Monthly Archives: July 2014

If Stress is Contagious then….

I’d rather pass good things on to others than stress, negativity and a critical spirit. What a good quick word of encouragement!

Blue Skies & Lollipops


According a team of psychologists from St Louis University, stress is as contagious as the common cold. Apparently this is through the conveying of stress through tone of voice, facial expressions and posture. As people perceive the stress of another, they themselves “catch” the stress.

If stress is contagious, other internal realities must also be contagious. A person who is angry, worried or negative can also impact the atmosphere around them and by default also impact people. Who hasn’t spent time with someone who is down for some reason and ended up in the same frame of mind?

If stress is contagious – if that internal reality can then influence the external reality around us, then surely the living spirit within us must also be contagious? We can impact the world around us through our presence as we broker the reality that we are aware of into our surroundings.

Jesus modelled this…

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Orange is the New Black

That’s the name of a Netflix drama series about two women in prison, based on a book by Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.  After my own 14 years of leading women’s Bible studies at the local orange jumpsuitjail, I guess I could write something like “We all wear orange–some wear it on the outside, some on the inside.”  Not as catchy though…

While reading through the book of Luke this morning, I was caught by the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus.  So I landed on it for awhile.  I realized that only the Gospel of John records Peter’s restoration.  They say Mark got his info from Peter, so why didn’t he tell the rest of the story?  It was a private act, so maybe Peter just wanted to forget about it and move on.

A lady at jail was telling that she was in for a few months.  Another inmate at the Bible study asked what she did and the first responded, “I’m not proud of what I did and I’m ashamed to  talk about it.”  Doesn’t that describe all of us?

Maybe that’s why we don’t talk much about sin.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid.  That’s what we do.  Or we redefine sin or play the victim card or just try to pretend it didn’t happen or wasn’t a big deal.  You’d think we’d talk more about sin at church though.  It’s kind of a big deal.  We all wear orange and it silently eats us up, unless we run to Jesus.

So, looking at Luke 22, I’m going to mention a few things about sin to chew on:

  1. Satan wants us to mess up.  “Simon, Simon Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat.”  Luke 22:31  Satan hates us and is out to destroy us.  Don’t underestimate him or take his schemes lightly.  He is a roaring lion and wants to eat us for lunch.
  2. But Jesus prays for us that our faith may not fail, according to Luke 22:32.  That’s the good news.  Jude 24 declares “Onto Him who is able to keep us from falling and to present us faultless.”  Whew.  Jesus intercedes for us and uphold us with His mighty hand.  He guards us and sticks up for us against the bully Satan.
  3. We all sin and fall short.  1 Corinthians 10:12 reminds us, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”  I’m not any better than the women in orange.  So I can’t point fingers, be smug, and say “I would never do that.”  I could.  Maybe that’s why God didn’t leave out the flaws of the people in the Bible stories.  He told us that Abraham lied (twice) about Sarah being his wife, or that Noah got drunk and sat in his tent naked, or Samson spilled the secret of his strength and went south fast, or David looked at Bathsheba and got really tangled up with sin.  Maybe it’s not about whether or not we sin, it’s about how we deal with it.  Plus, it’s what makes grace so amazing.  If we never really messed up that bad, the song would be “mediocre grace, how okay the sound, that saved an average person like me.”
  4. On my own, I am capable of great sin.  That’s maybe part of 3.  In 2 Chronicles 32:31 we find a story about a king Hezekiah.  He did a lot of good things, but at the end of his life he was proud.  So God lifted His hand from Hezekiah for a short while to show Hez what was really in his heart.  Pride.  He showed the envoy from Babylon the Temple treasures, only to have them return and take the treasures not much later.  So when Jesus told the disciples in Luke 22:40 to “pray that you may not enter into temptation” and then again in vs. 46 after they fell asleep to “wake up and pray,” He meant it.  Be alert, wake up and pray.
  5. Our sins, failures and restorations are a part of our grace story.  It’s God’s grace story.  When we are actually honest and vulnerable and tell what we’re ashamed of, we find freedom and so do others.  Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:32 “when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  When we tell of God’s great grace at work in our lives not leaving out our flaws, others are strengthened.

Perhaps our gatherings would be more real, honest and authentic if we talked more about sin and our restorations.  We all wear orange.

Lord, Teach us to Pray

In Luke 11:1, Jesus’ disciples saw Him pray and then they turned to Jesus and said “Lord, teach us to pray.”  They didn’t say “teach us how to pray.”  Think about that for a minute–they weren’t asking for how to’s, they were asking for the ability to pray.  To pray instead of doing it ourselves, or to pray instead of fretting, or asking others for help.

So when that struck me it seemed profound.  Learning to pray like Jesus prayed isn’t so much about five easy steps of “do this” or “don’t do this.”  It’s more about getting to know Jesus more intimately and having a more accurate perception of what little I can really do on my own.

