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Archive for February, 2010

Years ago I saw a print of a little boy kneeling beside his bed saying his evening prayers. The caption below it caught my attention. “And please God let the Cubs win the World Series.” At the time I didn’t think much about the significance of his prayer, but after being a Cub fan for over 40 years I feel his pain.

Unanswered prayer:  an issue that so many seem to wrestle with in their relationship with God. The easy answer is God answers every prayer; sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no, and sometimes not yet. That seems to bring little comfort to those who struggle to see God respond to their requests.

Recently I have been drawn to a passage of scripture in James, Chapter 5. “The fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much.” In the Gospels, Jesus teaches us a great deal about our prayer life, but I keep coming back to this verse. What does it say to me? Two thoughts: consistency in my relationship with God and living a righteous lifestyle.

 My prayer life is the richest when my relationship with Christ is at its best. Prayer no longer becomes just a wish list of needs for me or others but it becomes a continuous conversation between me and the Lord. It involves taking time to listen to the Lord and growing in our time together. My relationship with God has to be consistent. As I wait for answers, I am encouraged and strengthened daily by the Lord. I realize that God has a perfect plan and in HIS time (not mine) He will respond in a way that is best for me and others.  I can look back and see how God has been faithful in the past. It always amazes me how quickly we forget God’s faithfulness in the midst of our current needs. I am often humbled by God’s goodness and mercy.

Living a righteous lifestyle that is pleasing to God is also an important part of our prayer life. Keeping our hearts right will allow us to come before God with a clear conscience. This type of lifestyle also seeks God’s will in all that we do and ask. James assures us that the prayers of a person who seeks this kind of lifestyle is powerful and makes an impact.

 If you are struggling with what you perceive as unanswered prayers, the key is not to turn away and doubt but to strengthen your relationship with God and allow Him to encourage you in the process. Trust in what you know is true—God is faithful.

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Tiger Woods and King Solomon

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” These are the words of King Solomon found in Ecclesiastes 2:10. They could have been the words of Tiger Woods.

Maybe it would be better to hear his words; “I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.”

Tiger Woods is not the first, the last or the only person to suffer from what I call Solomon’s Curse. Tiger’s fall has been highly scrutinized because of his superstar status. But let’s face it; our world is filled with those who suffer from the curse. Men and women alike have forsaken core values for the lure of instant pleasure and why not, don’t we deserve it? We work hard; we play hard and thumb our noses at the consequences. We forget that our sin, and that is what it is, affects not only ourselves but others as well. Tiger discovered this the hard way.

What is the cure for this curse? Simply put, Jesus is the answer to the curse. Many are applauding Tiger for rediscovering his religious roots, but religion does not provide forgiveness and redemption, that comes through Jesus Christ and the grace of God.

I pray that Tiger will recover from the curse. I pray that our world recovers from the curse.  Anything less is meaningless and chasing after the wind!

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How many times as a child did you put on your parents’ shoes and walk around the house? The faster we tried to walk the clumsier we looked. It wasn’t easy walking in our parents’ shoes. Even as an adult it can be hard to walk in their footsteps, especially if they were successful. Imagine you play golf for a living and your dad in Jack Nicklaus or you play basketball and your dad is Michael Jordan. Chances are pretty good you will not match their success. The good news is that our success is not based on how well we follow in our parents footsteps but how well we live the life our heavenly Father has given us.

In his book “the me I want to be” John Ortberg challenges us to be the person God intended us to be, not what everyone else expects us to be. He used David as a Biblical illustration. When David volunteered to fight Goliath, the first thing King Saul did was to give David his own armor. Saul stood head and shoulders above everyone. His armor would have been too large for most men let alone for a young shepherd boy. David looked ridiculous. It would remind you of a small child attempting to walk in his father’s shoes. David was not Saul. He could not go into battle like Saul. He went as David, a young man who had a big faith.

Most of us have heroes or mentors that we would like to emulate. Even so, we must remember that God made something pretty special when He made us. We will experience the greatest amount of blessing when we try to be the “me” that God intended us to be.

