The Breakfast Table

-Thoughts on Prayer-

Prayer is vitally important.
Prayer is also a spiritual discipline that should be spoken of frequently and taught to our children.  It is a constant conversation that takes place with Creator and we the creation.

cardsI remember when I was a young boy.  We had a small dining table located in the kitchen.  We didn’t have much.  My parents were missionaries and so we lived off of what was provided to us.  We were happy though, and the simple pleasures of life often occupied our small household.  At that breakfast table in the kitchen we had our humble meals.  Many times we ate fish at least five times a week.  But one thing was constant in that small room in which we gathered for our meals.  On that breakfast table sat a clear plastic stand with cards in it.  The cards were nestled in their place, they were small, sometimes multi-colored.  These cards looked like playing cards of one kind or another, but in fact they were scripture readings and a devotional thought for the day.  Most days my father or mother would select one of these multicolored cards, sometimes my sister and I would help pull them from their place.  Usually my father would read the card selected for the day.  My sister and I would listen,though admittedly as children tend to be,  I was often fidgety and sometimes would not hear what was being said.   But those devotional cards directed our day.  After the reading was finished we would pray.  Right there in that little kitchen, my sister and I first encountered this discipline of prayer, which was being modeled for us by our parents.

When I was a College Student.
Later in my life, I recall visiting relatives.  talk
We stayed in their home and talked into the late hours of the night.
There was laughter and tears only found and formed in the deep bonds of family.
In the morning, when we were ready to set off on our long journey home, I remember sitting at their breakfast table.  And much like our breakfast table long ago, there before us were those little multicolored cards resting in that clear plastic stand .   A card was selected from the stand on that morning, and as a part of a now much larger family, we read and prayed together.  It felt strangely  familiar and yet almost alien to me then.  I had been attending a Christian college, but if truth be told, I was further away from God than I have ever been in my life.  But sitting at that breakfast table, I was once again transformed into a child.  I was once more caught up in a glimpse of simpler days.  Sitting at that table early in the morning something fantastic happened to me.  I was reminded, I was renewed, I was plugged back in – because of family, because of the bonds of prayer, fellowship and relationship.

I recalled all of those times when I sat at that little breakfast table as a child, how I would fidget, how I would often dread having to sit and listen.  How, sometimes I loathed those little cards…and here I was, at another kitchen table, and hearing the same kind of card being read once more.  How I wished I could stop time and sit here for a little while longer.  How I wished I could go back to that little kitchen as a child and soak it all up again.  Perhaps this time I would listen.  Perhaps this time I would understand its importance.  Perhaps I would finally get it.  There, within my heart was this deep longing to reach out and touch the Master’s hand.  The intent of creation itself – to fellowship with God.  And how many times have we ignored, been too busy or too distracted to even stop and experience such an encounter?

This brief pause in the day wasn’t a ritual.  This breakfast table reading wasn’t devoid of meaning.  This little moment in a big day meant something far beyond my grasp at the time. But as I have grown older, and have children of my own, I now look back and can finally see how it shaped me.  I see how it molded me into who I am today.

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Parents, don’t underestimate this time that you have with your children!
Take the time, even if you don’t always feel up to it.
I must confess that I haven’t always done this, but I now see how vital it truly is, and a part of me wishes I could go back for a moment and sit at that breakfast table once more and to encounter our times a family prayer again.

Something to ponder today.

Let’s Get Uncomfortable About Prayer

I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Today is National Prayer day.
So let’s talk about prayer shall we?!

We have these images in our minds when we think about the word “Prayer”…perhaps it looks like this:  handsor maybe maybe this:
gardenThese iconic images of prayer are okay, but are they really what prayer looks like and should be for us today?  Don’t get me wrong, I am not discounting some of us might fold our hands like this when we pray, but by and large our prayer life probably looks more like this:

car.jpg

Driving back and forth from home to work, only to repeat this process.  Perhaps after a really good, challenging Sunday service we might feel compelled to be more intentional about prayer and so we turn off the radio and simply talk to God.  Realistically, the World around us seems to be a constantly busy place and our prayer life can begin to be measured out in how long it takes us to get to work.

Still there are some of us whose prayer life resembles this:
sleep
We work hard all day long and when it comes time for us to go to bed we think about prayer.  So we pray, and we are serious about it, but at the end of the day we are completely spent and so our prayers fall into sounds of deep breathing and even snoring.

I don’t say this as a guilt trip, because I’ve been guilty of this too.  We mean well, it’s just that our bodies and our minds are tired and we drift off to sleep.

