Jen and I took a hot air balloon ride over Lake Tahoe. Just wanted to share it with all of you! :)
If you want to discover the plan God has for your life, pray for it before you look for it. Today we’ll take a look at four benefits of prayer. These four benefits come from the book, Hand Me Another Brick by Charles Swindoll.
PRAYER MAKES YOU WAIT
You have to stop what you’re doing in order to pray. (This is especially important if you’re driving.) Nehemiah prayed for four months after hearing the wall around Jerusalem needed to be rebuilt. It was obvious what needed to be done. But he still took the time to pray and seek wisdom in how to proceed.
Of course we can say a quick prayer in our head as we are completing a task. Nehemiah did as much when the king asked him what was on his heart. I’m talking about the type of prayer where we empty our minds of all things except for the voice of God. This kind of prayer keeps us from making quick decisions. It forces us to slow down and wait for God’s wisdom.
Waiting before acting does not represent a lack of faith. It is a sign of mature faith. Children don’t like to wait. They cry and act out if they don’t get what they want immediately. We teach children patience in order to help them mature. We need to be the same in our adult spiritual lives.
Don’t regret making a decision without prayer. Take the time. Wait. Pray.
PRAYER CLEARS YOUR VISION
Praying for God’s plan for you will make you think about God’s plan for you. You can’t move forward with a plan for your life if you don’t know what that plan is. It would be like a carpenter building furniture without knowing what their making. You need to have a clear vision of what you want to build before you can build it.
When you start praying to God to reveal his plan for you, you will begin to be more focused. You will start to discover ideas and ways to carry them out. When Nehemiah was asked by the King what he needed, he was able to do more than share his concern. Nehemiah had a clear vision for the solution. He requested letters for safe travel, permission for timber to build gates, and even had a timeline in mind for when he would return. It’s a good thing Nehemiah waited before going to the king. His plan was so well thought out he was able to make specific requests when asked what he needed.
PRAYER QUIETS YOUR HEART
In a true conversation, there is as much listening as there is speaking. In fact, listening is often more important. As the saying goes, the good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Prayer requires that we listen to what God is saying to us. The more we listen, the more our hearts will calm down.
Oftentimes when we go to God in prayer our hearts are filled with the noises of the world; fear, anger, worry, anxiety…It’s hard to hear God when there is so much noise in our hearts. But as we pray and focus on God, those things lose our attention. As the sounds of the world fade away, the voice of God begins to become more audible. It’s not that God’s voice wasn’t there. We just need to let those things go away. We need our hearts to be quiet so we can hear the message of God.
PRAYER ACTIVATES YOUR FAITH
One of the first things Nehemiah did confronted with the status of the wall was pray. He prayed continually. If Nehemiah had not prayed, he may have not thought the task was possible. Building a wall around a city? Needing permission from a king from another city to do it? Why would King Artexerxes, the king for whom Nehemiah worked want to make another city more fortified? It would take a lot of faith on Nehemiah’s part to seek permission to rebuild.
What do you want to build in your life? You need to have the faith to do it. Praying activates that faith. It can be like the pep talk a coach gives their team before the big game. You can’t open yourself up to God and not be changed.
EVERY JOURNEY MUST BEGIN WITH PRAYER
A journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step. But a successful plan begins with prayer. As you journey toward your destination, don’t forget to stop and pray. Wait. You can’t move forward if you’re kneeling. Pray to clear your mind and receive God’s vision. Listen. You won’t hear God speaking if you’re doing all the talking or paying attention to the world’s bullying. Do this, and your faith will be activated so you will have the courage to do what you may previously thought was not possible.
When I was a teenager Twisted Sister came out with the song, “We’re not Gonna Take It.” The video started off with an overly aggressive father yelling at his son, "What do you want to do with your life?” The boy’s answer, “I wanna rock!”
It was a just a video but that line haunted me… “What do you want to do with your life?” Well? Do you know?
In the Bible we read about a man named Nehemiah who knew exactly how to answer that question. He discovered that the wall around the city of Jerusalem was in disrepair. The moment he discovered that, he knew what he wanted to do with his life. He was going to lead the charge to rebuild the wall.
Today I want to share the first of four steps to discovering the plan that God has for you.
