up! He promised the Nazis war by air, war by sea, war by land — on the beaches, over the plains, in the forests, in the cities, room by room, if need by, until the last Nazi fell or withdrew.

I coach a high school soccer team. We are small school, so there’s no talent pool. A few are good, another few are athletic, some are total beginners. We go up against some really good teams. Last season, a typical loss was 10-1. This season, some players have already decided that we have lost.

If you KNOW that you are going to lose even before your feet touch the field, then you WILL fulfill your own prophecy. No wonder some of the kids goof-off at practice, crack jokes and skip training. It’s all pointless, anyhow, right?

I think David saw possibility where others saw only death. He wasn’t afraid to take on a 9-foot tall giant named Goliath. And he took him out.

Quitting may be easy. But it provides no reward, no satisfaction, no triumphalism, no heroics, no solace, no hope, no joy. There’s nothing better than winning by upset. To get that, you have to believe in yourself.

Be brave

Contrary to pulp flicks, being brave is not a matter of being feisty, having an untameable shock of flaming red hair and shooting arrows. No, being brave has to do with being in ministry without any finances — and staying in ministry.

You have to be brave to stick with it! Man, you know you could chuck it all and go suck on the udder of some cash cow somewhere. I mean, this is the United $tate$. This is not the Third Wor:(d.

Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD. — Psm. 27:14 NLV. When you can’t take your kids out for even an ice cream, you gotta be brave to get behind that pulpit. When their shoes are worn out… When the last date you had with your wife was when her hair wasn’t turning gray…

The Bible exhorts patience — and bravery. Did you ever think patience was bravery? Well, it can be. Be still, trust, wait on the Lord. He will be your deliverer.

So don’t just laugh watching a princess be brave. Be truly brave in what is no laughing matter.

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.

… and I would have missed the blessing

Founding a Christian school in Guatemala was soooooooo hard. Frequently, I muttered: Had I known at the start, I would never have tried. And sometimes I thought: God, you tricked me into this. I thought it would be easier.

But once it was started, it wasn´t easy to end. So on I went, dealing with grief from the Education Department, grief from ungrateful parents, grief from false accusations. Ugh!

Then God brusquely moved me out of Guatemala. I handed off leadership baton. Since, I have visited, and NOW my greatest joy is to see all the kids who have a strong Christian school, a hope to escape the hopelessness. Had I never tried, I would have missed one of the greatest blessings of my life.

Maybe you´re going through it today in ministry. Don´t hand the mantle back to Elijah. Stick with it. If you give up today, you´ll opt for an easy out of the grief of difficulties. At the same time, you may deprive yourself of your life´s great satisfaction.

From reviled to revered

The Tuskegee fighter pilots were, initially, despised for being black. But as their escort missions saved bomber crews over Germany, they became greatly appreciated. At first, black pilots would be kicked out of officers’ clubs. Soon enough, the white bomber crews invited them to the drinks.

The airmen and their support crews are a lesson in perseverance. They won a hardfought victory, not only to stamp out Nazi oppression, but also to stamp out racist oppression.

Be a hero. You’re in ministry. At times, you are despised, unappreciated, unapplauded. Though no one thanks you, God does. Not a sparrow falls outside of His knowledge. So too, everything you do — EVERYTHING — is being filmed by the camera in the sky. Every time you clean the church bathroom. Every time you pray, and no one else comes to prayer. Every time, you forgo a treat to scrimp on behalf of church finances. It ALL gets a reward.

There were times when the Tuskegee Airmen bristled under official racism. They were tempted to quit. Why put your life on the line when you’re overlooked and even despised? But they remained faithful to their mission. And they wrought a great advance for the cause in World War II and for the cause of equality. Today applause thunders for them, tomorrow for your selfless sacrifice.

God picked you

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

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

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

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

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