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God, are You listening?

Sometimes you wonder if He is paying attention. We may feel that way about the condition of the world or perhaps the circumstances of our lives. When we pray, we want to know the channel is open. Maybe we need some help in knowing the proper way to pray?

  • “Hands together, fingers pointed, folded hands, bended-down knees. And don’t open your eyes until they say ‘Amen.’”
  • “If you’re Catholic, you gotta kneel down on boards. If you’re regular, you just keep your eyes shut and don’t lean on the bed.”
  • “You hold hands with anybody in the room and make a big circle, like duck-duck-goose.”

That’s how some of our young friends think you should do it. Ahhh … the etiquette of prayer.

But if God is listening, how long does it take to get an answer to our prayers. We turn to our panel of experts again.

  • “About a minute.”
  • “About six million years.”
  • “Infirmity.”
  • “You really want to know how long it takes? Okay, I’ll tell you. Nobody knows.”

Good. We cleared that up, but why does God make us wait for answers?

  • “You’re not the only one praying, you know!”
  • “It’s not like He’s out on vacation or something. He has a lot to do and no time off. And He’s entitled to a life of His own. He’s not your slave, you know.”
  • “God takes only one day to answer your prayer in the summer, and eight days in the winter. Only He takes forever if you’re asking for a Barbie doll.”

We have made prayer too complicated, too mysterious. George Herbert wrote; “Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.” It should be as natural as breathing. It is more attitude than action. Paul said we were to pray without ceasing – being constantly aware of the presence of One who loves us more than we could possibly know.

Let’s let prayer achieve its primary goal: “The reality is, my prayers don’t change God.  But, I am convinced prayer changes me.  Praying boldly boots me out of that stale place of religious habit into authentic connection with God Himself.”  Lysa TerKeurst

Make no little plans

Make no little plans

Ray Ortlund wrote a blog by that name in tribute to David Burnham, an architect who designed the master plans for some of America’s largest cities. He was also the chief designer and planner for buildings in New York and Washington, D.C.

During the height of his career, he gave a speech that included these words: “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans. Aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that those who follow us are going to do things that would stagger us!”

This is the season when graduating classes will hear songs of inspiration and challenge. In my long-ago era it would have been “Climb Every Mountain” or “To Dream the Impossible Dream.”

From time to time, we need to step up our game. Perhaps this will help … or not:

  • From a new graduate: “I would like to thank Google, Wikipedia, and whoever invented copy and paste.”
  • Unknown: “I would like to thank my arms for always being by my side; my legs for always standing up for me; and my fingers because I can always count on them.”
  • From John Wayne: “Life is hard; it’s harder if you’re stupid.”
  • From a grad: “I didn’t graduate Magna Cum Laude or Summa Cum Laude or Cum Laude; I graduated, thank the Laude.”
  • Line from Phoebe (Friends): “Do I have a plan? I don’t even have a pla.”
  • From Rae Lewis-Thornton: “I have this crazy idea that my purpose is bigger than me.”
  • From Mark Cooper: “Life has no remote. Get up and change it yourself.”

The Bible contains some “Impossible Dream” people:

  • 85 year-old Caleb who told Joshua, “Give me the hill country.”
  • Jabez who petitioned the Lord: “Enlarge my territory!”
  • David said about Goliath: “Don’t worry about this Philistine. I’ll go fight him!”
  • Esther to her uncle Mordecai: “I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.”
  • Paul who wrote to the Philippians: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Make no little plans!

Makes Sense

When truth becomes inconvenient or relative, it loses its power. We live in a day when too many claim to believe truth as they see it. Paul’s words to Timothy seem particularly relevant today: “You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good” (2 Timothy 3:1-3). Sounds like Paul was reading today’s headlines.

Where do we turn for truth? There are plenty of voices being raised, mostly strident. Have you noticed that those shouting the loudest for tolerance are most intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them? Humans will never abide in the truth apart from dependence on the source of truth. Jesus said in John 8: “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (v. 32). What did He mean? Pilate challenged Jesus when He responded to the Roman governor’s questions. Jesus said, “I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” Pilate’s cynical reply echoes the emptiness of life lived futilely: “What is truth?” (John 18:37).