Let’s Get Uncomfortable About Prayer:
This will probably be unpopular among many Christians, but we are too soft.  We are not as disciplined as we should be in regards to prayer.  Instead of looking like this in our prayer life:  runing

(We don’t take the intentional time we need.  We aren’t focused.  We lack the discipline to keep going.  We struggle with many distractions such as TV, cell phones, social media, websites, books, video game…etc. )

So we end up looking more like this in regards to the discipline of prayer:
couch
And the only time we pull out our prayers, our conversations to God, is when we are in need of something.  Could it be that THIS is why we feel as if God isn’t listening?  Perhaps because we haven’t really disciplined ourselves enough to have a constant conversation with Him?

It’s like the couch potato suddenly gettingug up from the comfortable sofa and putting on their shoes and attempting to run a marathon without any training.  Sure, some might actually finish, but by and large most would fall flat on their faces in utter exhaustion.

Prayer takes work.  
Real prayer isn’t a bunch of “Thees” and “Thous” thrown into some fancy sentence full of flowery meaningless words.  God doesn’t want our ritualistic prayers.  He doesn’t want us to be something we’re not.  He wants our authenticity.  He longs for us to be completely candid with Him.  He already knows us, there’s nothing hidden from Him…so why do we feel as if we have to put up a wall or limit what we say to Him?

Brother Lawrence, in his little book called “The Practice of the Presence of God” said this; “Do not be discouraged by the resistance you will encounter from your human nature; you must go against your human inclinations. Often, in the beginning, you will think that you are wasting time, but you must go on, be determined and persevere in it until death, despite all the difficulties.
― (The Practice of the Presence of God)

True prayer requires concerted effort.
It might require us to become uncomfortable.
Discipline is required to spend time conversing with the Almighty.
It is not a waste of time.
He does hear us.
He will speak…but the question is are we actually listening?

Do we need prayer?
Absolutely…BUT perhaps prayer isn’t what we have always been taught it is.
Could it be that our prayers should resemble more of a constant invitation for God to hang out with us?  Could it be that instead of kneeling at our bedside,  we continually begin to think and speak to our Creator?  Perhaps we’ve been taught prayer is all about closing our eyes…maybe we should open them instead.  God longs for our fellowship, and a part of that fellowship is our constant communication with Him.  He is nearer than we think or realize.  But perhaps could it be that our hearts are not completely in tune with Him?  Perhaps we are out of sync due to our random, undisciplined prayer lives?

The Discipline of prayer is more than just a notch in the “Christian” belt of accomplishments (hopefully we don’t think of it like that), it is connect ourselves completely to the Divine.  It is a part of Holiness.  It is a part of the complete surrender the Holy Spirit is desiring from us.  For many of us, a complete surrender is really scary to think about.  Instead of thinking about the things we will give up, think about the life that we will gain and the peace and knowledge that brings.

I’m not there either, but I want to be.
Something more to ponder today.

Dear Salvationist, A Prayer For The Weary

drumDear Soldier,

allow me to pray for you today.
Prayer is a powerful weapon of spiritual warfare – that can become underutilized and sometimes disregarded except for moments of greatest need.  We need you, dear soldier!  You are important to this mission – if this mission is written upon your heart and you have given yourself solely to God for His service/and the service of others!

Please allow me to pray for you and your small corner right now:

Lord, you know the soldier’s heart.
You know the war that wages within our communities, both seen and unseen.
We ask that you be with our corps around the world.
We also pray for our leaders both near and far away.
We know that without you we can do nothing!
But with you all things are possible!
Help us when we are tired, weary, worn and discouraged.
Grant to us your strength to carry on.
Illuminate your word and make it shine within our hearts.
Break us, mold us, renew us, Dear Lord.
Strengthen us for the tasks which seem insurmountable.
Lift our heads when we are brought low by circumstances around us.
Remind us that we are your people, sons and daughters of the Most High!
Father, we wish to honor you, continue to teach us your ways.
We long to reflect you, Dear Lord,  both in word and deed.
May we practice what we preach daily – minute by minute.
Lord make us holy – help us to reflect Christ in joy and suffering.
May we continue to be kingdom people – not building our kingdoms
but yours and yours alone.
As soldiers gather throughout the world – help us in our efforts as we feed the hungry, clothe and shelter the homeless, the orphaned and the impoverished.
May this fight for social justice in our world (both near and far) not be about what this mighty Army can do, but what You can do through faithful people.
Lord, lift our heads
We will give you glory in all things!
So be it.
Amen.

**Please continue to pray for me, and if you would like to be prayed for specifically, feel free to leave a message here on private message me and you will be prayed for!**

Dear Soldier,
Fight on…the war is far from over!

Something more for our army to ponder and pray about today.
To God be the glory!

