Developing a Significant Prayer Life is Essential

How will we ever get to the point where we realize that our lives are more about relationships with God and with others, and not so much about work and money and news and politics? Through "Significant Time in Prayer and Bible Study." What do I mean by significant prayer life?

One definition of the word significant is: substantial; relatively large in amount.
Is that how you would characterize your Prayer and Bible Study time?

In his book How to Develop a Powerful Prayer Life, Dr. Gregory Frizzell’s rightly states:
a man with arms stretched out in worship as part of significant prayer

“No one’s relationship with Christ will ever rise above the level of his or her praying. Put simply, if your prayer life is inconsistent and weak, so will be your relationship with God…. Brief, inconsistent prayer times never produce powerful Spirit-filled believers. Furthermore, brief inconsistent prayer never has and never will bring a Great Spiritual Awakening. In America, we have made a “god” out of the ideas of convenience and ease. We want to give God a brief minute or two and try to fit Him into our busy schedules if it is convenient. The God of the Universe deserves and requires far more than this to release His full power on our lives. If Jesus and the early church spent much time in prayer, what makes us think we can do less? If every generation which saw a sweeping Great Awakening spent much time in prayer, why would we think God has changed His requirement for today? God’s requirements have not changed and they never will. Unfortunately, what has changed is our definition of what constitutes a powerful prayer life. A three or four minute daily devotion is not what is meant by a powerful prayer life."

I would think that "significant prayer time" means at least 30 minutes in uninterrupted time with God - reading His Word to hear from Him and offering back our prayers in response. Now if our immediate reaction is: "I can’t commit to 30 minutes of time with God," then that means we still have a long way to go in understanding the meaning of life and the heart of God. We make significant time for other things. When will we set aside a significant amount of time for God?

Pray that God would transform you into a person that desires to spend significant time with Him.

Prayers for Missions from Missionaries.

I ran across these prayers for missions from some who have gone before us as they prayed about their desire to be used by God in His plan to save those who are lost:

portrait of john hyde and praying hands as a representative of these missionaries who had bold prayers for missions

"Praying" John Hyde

"O Lord, give me souls, or take my soul!" --George Whitefield, famous English evangelist in the 1700s.
"Lord, to Thee I dedicate myself, oh accept of me, and let me be Thine forever. Lord, I desire nothing else, I desire nothing more." --David Brainerd, missionary to North American Indians in the 18th century.
"Give what Thou wilt, and how much Thou wilt, and when Thou wilt. Set me where Thou wilt and deal with me in all things as Thou wilt." --Thomas à Kempis, 1379–1471.
"Use me then, my Savior, for whatever purpose and in whatever way Thou may require. Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel, fill it with Thy grace." --Dwight L. Moody in the 1800s.
"Here let me burn out for God." --Henry Martyn, a missionary, as he knelt on the ground in India in 18th century.
"Father, give me these souls, or I die." --John Hyde, missionary to India, 19th century.

Are your prayers similar to these in any way?

So many of us pray in the following way for missions: "God send them. God use them. God speak to them."
Yet these great missionaries and evangelists all said: "God use me, God send me, God speak to me, God help me lead people to You."

We need to start praying to God about our direct involvement in missions. It doesn’t mean you have to go around the world, it just means we need to open our eyes to opportunities to be on mission around us. (Though, if you are truly open to God's calling, He might just call you to the other side of the world!)

If the Bible is a missionary book, the people of the Book are charged with being a missionary people.

Let me conclude with an encounter after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. One of my church members was working with a Christian organization to provide grants for rebuilding. During one interview, a man came in and shared this with my friend Charles. He said:

My entire life, I have been so bad to God. But since Katrina, He has been so good to me. Volunteers are rebuilding my house, God has provided for my needs through church people from other parts of our country, and I have a restored relationship with God. All of the loss and devastation that happened to me through Katrina was worth it for me to have a right relationship with God.

Isn’t that what we want to hear as the result of our involvement with other people – that someone who was Lost is now Found? God has called you to a difficult task, but He has a plan for using you to make a difference in peoples’ lives right where you work and live. Let us not worry so much about how God might bless our lives, but let us consider how we might bless our Lord, our Savior, as we obey His calling to share Him with others.

There's one thing you cannot do about missions: get rid of your responsibility.

Crazy Missionaries. Why Do So Many of Us Think Missionaries Are a Bit "Off"?

Crazy Missionaries. Idealistic Dreamers. Men and Women Enjoying an Extended Vacation. These are some of our secret thoughts about those who go overseas with the gospel.