Can we trust the Bible? Can we believe it is true? People like atheist Richard Dawkins don’t think so: “The virgin birth, the Resurrection, the raising of Lazarus, even the Old Testament miracles, all are freely used as religious propaganda, and they are very effective with an audience of unsophisticates and children.”

The Bible tells us about God, the God who makes sense of the universe’s origin, of the universe’s complexity, of objective moral values, and of the Resurrection. The Bible has been dismissed by the skeptics, the debunkers. Reading the Bible raises plenty of questions, but it also provides many answers to what matters most. It reveals the answer to the darkness, the ravages of sin, and the fate of evil through the words and deeds of the One who said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6).

The truth is not just a set of facts or a code of behavior. It is best discovered in a relationship with the Living Lord. Peter was right when he told Jesus, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life” (John 6:68). Makes sense to me. How about you?



Got the time?

In 2016, I had the privilege to attend a day at the Master’s with my father-in-law. Knowing the rules about cell phones, we had left ours in the car. Throughout the day, we were both approached by people asking for the time. It finally struck me. Nobody was wearing a watch except us. That’s the only way I would ever be noticed at the most famous golf tournament.

Time is important. We all know that. It seems that we are always running out of it. We all get 24 hours each day and make choices as to how we spend our time. Yes, there are other people in our lives that often dictate how our day is scheduled. You don’t feel like going to work? If you feel that way too often, you won’t have to worry about work. You’ll have plenty of time on your hands … to look for work. You don’t feel like going to school, finishing that project, studying for that exam? Good luck with that.

The pace of life seems to be increasing. Being over-scheduled and under-resourced is common. A first grader asked his mom why dad had to bring home a briefcase of papers every night. “Mom, why does dad have so much homework?” She tried to explain, “It’s because Daddy has so much to do he can’t finish at the office so he has to work at night.” That raised another question from her son: “Then, why don’t they put him in a slower group?”

Where is that slower group? I’d like to join. We all feel the press. Well, most of us. The old dude was sitting in his rocking chair but wasn’t rocking. “Anything wrong?” asked a passerby. “Nope, just tryin’ to decide whether to start ‘er up.”

Some time ago I posted some words of encouragement found in a plaque I have had on my office wall. Forgive the repetition but this is per request:

“Take time to work … it is the price of success; to play … it is the secret of perpetual youth; to think … it is the source of power; to read … it is the fountain of wisdom; to pray … it is conversation with God; to laugh … it is the music of the soul; to listen … it is the pathway to understanding; to dream … it is hitching your wagon to a star; to worship … it is the highway of reverence; and to love and be loved … it is the gift of God.”




This story was in Homiletics magazine: Three friends were playing their favorite golf course. One was a minister, one was a doctor, and the other was a time-management expert. The group ahead of them was particularly slow. The time-management guy kept looking at his watch – “What’s up with these guys? They have been on this hole for over 30 minutes and they still haven’t reached the green.” The doctor and minister started grumping, too. A groundskeeper came by in a cart. The minister hailed him and asked, “Why is the foursome ahead of taking so long? Surely we can play through if they’re going to be this slow.” The keeper responded, “Oh, these guys are fire-fighters. Three of them were blinded fighting a fire in our clubhouse last year. We let them play for free.” The minister apologized for his attitude. The doctor was embarrassed and offered to contact a colleague who was an ophthalmic surgeon to see if he could help the injured men. The time-management expert was silent for a moment, then said, “Why can’t they play at night?”

Not very funny. Our perspective in life can be warped by pettiness, by selfishness, or by out-of-control schedules. We can see the outcomes in the traffic snarls in Atlanta or in the local grocery store when the lines don’t move fast enough for us. We experience it with total strangers as well as within our closest relationships.