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108.4!

The second practice of the day had been over for some time. Most of the team had left to rest before evening practice. The coaches were surprised to hear the showers still running. One of the coaches yelled at a player still in the locker room to turn them off.  As he went to the showers he discovered another player slumped in the corner, unconscious and not breathing. One of the coaches quickly called for an ambulance while another successfully administered mouth to mouth resuscitation.

Upon arrival at the hospital the young man looked like death warmed over. His body temperature registered 108.4. He immediately was packed in ice. A spinal tap revealed blood in his spinal fluid. The Doctor informed his mother that he had slipped into a coma and there was no way to tell how long that would last. In spite of an extremely high temperature, drifting in and out of a coma and the concern of possible brain damage, I continue to praise God that I survived such a massive heat stroke.

That was almost 35 years ago but the lessons I learned from that experience are still with me today. They are lessons that are valuable for all of us. It serves us well to be reminded daily. Let me share the top three:

1. Life is a gift. We are not promised tomorrow so we must be faithful in living the gift that God has given us. James 4:14 says “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes.” Do not take a day of our life for granted but rather praise God for his gift. “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

2. Prayer makes a difference. My heat stroke happened on a Wednesday afternoon. About the time the Doctor was telling my mom about my condition and the coma, my church began to pray for me.  When the Doctor returned to my ICU room I began to come out of the coma. It truly was a miracle. Within a day I felt like going home. They kept me for two more weeks just to make sure. The Bible teaches us that “the fervent prayer of a righteous person accomplishes much!” I still believe that is true today.

3. God has a purpose for my life. God has a plan for every person. It is a simple plan yet challenging. The biggest part of God’s plan is for each person to accept His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. We become a child of God when we seek God’s forgiveness and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The second part is to serve God with a grateful heart. We can discover the specifics of His plan for our lives as we seek to know Him and His will for our lives. We live life to the fullest when we fulfill God’s purpose.

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As a High School football official, every now and then I have to throw a penalty flag. I don’t enjoy it (contrary to what people think) but it is necessary to administrate the game fairly. The response from players and coaches vary widely depending on their attitude and general understanding of the rules. Let me share a few examples.

1.  Often I will hear players say, “What was wrong with that?” They have no idea what the rule says. What they do know may come from a coach or what they see on the NFL or College Football. Sorry guys, different set of rules. Whether a player knows the rule or not, a penalty is still a penalty.

2.  The majority of the penalties I see are holding by offensive linemen.  They all know holding is against the rules, yet they still do it. Why? It boils down to weighing the benefits of holding versus the risk of getting caught. In their mind, if they don’t get caught there is no penalty. A good lineman will learn how to hold so he doesn’t get caught. Whether a person gets caught or not, it still provides an unfair advantage which makes it wrong.

3. Finally there is the guy with an attitude problem. He knows the rules but couldn’t care less about them. The game is all about him and he will do whatever he wants to win or draw attention to himself. Often, it will take an unsportsmanlike penalty to calm him down (if possible). The sad part is that his actions also affect his teammates and they suffer from his bad attitude.

No matter how much a person knows or does not know the rules, they get penalized when they break them. A flag gets thrown for the entire world to see. In the NFL and College Football they even call out your number to let everyone know that you are the guilty party.  The thought came to my mind the other day, what would happen if God tossed a penalty flag every time we made a mistake (the Bible calls that sin)? How would we feel if God announced to the world every time we messed up? Not a pleasant thought.

Just as football players have a rule book that helps them to play the game properly, God has given us His word to help us live life to the fullest. It tells us about His love and His grace. Everyone is accountable for their own mistakes whether we have read His word or choose to ignore it. The Bible tells us how much God loves us and has provided forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

I am so thankful that God does not throw a penalty flag every time I sin. I am thankful for His grace. Most of all I am thankful for Jesus Christ.

Fun Fact: Did you know there are only 10 rules in the High School rule book? Of course each rule has several sections that explain the specifics of the rules.

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