Lord, Teach Me to Pray

  • in solitude: early and often

Mark 1:35 “Very early in the morning while it was still dark Jesus went to a desolate (lonely, quiet, isolated) place and there He prayed.”

Luke 6:12 “In these days He went out to the mountain to pray and all night He continued in prayer to God.  And when day came, He chose twelve disciples.”

In Mark 1, it tells us that Simon and others were searching for Him and when they found Jesus, they said “everyone is looking for You.”  That’s the way it is when we try to pray and get alone with God.  It’s hard enough for us to get that alone time to fight against our own flesh’s desires to sit at Jesus’ feet.   But when we get there, others try to find us and pull us away, back to the frenzy of busyness.

  • at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication

That’s what Ephesians 6:18 instructs.  It finishes with “being alert with all perseverance.”  That’s how I should pray.  “In the Spirit” indicates that I should ask God to tell me what to pray for and how to pray in certain situations.  When people say things like “please pray that I get this job,” I think “what if that isn’t what God wants?”  If I’m praying in the Spirit, I would ask how to pray for that person according to God’s will.  Romans 8:26 tells us that the Spirit intercedes with groanings that can’t be expressed “according to the will of God.”

We should pray all types of ways–publicly, in the prayer closet, for others and for myself.  In Mark 9:28-29, the disciples had tried to drive out a spirit that made a boy convulse.  Jesus took over and drove it out.  They asked Him why they couldn’t and He responded “This kind cannot be driven out without much prayer and fasting.”  So add fasting to your arsenal.

  • wrestling

Colossians 4:12 tells about how Epaphras prayed for the Colossians.  Paul wrote that he wrestled in prayer for them, that they would be mature, fully assured in all the will of God.  The Greek word for wrestle is agonizo, which is the root for agony.  Prayer is a wrestling match, not just to see peoples’ physical ailments fixed or traveling mercies, but that we would have a spiritual appetite to seek after God and to fight off the things that keep us from becoming mature.

  • effective

James 5:16 “The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power.”  The better I get to know God, the more effective my prayers become.  If I pray “bless the missionaries,” I may not be as effective as if I think of one specific person that I know that is out on the battle field.  I can then pray for them, thinking of specific things I would need if I was in a remote place, like: friends, encouragement, victory, perseverance, finances, wisdom, strategies to reach the people, resources…If all else fails, I can pray the prayers that Paul prays in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.

If God puts something on my heart to pray for something or someone, then if I pray until it gets off my heart, I am apt to be more effective.  Psalm 37:4 relays “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  That means if I lean up against His heart, as the apostle John did, I’m going to have God’s eyes and heart for things that I would normally miss.  In other words, the more time I spend in those lonely places, the more I’m going to pray for things and people outside of my daily circumstances.

  • instead of me just doing it

When Gideon was called by God to take on the Midianites, God trimmed the army down from 32,000 to 300 “Lest Israel boast over Me, saying ‘My own hand has saved me.'”  (Judges 7:2)

I am at my weakest when I am at my strongest, and I am at my strongest when I am at my weakest.

That’s an oxymoron, but so are a lot of things with God.  So rather than running from my weaknesses, hiding them, or cursing them, I should see them as opportunities for God to show up.

    Lord, teach us to prayprayer


Let’s Stop Pretending That Ministry is All Fun and Games

Well worth reading and pondering

Stephen Mattson

In a society obsessed with consumerism, comfort, and entertainment, it’s not surprising that the Great Commission, God’s command to love our neighbors, and Christ’s instructions to minister to others and care for the poor have been co-opted by secular ideals.

Instead of following Jesus’s example of selflessly sacrificing everything for the sake of others, Christians have become addicted to getting instead of giving.

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Doing Something For God vs. Him Doing Something in Me

In 2 Samuel 7, David told God he wanted to build a house for Him.  God’s answer, through Nathan the prophet, was in effect this:  “I never asked you to build me a house, but I did things for you–I took you from being a shepherd to being a prince over My people.  The best is yet to come.  I will build an everlasting house through you where you will be made sure forever.”

In other words, don’t ask what we can do for God but ask God what He can do through us.  Sorry JFK.

In Acts 17:25 God tells us that He isn’t served by human hands as if He needed anything.  That’s like the opposite of what we can think serving Him is about–us helping God out, or coming up with ways to do things for Him.

While we’re supposed to be about our Father’s business, the best way to go about it is to listen to Him so He can tell us what it is He really wants.  And then we should do it.  Psalm 37:4 echoes this thought: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

That doesn’t mean I’ll get what I want, it means that if I lean up against His heart, like John the disciple did, then I’ll hear God’s heartbeat.  I’ll start to see people like He does, and start to see things from a different perspective.  He’ll tell me what it is He really wants to do for me, in me, and through me.