A Paris Terror Attack Pondering – How We Should Respond

When someone intentionally kills another person we call it “murder”.
When someone intentionally kills multiple people we call it “mass-murder”
When a group claims responsibility for killing over 100 people we call it what it is – “Terrorism”.

attackI mourn, as many do, for the senseless killings that took place in Paris on Friday.
Innocent people were gunned down while they socialized at the end of the work week.
For 30 minutes in the streets of Paris, order was turned into anarchy by a handful of radical terrorists with high powered weapons and explosives.

I have read numerous posts and blogs that have somewhat reflected my anger and outrage, and the truth is MOST people are outraged when senseless violence takes place upon the innocent.  I have also read numerous profanity laced comments and hate filled posts – this behavior is somewhat understandable in fits of rage, but it never helps.
attack2
What is the Christian Thing To Do?  
As Christians, we are called to a higher standard…and it IS a very difficult place for many of us to remain in the midst of injustice, violence and hatred.  As a Salvationist (A member of The Salvation Army) I read the response of General Andre’ Cox today.  In his response he correctly stated this, which I wholeheartedly agree  with:

coxI want to say that my purpose here is not to make political statements. Others are better placed and carry a particular responsibility to do just that…please pray for political and national leaders. All of them, not just President Hollande and his team in France, but leaders in your country and mine.

National leadership is never easy. History shows that. These men and women need the faithful and continual prayers of the Church, regardless of our personal political persuasions. Whenever I meet with political leaders in any country I assure them of my personal prayers, and those of Salvationists in that country. It is important that they know of this.

…I exhort you today to pray, deeply, for the grace of God and the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit, to be felt and experienced, in some manner, by the hundreds of family members personally devastated by the senseless loss of life in these hours. Death comes to all, but how it comes and in what circumstances, can add layers of added grief and pain……I urge you to pray for the Church, the Body of Christ, of which our Salvation Army is a vital partThere will possibly be strong voices within the public sphere calling for vengeful retribution against those who had nothing to do with these atrocities. In some small way the voice of the Church, of you and I, can call for added grace and care in these days. We can bring light into the gloom.”


The Christian response isn’t to call for revenge or violence.  My old self would greatly desire to see revenge take place, but this new creation that all of us share requires more grace, more forgiveness and especially more prayer.  I also recognize that God will be the final judge, not us.  All of creation is His and His alone and from this perspective we are to understand justice and redemption.

Be vigilant in prayer.  prayer
Be aware of hatred and sin in our world, but do not participate in its evil.
We are set apart, and in so doing, we must shine the light of Christ during such dark places and moments such as these!  Cast aside, at all costs, these worthless prejudices which blind us to redemption of all people from all walks of life.

Rest assured that sin cannot remain in the presence of God no matter what  those sins are.
Pray for our world, pray for its leaders, and for the areas of evil and terror that are present within it.
Pray that God will change the hearts of men.
Pray that we seek Him out and live for Him, so that our response to all of humanity is holy and Godly.

Please Pray With Me:
I mourn for the victims in Paris.
I pray for those who have to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
I pray for President Hollande of France, for President Obama of the United States, for other leaders in our world who will undoubtedly take action in rooting out wicked people bent on destruction and hiding behind the guise of religion.
I pray against the persecution of all kinds.
I pray for the Body of Christ to be evident through love, grace and hope in a world sometimes devoid of these life-giving qualities.
Please uphold our countries in your prayers.
Please pray for justice and for healing.
Pray that through such dark times – God’s glory will be evident.

This world is greatly complicated with politics, greed, ulterior motives and hatred, I pray that the Church seeks to reduce this instead of adding to it.  May we be His ambassadors, full of His holiness and love.

Something more of the Church to ponder today.
To God be the glory, honor and power, forever and ever – Amen.

Dear Salvation Army,THIS ______Changes Everything!!

“The divine breath evokes divine harmonies.” General Frederick Coutts

Dear Army,
-Are there not days when you feel tired, worn and spent?
-Are there not moments when circumstances and reality hit you square between the eyes and you can’t help but wonder about your own breaking point?
-Are there not moments when you leave home long before the sun rises and finally enter your home once again well after the sun has gone to bed?

This is fight is not a fight that we will win on our own.
What fight you ask?  The fight against sin.  The fight against injustice.  The fight against poverty.  The fight we as Christ-followers engage in every day.   We will never be strong enough on our own, yet pridefully we attempt such feats only to find discouragement and loss.  We can not defeat the enemy, who is the father of lies and the bondages of sin…on our own.  We are not the source of strength.  We were not created to be islands unto ourselves, self-sustaining and without need of help.

Our weapons of war are provided to us.
God the Father sent His Spirit to guide and to provide.
He alone has the power to equip us in these battles we fight.
The battles are far from over.
They are turbulent and many casualties within our ranks have occurred.
Yet, because of His great love and His love for those who are lost, we carry on.

So what changes everything?
What is the tipping point within the war?
What is our secret weapon you ask?