STEP ONE: BE PASSIONATELY PASSIONATE
When Nehemiah learned that the wall around Jerusalem needed repair he had a passionate response. He immediately sat down and wept. Then he mourned, fasted and prayed for weeks. People have strong reactions to the things they are passionate about.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT?
You constantly think about it.
When you are passionate about something it is always on your mind. Whether it’s a car you want to buy, a job you hope to get or that girl you want to date.
You will sacrifice comfort
Nehemiah gave up the comforts of his lifestyle of serving a king to go and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Missionaries give up hot showers. People in the military sacrifice time with their families. Public school teachers give up higher pay and more respect they could earn in the private sector to pursue their passion of teaching.
You will give your money
Everyone says that money is tight. And for most of us it is. And yet, we seem to have most of those things we desire. Jesus said in Matthew, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21. You want to know where your heart is? Look at your bank statement and see where your money is going.
You will give your time
Money may be valuable. But time seems to be the most prized possession we have. As a pastor, I find it easier to get people to donate money over donating their time.
Nehemiah could have just written a check and asked someone else to build the wall. He could have done fundraisers, spaghetti dinners and written articles on the tax benefits of making donations. But until someone took the time to pick up the stones and start stacking them together, there wasn’t going to be a wall.
Same goes for us. Want an education? You can save up all the money it takes to go to the best college in the world and earn a degree. You can save enough money to get two degrees. But until you invest the time to study and take the tests, you’re not going to get that diploma. An education takes more than money, it takes time.
You are self motivated
Nobody told Nehemiah he needed to rebuild the wall. He just did it. Nobody needs to remind you to do the things you love. Those things come naturally. You just do them.
You know what you’re passionate about. You think about it. You sacrifice for it. You give your money for it. And no one needs to tell you to do it. So what in your life fits all those criteria? Think about it. Because the answer to that, may lead you to the plan God has for you!
The Biblical character Nehemiah is known for rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem after it had been destroyed. You would think that building a wall to protect a city would not be a complicated task. But the challenges that Nehemiah faced seemed disproportional to the goal he set.
The wall not only served as protection, but as a boundary. And boundaries provide us with several things.
BOUNDARIES GIVE A SENSE OF SELF
When Nehemiah heard the walls were down he knew that Israel was without boundaries I don’t just mean boundaries made of brick and mortar Israel had lost a sense of self. Because Israel’s wall was down, it was hard to tell if they were really serious about; Their safety, Their relationship with God, How they identified themselves as Israelites.
When we don’t have boundaries, it’s hard to tell where we begin and end. Boundaries remind us of where we draw the line when it comes to our actions, our finances, our values. Occasionally our worldview or our sense of identity is tested and our boundaries shift. That’s when we realize we are redefining ourselves.
BOUNDARIES CAN BRING CRITICISM
Once we begin to set our boundaries, there will always be some kind of attack in the form of criticism.
Nehemiah and his workers were verbally attacked the entire time they rebuilt the wall. They were mocked. They were ridiculed. They were told if a fox jumped on the wall, the whole thing would come crashing down. Nehemiah 4:3
It doesn’t matter what you believe in. There will be someone who does not share your values. There will also those who will mock you for your values. I don’t know why some people criticize others. I do know that if you know your boundaries, you can handle the criticism.
BOUNDARIES BRING BULLIES
When making fun of the work didn’t slow down the construction, those who didn’t want the wall began to threaten an attack. Nehemiah 4:11
In other words, Nehemiah and his crew were bullied. Threats are more threatening when our boundaries are weak. Boundaries may bring bullies, but strong boundaries protect us from attack.
BOUNDARIES BRING TEMPTATION
Once we know our boundaries we know what we can or cannot do. And as humans, once we know what we shouldn’t do, we’re always tempted to do it. It’s natural to think that the grass is greener on the other side
When Nehemiah was at work rebuilding the wall he faced constant temptation to walk away from it
While he was in the process of establishing boundaries, Nehemiah’s enemies constantly tempted him to go outside of them. Nehemiah 6:1-4 Nehemiah knew this was a trap. He kept working and said he was too busy to walk away from such an important task. It’s kind of a funny conversation: “Leave your work!” “I can’t, I’m too busy working on it!”