I don't mean this post to be offensive in any way. I don't want you to think I am not a patriot or am in any way criticizing our military. I am so proud of the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces in a sacrificial way. I am just wondering why we Christians aren't just as proud and supportive of our missionaries who serve God's Kingdom in a sacrificial way.

After watching the movie, The Insanity of God, the following question was raised in one of my men's small groups:
"Why is it that we applaud young men and women for volunteering to join the military, knowing that they might have to lose their lives in service to this country, yet we often have less favorable thoughts about those who volunteer to become missionaries?"

It is odd that both groups choose to risk their lives for a cause they believe in, and for one group we call them "patriots" and are proud of their sacrificial decision, but for the other group we think of them as "idealistic dreamers" who need to get a dose of reality because we feel they are spending their lives frivolously.

This is not a new phenomenon. Many of the missionaries in the past faced the same type of negative scrutiny from others. Too often, they heard negative comments from fellow Christians.

an ancient map of the world to go along with a post on crazy missionariesLeaders in the British East India Company said at the beginning of the nineteenth century: "The sending of Christian missionaries into our Eastern possessions [India] is the maddest, most expensive, most unwarranted project that was ever proposed by a lunatic enthusiast." Ouch! What an encouragement that must have been to those who felt called of God to reach the lost people of India.

However, at the close of that same century, the English Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal said: "In my judgment, Christian missionaries have done more lasting good to the people of India than all other agencies combined."

I have known of multiple families who made sure that their children were in the missions education programs of their church (such as the R.A.'s and G.A.'s for Southern Baptists), and yet when their young adult children indicated that God was calling them into overseas, cross-cultural missions, the families quickly indicated to them that they must have misunderstood what God said.

Even now, I know of missionaries whose families are not extremely supportive of what they do, nor of the costs that they pay to follow the call of God. It is as if many of us think that because the missionaries are in far-off, "exotic" places that they are on some kind of extended vacation. The reality is that the mission field can be lonely and difficult and cause missionaries to have the cry of Jeremiah when he said:

O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long.

Lottie Moon prayed: "I hope no missionary will be as lonely as I have been."

Not only are our missionaries isolated from family and friends as they try to share the message of Jesus with people who often are not receptive, but too often it is their own families, friends, and church members who are not very supportive. We ask awkward questions such as, "When are you coming home?" when their home is now on foreign soil where they live for 50 out of 52 weeks each year. I fear that we have not served well as senders of those we know who serve as missionaries. In fact, some of us have inwardly considered them a bit crazy, just like the East India Company leadership did.

I am glad that the missionaries I know have had the additional feeling that Jeremiah shared when he followed up his complaint with:

But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

Let us who know missionaries be better senders. Let us think better thoughts of them. They are not on an extended vacation. They have devoted their very lives to endure hardship, persecution, loneliness, and isolation all for the sake of the gospel. Their love for God and the lost has compelled them to go. May our love for God and for the lost compel us to support them with our inner thoughts, our love, our words, and our actions. Let us always remember these truths and applaud them for their willing sacrifices. Let us thank them for their example to us of what it means to lay down their lives for Jesus and others. And may we never discourage our own children or fellow church members from the missionary call of God.

What Does a Dead Church Look Like? A Dilapidated Building?

picture of an abandoned church building that is falling apart, perhaps what some would call a dead church

I have always appreciated this description of a Dead Church that I ran across a few years ago:

A painter was asked to paint a picture of a dead church. What the client expected was probably the picture of an old ruin that had been taken over by vines of ivy and has been left in disrepair, such as the remains of some Gothic cathedral such as are seen in France or Italy. The painter, however, took a different approach, and painted a picture that was like a sermon. On his canvas he painted the inside of a cozy, well-furnished church: upholstered pews, a large organ, a beautiful wooden pulpit, and a congregation whose appearance indicated sophistication and prosperity. But over in the corner near the exit, he painted the picture of a box bearing the inscription "FOR MISSIONS," and covering over the slot for contributions you could see a large, undisturbed cobweb. The painter knew that a church that cares nothing for missions is dead (or is dying), even if there are plenty of people in attendance.

James tells us to "Be Doers of the Word and not Hearers only."
If you are involved in a healthy church, you've heard that you should be involved in missions. So have you done anything about it? It doesn’t have to be missions overseas. There are people who live near you and work beside you who God has placed near you for a reason.

Don't be so busy with your own life that you miss the very ones that God has brought into your pathway, so that you can be the hands and feet and voice of Christ to these who are hurting and need to know Jesus.