SAPrayOur power comes from the One who sends us out into the fray.
Our power comes from a band of soldiers bound together in holy prayer, without personal benefit, but for the purpose of upholding one another within the very hands of God.  Our power resides in His Holy Presence sustaining us in the darkest of moments and in the most dire of circumstances.  He is but a whisper away and will come to our aid even before we ask Him.

The real key to this Divine power is our faith and allegiance.
Do we sincerely believe He can still perform miracles in our world?
Do we sincerely believe that God will answer, or even hear our prayers?
Do we humble incline our hearts and ears to listen to His answers that He whispers to us?
Are we prepare to move when He sends us?
Are we ready to act and to speak when we prompts us to?

The true power of prayer resides within His provision as well as our receiving and believing.
The receptacle has to accept that which is given in order for the light to shine.
So how is your heart today?
Do you firmly believe God has orders for you?
Are you ready to humble accept those orders?
What of your brother or sister along side you in this war?
Will you make it a matter of discipline to bring them daily before the throne of God in prayer?
Can you commit to encouraging and lifting up one another?
Forget about Church politics, policies and procedures, the jostling for political powers that occur within any Church…and pray.

It is quite astounding that we often times treat prayer as some sort of last resort in our spiritual arsenal, when it is our front-line.   The disciplined solider MUST intentionally seek out the front-line weapon that is prayer.   It ought not remain a knee-jerk response to times of crisis; because if we gird (arm) ourselves and bath ourselves as well as our fellow comrades in this Holy power, we will be equipped and baptized in His Holy Presence.

Prayer changes everything…if we will proactively employ its power before the daily battles begin.

kneelingQuestions to ponder today: 
How can I employ the power of prayer before I engage the world each day?
Am I lifting up my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ (in and out of uniform)?
Have I, in the past, only resorted to prayer when everything else had failed?
How can I change my prayer life so that I can better engage the world around me?

Oh that my utterances in prayer be for You alone dear Lord.
That my heart and its intentions are bowed low before Your throne.
Gird this way, the path that you have set before me.
Baptize me again in Your Holy presence
Fill me a new today.
-Amen

Something more for our Army to ponder today!

Does God Really Answer Our Prayers?

This is a question many people face, both Christians and non-Christians alike.
Does God really care about us?
Does God really listen to us?
Does God really answer our prayers?

Facts: 
-Abraham was told by God that he would be the father of many, many children (a nation in fact).
The way God went about fulfilling this promise wasn’t exactly what Abraham expected.

-David was anointed as King of Israel well before he actually was crowned and while there was a living king in the kingdom…not exactly the way David or anyone expected.

– Jesus taught His disciples in a manner that was unique from other Rabbis.  He preached a message of peace in the midst of Roman oppression.  Many “Messiah’s” came before Him, but they preached hatred, war and revolution.  Jesus told the disciples and others, “If your enemy forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:41,44b)
The way Jesus went about fulfilling prophecy and His message of Messiah was not what anyone expected.

Back to Prayer…
So does God really answer our prayers?
The answer is “Yes”…but many times He doesn’t always answer in the ways that we expect or in the timing that we sometimes demand of Him.

We sometimes blame God when things do not go according to plan.
We sometimes get angry at God when sorrow and death visits our families.
We sometimes fear He isn’t even there listening to us…but He is!

He may not always answer our prayers in the way that we expect Him to, but He isn’t far from us and He isn’t ignoring us…He hears and He answers!

photoSomething more for us to ponder today!
HE ANSWERS US, JUST NOT ALWAYS IN THE WAYS THAT WE EXPECT HIM TO.

Come All Who Are Weary And Burdened…

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.…”  Matthew 11:27-29

As a pastor I find these word of Jesus to be both refreshing and comforting.
We all face times in our lives when we feel anything but comforted and rested.  This passage isn’t really about physical rest though is it?  Jesus says that if we learn from Him we will find rest for our souls.

Questions:
“Say is your soul weary?”
Are you dealing with trouble far too heavy for you to care for on your own?
Is your soul, the very fiber of your being, worn out, discouraged, defeated, burned out?
Are you tired of doing it your way only to find another dead end?

If any of these questions resound in you today then perhaps it’s time to let go of the strangle hold that you have on your life and allow God to help you.  It isn’t about losing control of your identity, it is about gaining a deeper, richer identity in Christ.  Our paths lead to temporal successes and failures, God’s path leads us to eternal successes and victories.

Are you in need of rest for your soul?
Are you in need of some soul-care?
His path is not easy, but we will find comfort and peace in knowing that He is with us each step of the way.

TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
  In the light of His glory and grace.

Something more to ponder today…have you allowed God’s Yoke to be placed upon you?  His rest and peace for the soul is beyond measure!  Ponder that!

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