Take a look at the symbolism here. Nehemiah is establishing boundaries and he’s being tempted to step outside of them.
It’s not safe outside the boundary. It’s safe inside the boundary.
FIRM BOUNDARIES PROVIDE CLARITY
Throughout his experiences, Nehemiah remained focused on building that wall… setting that boundary. Because that wall, that boundary, gave clarity to whom the Israelites were.
They were not one to be mocked by others.
They were not to give in to the temptation of others.
When that wall was completed it symbolized the tenacity of the Israelites.
When that wall was going up Nehemiah was focused on the wall and the boundaries it represented. He was not focused on the attacks, the criticisms, the temptations
Nehemiah was focused on what the boundaries represented. The boundary for Nehemiah brought clarity: To Nehemiah’s identity as an Israelite, His purpose for God’s plan, Who was against it and who he needed to avoid.
DO YOU KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES?
Take some time to think about your boundaries. Do you know what they are? They help define you. Knowing your boundaries will help you know yourself. They will bring clarity to what you value. And when they are challenged, you will know where you stand.
Sea of Galilee
One day, along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus made the disciples get in a boat. He didn’t say, “When you’re ready, get in the boat” or “After you’ve gathered everything and said your goodbyes to everyone you’ve met, get in the boat.” Jesus made the disciples get in the boat. A more accurate translation would read, Jesus forced/compelled/urged/insisted that the disciples get in the boat.
It was this very boat trip that the disciples got caught in the storm. All night the boat was tossed about by the wind and the waves. The disciples remained far from the land because the wind was against them. There’s a sense that the wind has been personified. It is against the disciples. It’s personal. It does not want them to make it back to shore where Jesus is.
What has always amazed me is that Jesus must have known this was going to happen. Yet, he made the disciples get into the boat. Jesus knew the disciples were going to suffer. He wanted them to experience life in the world without him. And the disciples learn that the world is against them.
When Jen and I were in Israel we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. I could picture the disciples out on the middle of this sea. For us, it was a calm day. But the thought of a storm coming up and swallowing our boat did come to mind. Then our guide shared something I never knew before. The wind for this particular sea comes from all four directions. I thought of the disciples. They truly were being persecuted by the world.
There is good news to this story. In the middle of the night, at the darkest, windiest hour, Jesus came walking on the water toward the disciples. When the disciples see Jesus they are afraid, they think he’s a ghost. I suppose that’s not a stretch considering that this really was an unholy storm. But Jesus calms their fears when he identifies himself by saying, “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.” (Mat 14:27) Once Jesus is in the boat the wind dies and the sea calms down.
This begs the question, has Jesus made you do something that you’re afraid of? What is the boat that Jesus is making you get into? Is it a conversation with someone? Is it facing your addiction? It won’t be easy. You know it, Jesus knows it. But we know that while we may have to face something, we won’t have to face it alone. Before hope is lost, Jesus comes. If we let him into our lives, the storms of life will calm down.
The miracle in this story is not that Jesus walked on water. I’ve seen that done by other magicians. I even saw a guy make a train disappear. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus did something amazing by walking on water. But other people have mimicked that. The miracle of this story is that Jesus brought order out of the chaos of the world. That’s power my friends.
Do you need a little more order in your world? Then get in the boat. Face your storm. It’s not an option. But then again, if you look, you’ll see Jesus coming toward you. Let him in.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and
eat with him, and he with me. ~ Jesus, in Revelation 3:20
The world is full of options. Just try to order food at a restaurant without hearing the words, “Do you want a side with that, we have several options…” Things are the same when it comes to finding purpose in your
personal life. There is no shortage of choices when it comes to finding meaning in life. As the Mad Pastor,
I want you to consider Jesus to be your last option.
Many people look for meaning in their families. I’ve known moms and dads who have found great comfort in raising their children. Kids make mistakes and shame their parents. They grow up and move out. When that happens, those parents struggle with living in an empty home. Purpose is lost.
Couples without kids may find happiness in their relationship with each other. But people fail us.
Relationships end. Husbands grow old and frail. We’ve all known a man or woman who has face great hardships after the loss of a loved one. When we lose another, we lose ourselves.