Pray that God would break your heart for the people around you who need to know Him.

Miracles of God - Where Are They Today?

What happened to all those miracles? If only Jesus was still doing miracles.
Then more people would believe.
Then more people would live for God.
Maybe, like my own family today, you are praying for a miracle, and are thinking that if only it would occur, then you would put more of your trust in God.
It sounds reasonable, but is it true?

I think this statement from Philip Yancey does a great job of explaining the relationship between miracles and faith:

"Yes, Jesus performed miracles —around three dozen, depending on how you count them— but the Gospels actually downplay them. Often Jesus asked those who had seen a miracle not to tell anyone else. Some miracles, such as the Transfiguration or the raising of a twelve-year-old dead girl, he let only his closest disciples watch, with strict orders to keep things quiet. Though he never denied someone who asked for physical healing, he always turned down requests for a demonstration to amaze the crowds and impress important people. Jesus recognized early on that the excitement generated by miracles did not readily convert into life-changing faith."

stained glass window depicting Jesus performing miracles
When we see a supernatural miracle we either have to say, "That didn’t actually happen. It was a illusion." Or we have to say, "That really happened!"
And if it really happened, then we have to credit it to someone. How did this happen? Who made it happen? And so, after many of Jesus’ miracles, we find that some people did believe. They saw a man who was born blind healed and able to see. They knew it really happened, and so they attributed it to God.

But we have others who saw the exact same healing, investigated it, knew that it really occurred, knew it happened in connection with Jesus, but would not put their trust in Jesus. Their only option was to call him demon-possessed and attribute the work to Satan. They were basically saying "Jesus, You are doing undisputable miracles of healing people and helping people and even raising people from the dead, but we refuse to believe you are from God, so we have no other option but to call it the work of the devil."

And so even today, if a miracle occurred right in front of us, it doesn't mean that it would definitely lead you or others to more faith in Jesus. Because, let's be honest, miracles actually do still happen today, but perhaps they are not always in the form that you are wanting or requesting at that precise moment. We might be praying for a miracle of physical healing for a family member, but God is crafting miracles of another kind around us, or even within us, through the situation we are facing.

It is tragic when someone sees a God-honoring miracle and they refuse to attribute it to God. What miracles can we still see today? The most common one is that we see people's lives changed by the power of God. We see the hateful become loving, we see the greedy become generous, we see the immoral become pure, we see the liar become honest, we see the downcast become joyful. We see the power of God changing people and we can either attribute it to Him or we can explain it some other way.

And the most important miracle that is still taking place regularly – is the power of resurrection – taking someone who was dead inside and making them alive.

An Example

Beth was one of my students, and she was one of the most positive students in my entire ministry. She came to know Jesus as a young teenager and was on fire for God. He brought a tremendous joy into her heart. She had some rough situations she had to endure in her life, she had to "grow up fast" and carry a lot of responsibility on her shoulders, but in the midst of it all, she remained positive, kind, and full of joy.

One of Beth's friends asked her one day (...and Beth, if you read this, please forgive me if I don't get the quotes exactly right, but I'm doing my best from memory of this conversation that occurred more than 10 years ago!) He asked her one day – Beth, why is it that you are always so positive? Even when things aren’t going your way, you are always so kind to everyone else and you always have a smile on your face. How is that possible? And don’t tell me "Jesus."
     Beth answered, "Ok." And she began to walk off.
     He called to her, "Beth, wait. I asked you a question."
     She said, "I know. But you told me not to tell you my one and only answer – because my answer is Jesus."

When we encounter these miracles – even the miracle of Beth having the joy of the Lord in the face of difficulty – we have to make a decision. Her friend had to make a decision – do I believe Beth's answer? Or do I have to say that she is either a liar or confused about the real answer. He had already predetermined that Jesus couldn't be the answer, so when that was her answer, he refused to accept it.

After each miracle or sign of Jesus, people had to make a decision. The miracle you are requesting might not occur. But that doesn't mean that God isn't at work around you. You may just need to open your eyes to how God is crafting a miracle within you through your situation right now.

What to Say to Your Kids When You Watch Them Play, Cheer, Dance, etc.

Actually, today is a repost of mine from a few years ago, but I wanted to reshare it because of its helpfulness to parents as you go watch your children perform in various activities.

My previous post was also on parenting: What to say when someone is mean to your child. If you missed it click here.