Somehow Nehemiah must have had this relationship.  In Neh. 2:12 he states “I told no one what God had put on my heart to do.”  He prayed, God put the plan on his heart and Nehemiah went out and did it.

When we do it this way, we’re so much more effective not just busy.  Let God build the house.


Having an appearance of Godliness, but no power

2 Timothy 3:5 ” (In the last days there will be times of difficulty, with people) having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.  Avoid such people.”

There is this joke about the guy who goes into a hardware store and tells the clerk he wants a good chainsaw because he has a bunch of trees to cut down.  Money is no object.  So the clerk takes him to his favorite brand and says “Oh yea, this will be the ticket.  You can’t get a better chainsaw.”  They complete the transaction.  A week later, the guy comes back and says “I’ve been using this thing all week and have only got two trees down.  There’s got to be a better saw.”  The store clerk takes a hold of the chainsaw, and says “let’s give it a listen” as he pulls the chain to start it up.  The other guy says “Hey, what’s that noise?”

We can be like this guy who tries to cut down trees without pulling the cord and using its real power.  How?  By denying the power tools that God gives us: The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and prayer.  There are probably more power tools, but I’ll start with those.  We might believe that they’re all good things, but if we don’t access them, we’re nice looking on the outside but powerless and ineffective.  People are sincere but quick to explain away and excuse the very tools that God provides to have power, effectiveness and victory.

My experience in the church these days is that if you get too serious about the Word, that’s a bad thing.  It’s easier to have small groups  with lots of fellowship than Bible studies, seeker sensitive themes, more singing than sermons and changing the subject when it comes to talking about being in the Word daily and putting into practice what it says.  It doesn’t need to be banging people over the head, but sincerely seeking to study and know the Bible, and then to have it change our lives.

And then there’s the Holy Spirit.  It’s too easy to treat Him as the weird second cousin than a part of God Himself that is active today, and how God works and communicates in and through our lives.  People are too afraid of being flaky, but miss the part in John 10 where Jesus tells us that we’ll hear His voice because He’s the good shepherd and that we’ll know the difference between Him and a fake.  In Acts 1:8 Jesus’ last words on earth were about giving us power to fulfill the Great Commission.  If we go out without power, we won’t cut down many trees and we’ll be exhausted.

Finally, it’s about prayer.  In Ephesians 6, at the end of Paul’s description of the armor of God, he admonishes us to pray at all times with all sorts of prayers.  One kind of those prayers has to do with our own personal communion with God.  Another is the corporate prayer, which is sadly neglected all too often.  Jim Cymbala, the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, a large church in New York City, has a video called “House of Prayer.”  In it he tells of how he purposed to never let any program in their church out number the prayer meeting.  They have a large and famous choir, but there are always more out for Tuesday night prayer than for Wednesday night choir practice.  And God shows up, pulling lives out of the pit of destruction and bringing them into His kingdom, using this church.

2 Timothy 3 tells us to avoid the people that have a form of godliness but deny its power.  I don’t have to go out of my way to avoid them because I am just not drawn to them.  And they avoid me as well because oil and water do not mix.  In Galatians 5 :17 it says that the Spirit and the flesh are opposed to each other, waging a tug of war.

May I pull the cord on the chain saw as I seek to live out my life.chainsaw

There is No Easy Street–Or is There?

easy street
Do you ever dream of winning the lottery and what you would do with the money, even though you never buy a ticket?  I’m getting to the age where I can begin to dream of retiring, living a simpler life with less demands.  Many days when I’m fighting to get out of bed and get going, I run money numbers in my head until finally my self talk kicks in and yells “get up!”  It hit me this morning that I’m looking for Easy Street, perhaps a quest that I am not alone in.

Then my next thought was “There is no easy street.”  Jesus said that the road is hard and  the way is narrow that leads to eternal life and few find it, in Matthew 7.  In John 16:33 He said “In the world  you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  In Philippians 3 Paul talks about sharing in the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings, not just His good times.  We live in a sin soaked world that includes paying bills, wood ticks and drudgery.  We have bosses and things that we don’t want to do.  The first line in M. Scott Peck’s book, A Road Less Travelled is ‘life is difficult.’  Amen brother.

But then in the middle of pondering how it won’t be until Heaven that things finally get easier by design, I was hit with the verses of Matthew 11:28-30.    Jesus said, “Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest…My yoke is EASY and My burden is light.”  Ponder that for a minute…

In Jesus there is an easy street.  How do we get there?  Well, in Matthew 6 He tells us not to worry or be anxious, but to seek His kingdom first and the rest is just details.  In 1 Peter 5:7 we are told to cast our cares on Jesus and in Ps. 68:19-20 we find: “Thanks be to God who daily bears our burdens, for our God is a God who saves.”  Finally, in Philippians 4 we are told to be anxious for nothing, to pray for everything and the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.  Those aren’t just words to fill up a page, they are real promises to cling to and to live out.