Somebody told me last week that Atlanta needs to take a really large chill pill. I’m not certain where such a pill can be obtained, but it sounds like a good idea. When Paul wrote to the Galatian churches, he spoke of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. The fruit of the spirit is a cluster of nine qualities: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23).

This would be a good time to let the Holy Spirit do His work in us!

Look what I found!

The car was built in May 1937 and originally owned by the first president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club, a winner of the 24 hour Le Mans race. Its second owner was an English orthopedic surgeon who bought it in 1955. He kept the rare vehicle parked in his garage since the early 1960’s. The automobile had not been driven in five decades. The doctor died in 2007. While settling his estate, the car was discovered in the garage – a 1937 Bugatti Type 57S Atalante Coupe – on January 2, 2009. A month later, the car sold at a Paris auction for $4.4 million.

Makes you want to take another look in your garage, right? How about the attic of your grandparents? Look under your bed and in your closets. Surely there is something really valuable tucked away just waiting to be discovered.

Some of us have undiscovered treasure in our lives. It might be a relationship we have never pursued or a talent we haven’t developed. It might be a passion that is yet to be lit. It might be a calling we haven’t followed.

I’m not going to find a rare, pricy car in my garage. I’ve looked. However, I can find moments and opportunities and challenges where God can reveal what really matters. I can discover true treasure that has eternal value.

Open my eyes, my heart, my spirit, Lord!

An Antidote for the Grumpies

The other day I was just flat out grumpy.  You know those kinds of days. Everything gets under your skin. Annoyances pile upon annoyances. Your mind races down every “worst case scenario” road. Things that normally you can brush off become like sand in the bottom of your shoe. When our son was growing up we called it “having a case of the grumpies”.  It happens to the best of us – and one day last week I had a full blown case.

The problem with having a case of the grumpies is that you feel you MUST infect other people.  Negativity is not something that can be contained.   It seeks other carriers and does its best to spread far and wide. You know this is true. Think about the last time you attended a meeting being run by a negative person. How did you feel when you left the meeting? It spreads!

I’m not sure how I got infected, but I was determined to share the joy.  My wife got full exposure, (she always does it seems).  But store clerks, other drivers, and a poor woman trying to serve me a salad also got to experience my wonderful mood.

Of course having a case of the grumpies is not the same as being depressed or grieving over a loss. These things are much deeper and much more complex that just being in a bad mood. But over time, negativity in our lives can start to have chronic effects – whether that negativity comes from us or from letting ourselves be infected by others.

If we let it go on, having a grumpy day can lead to becoming a grumpy person. When this happens, it’s like we put on negativity glasses and start to view the world through those lenses. We always see the down side of things. It becomes easy for us to point out ways we could fail. Things that should be of no significance suddenly become potential catastrophes. And worst of all, we become known as THAT person: the person who can never say a positive thing.

I was recently reading Psalm 19 when the very first lines of that ancient song struck me. “The heavens are telling the glory of God”.    What does that have to do with fighting the grumpies? Everything.  You see, I believe the main reason we become negative in our lives is because we stop seeing the glory of God.  When this happens we see the bad instead the good – we notice what is wrong instead of noticing what is right – we believe there is an absence of God instead of an overwhelming presence of God.

And yet, the heavens are constantly telling of the glory of God! God’s presence is being proclaimed to us each and every day in a million different ways! But we miss it. We become consumed with our lives and with our grumpiness and totally miss the fact that God is here.

But when we DO listen to what the heavens are telling us – when we see the presence of God around us – our negativity lessens, our mood lifts, and our souls develop what brother Lawrence called “constant inner joy”.

How are you listening to what the heavens are telling you? Where is it that you see God? It does not have to be in grand ways. It could be in something as simple as a song coming on the radio – a smile you give back to someone who smiled at you – a glimpse of sun on an otherwise cloudy day.

When we stop to notice the glory of God we will discover two things. First, we will be much less likely to be infected by someone else’s negativity. And second, our own case of the grumpies will soon pass.  Give it a try. The heavens are telling the glory of God.