Today I want to share with you another parenting article I found a few years ago written by Dr. Tim Elmore. This is an excellent read with very helpful advice for everyone with children or grandchildren, nephews or nieces, and basically if you know any children at all. Your kids (or grand-kids) are involved in lots of stuff. Most every parent will take time to watch their child perform in various activities. Many children will participate in sports, but this advice also carries over into other activities such as recitals, spelling bees, marching band, dance, school plays, whatever your child is engaged in.When they are participating in these activities, what do you need to say to them as you watch?

kids playing baseball who had to give up some time and effort to play the game

Photo by matthew_hull from

Before I provide you with a link to the full article, let me give you the summary to whet your appetite and give you the key piece of knowledge and the six-word sentence you should use:

No one has more at stake in their performing child than the child's parents.
They love their child, they’ve invested in their child.
But they can also put intense pressure on their child.

Student-athletes say: "I feel like I’m never quite good enough; I can never fully please my parents."

A parent's role should be one of "supporting and letting go."

The most liberating words, the most healthy words, that parents can speak to their student-athletes (or other performing children) are quite simple. Here they are...

Before the Competition, say:
Have fun!
Play hard!
I love you!

After the competition, say:
Did you have fun?
I’m proud of you!
I love you!

After much research, experts suggest six simple words that parents can express which will produce the most positive results in their children. These are the words that made children feel great both during and after a performance. Here they are:
"I Love To Watch You Play."

That’s it.
No pressure. No correction. No judgment.
Just pure love of your child using their gift in competition.

This is what the experts learned will help create an emotionally healthy child.

You might wonder if this removes competitiveness and is too lax. If this is all I am to do, then who will instruct my child properly? That is why the team has a coach already. Your job is not to coach. Your job is to support. If you don't believe this idea to be true, then after reading this article, go pick up MLB Coach Mike Matheny's book - The Matheny Manifesto - which gives almost the same advice.

Now Dad & Mom – go out and try this with your child this week!

And now you can go read the full article:
What Parents Should Say As Their Kids Perform! by Dr. Tim Elmore by clicking here.

Stop Being Mean

I am not a parent, but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Therefore, I have all sorts of parental knowledge dripping out of me today.
a holiday inn express sign to indicate that I'm smarter today for staying in one last night
Actually, as a former youth & children's minister who gathered excellent parenting skills from TV sitcoms, I have some suggestions for you. And the suggestion is to listen to this excellent advice that was written by actual parents!

Specifically I want to share two parenting articles with you that I have run across. Today I'll share the first one which is not only helpful for parents, but is good advice to all of us. I encourage you to go and read the whole article by clicking the link or image below. This first article is about being mean, or rather why we should not be mean:
What to do when someone is being mean to your child by Sandy Cooper

this is the blog logo of the scoop on balance which has a great article on helping your kids deal with those who are being mean to them

Sandy is a skilled writer with great humor and insight in her post. Here are some of the highlights for you:

Her son said "…this kid imitated me and laughed at me. He just kept doing it even when I asked him to stop. I don’t understand why kids always make fun of me. Sometimes I just feel like the whole world hates me.”

She reminds us that One Mean Kid can make him feel like the whole world hates him.
Mean Kids carry a lot of power.

She then shared six key points with her son:
(I'm only providing a summary of four here - so to get the full scoop, you'll have to go to her post)
image of a fist punching through a window as a symbol of being mean
1. There will always be mean people. There will always be people who don’t like you…. You can’t change that. All you can do is equip yourself to deal with hate in a healthy, productive way.

2. That voice in your head that says, “Sometimes I feel like the whole world hates me” - That’s Satan. And that’s a lie. There are way more people who love you than people who don’t.

3. Kids are mean for a reason…. But almost NEVER is it because of you. Don’t ever define yourself based on the opinion of the Mean Kid.

4. And the most important point she makes: Then I leaned across the kitchen counter, looked him in the eyes and said, “If you hear anything I say today, hear this…It’s the most important thing I’m telling you: Don’t EVER be the Mean Kid. Ever. And when you see another kid getting picked on, for the love of all that is right and good, go rescue that kid. Go put your arm on that kid’s shoulder and tell him you are on his side. …You might be the only one who sticks up for him! Be THAT kid. Be the one who sees the hurting, downcast kid and RESCUES him.

That makes you just like Jesus.

Wow. Excellent advice. And not only for kids. I need to remember this as an adult. And I need to share this idea with other people I know. Parents, be sure to share this reminder with your children. Being mean isn't being like Jesus.

May we all be more like Jesus.

And don't ever be the mean kid.