Money and power are tempting options. We all seem to envy those with big houses, nice cars. We’ve all dreamt of winning the lottery and what we’d do with our newfound riches. And yet, have you ever seen the documentaries on those who have won the lottery and found themselves devoid of any true relationship or even filing for bankruptcy?
Yes, the world provides a lot of options. I’ve touched on just a few. Many options are even good ones… for
a season. But all options run out at some point. There is an option beyond this world.
Often times, people go to Jesus Christ when all other options have run out. They’ve tried everything else, there’s nothing left so they turn to him. It’s then that they find true life, true purpose in living in Christ. Sometimes you’ll hear someone say that they would have saved a lot of time if they had gone to Jesus sooner.
If you’re looking for purpose in your life, if you want to find meaning you’ll find that there are an almost unlimited number of options waiting for you. Why don’t you respond to the option that is not just waiting for you but looking for you… even knocking on your door? Save yourself a lot of time and disappointment, open the door to Jesus and make him your last option. Once you found him, you won’t need anything
The other day I noticed my laptop was running out of power, but the power cord was inserted. Great, my laptop is dying. I can’t live without this thing. How am I supposed to write all these great articles for you to read without my computer right?
I double checked the cord. It was pushed into the laptop. I checked my settings. Everything seemed fine. Maybe my battery was going dead. But that doesn’t make sense, it’s plugged in. So why was the unit about to die? Well it turns out the other end of the cord wasn’t plugged into the wall. Hey, at least I figured it out before the pc died.
How many times do you find yourself running out of power? When your battery runs down, what do you plug into? Better yet, is what you plug into enough?
The world offers a lot of power sources. Some good, some not so good. We have self help books, therapy, prescriptions meds and friends. These are great power boosters. But they can’t be our only source. When we treat them as the sole source of our power we can become addicted to them or wear them out. When we abuse them, they will fail us.
We need a power source that never goes out. Not when there’s a storm, high winds, or too much demand. We need a perfect source; a clean, steady stream of energy that gives us the power we need.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Right after he said this, he raised someone from the dead. The world has a lot of power, but I’ve never seen one that raised someone who was dead a few days.
Plug into Jesus. His power never runs out. The only thing left to say is the question Jesus asks, “Do you believe this?”
I bought a new snow blower this year. I was tired of having to take a shovel to the ice and snow at the end of the driveway that my smaller blower couldn’t handle. I made the plunge and bought a big metal, 208 cc, rust resistant snow blower with 11 in. steel serrated augers, electric start, and alloy steel gears….(caveman sounds) AAAUUUggggg Aarrrggh, Ahhh ah Ahhhh ahhh!!!
Boy did that baby blow! (Insert your own joke here.) I could practically hit the neighbor’s house across the street! Yes! No more shoveling for me!
I pulled my new snow blower out this weekend for the second snow of the season. Four inches. No problem. My baby can handle it. I was half done with the driveway when I noticed something…. the whole machine was wobbly. It was bending sideways back and forth. It looked more like a slinky than a snow blower. The bolts holding it together were literally breaking apart and falling off. My precious snow blower was about to be in pieces!
Turns out the bolts that held the machine together were not properly heat treated when they were made. They were brittle and couldn’t take the stress of a moving machine. Because they were falling apart my favorite new winter machine was falling apart. It didn’t matter if the engine was strong and the transmission worked, the machine as a whole is only as good as the bolts that hold it together.
What are the bolts that are holding your life together? Can they handle the stress of life? Or are you risking falling apart because the bolts of your life are overburdened, overstressed, or just not properly made?
We all have something to keep our lives together. Sometimes its family, work, church, friends, even alcohol and drugs. We use any manner of things to keep it together. But everything, eventually will fail us. Nothing can compete with the stress of life. Except the One who made life.
In speaking of Jesus, the apostle Paul said, “all things were created by him and for him. He is before all thins, and in him all things hold together.” (1 Corinthians 1:16b-17)
If you are looking for something to hold your life together look to the one who created life. He understands you. He made you! And if he can hold the universe and all creation together, think how much he can do for you!
By the way, I took my failing snow blower back to the store and they traded it for an upgrade at a deep discount for my inconvenience. I almost can’t wait for it to snow again. And just to be sure, I swapped out some key bolts with new stainless steel ones.