Thursday, July 31, 2014

Spiders, Blow Torches and Peacefilled Prayer

A Seattle man recently noticed a spider in his laundry room and decided to teach it a lesson it would never forget. The man grabbed a can of spray paint and a lighter. He lit the lighter, spraying the paint over the open flame, creating a homemade blowtorch. The man turned the blowtorch on the spider, ending its modest, laundry room existence. In killing the spider, the man also set the laundry room wall on fire, eventually burning his house down. True story.

How many of us have had a similar experience in our spiritual lives? We come across a real problem and decide to teach the problem a lesson it will never forget. We take matters into our own hands and do everything we can to fix it in our own power. Our solution ends up starting a fire that makes the situation way worse.

The Apostle Paul tells the early church to avoid this all together. Paul tells the church to attack life’s problems by first giving them to Christ in prayer. Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It seems that asking God for help with life’s problems gives us a peace that better equips us for solving life’s problems.

As you go through the coming week, put the blowtorch down and spend some time in prayer. Take your problems (big and small) to Christ. Ask the Lord for peace, wisdom and guidance in dealing with life’s very real challenges. As you do, you will find effective ways for dealing with spiritual spiders. You’ll also solve problems in ways that don’t burn the whole place down.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Chicago White Sox, Mind Control and the Will of God

The 1975 Chicago White Sox were bad. Vegas odds makers gave them 60-1 odds to win the American League pennant. Wanting to win, players looked to anything and everything for a competitive advantage. Some even tried studying and practicing mind control techniques in hopes of improving their play (true story). Players would lie in a dark room, turn on a read light and try to “lower their brain waves.” They held baseballs and gloves and bats to their head, trying to become “one” with the gear. The White Sox finished the year eleven games under .500 and in fifth place in their division. Whatever type of control their mind took over the game, it didn’t work.

The ‘75 White Sox and their pursuit of control illustrates how we can approach our devotional lives. We pray and study scripture and seek the Spirit as a way of gaining control. We want the Spirit to give us what we want in life. We want to use the spiritual life for our ends. But, according to the scriptures, God calls us to something different.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus instructs His disciples to pray in saying, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” While devotional practices do bless God’s people with tons of spiritual resources for living, they are ultimately intended to give God control. A person finds power in surrendering to God’s will and God’s purposes in the world.

This week, intentionally seek the Lord in your devotional life. Do so in the hopes of becoming a part of God’s will and work in the world. As you do, you will find God given power for living God’s will out. You will also find sustenance for the wins and losses that do come with the great game of life.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


Kids these days. Many of us have said it. When I was a teenager, my elders said it when lamenting my generation’s lack of morality and work ethic. They worried that my generation’s moral makeup had so devolved from previous generations that we would bring society to ruin. Now, as I approach 40 and have an increasingly difficult time relating to teenagers, I find myself tempted to say the same thing. Kids…these…days.

As it turns out, kids are doing better these days (in many ways). The U.S. Center for Disease Control recently published a study that reveals better behavior amongst today’s young people. Since the 80’s, teenage pregnancy has been on the decline. Young people are drinking and smoking less. The use of illicit substances is declining as well. On top of that, today’s young people are exercising more. Yes, that is right. Today’s young people are using drugs less and exercising more.  Kids these days…are awesome.

That is a good reminder that good things are going on in our world too. We can see them when we look for them. In fact, as Christians, we have a special perspective on noticing and celebrating good things. Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our life is marked by a hopeful optimism. No matter what, good things are coming.  

First Peter begins in saying, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope…” The Christian faith gives people hope. The resurrection of Jesus Christ reminds us that, ultimately, good things are coming. Instead of looking for doom and gloom in life, assuming demise at every corner, God’s people look for - and announce - the great things in life.

As you go through the coming week, be on the look out for great things. Focus on great things when you see them. Assume that great things are coming. Do so because you have experienced the greatest of things in Jesus. By doing this, you will see the Son of God at work in exciting new ways. You will also see that there is indeed hope in Jesus Christ – hope for kids these days.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fourth of July Sparklers and the Voice of God

People love sparklers. Many of us have fond memories lighting sparklers on the 4th of July and waving them around as fast as possible. Many of us have tried to form letters in the faint afterglow of the firework, spelling out words for onlookers, and sending messages to friends and family.

With those experiences in mind, I wonder if God has tried to communicate with us in similar ways. God blesses us with us spiritual fireworks during mountain top devotional experiences. It happens in worship services, prayer closets, and small groups. Behind the beauty and excitement of the spiritual fire, God sends a quiet message: “Follow me. Care for the poor. Love your neighbor.” If we are too focused on the spiritual fireworks themselves, we might miss the message.

The people at Pentecost had that type of experience. Spiritual fireworks went off and it was awesome. In the midst of all the sparkle, God sent an important message: “Jesus Christ is the living messiah! Jesus Christ is Lord of all!” Good thing Peter, the disciples, and many others were paying attention. Peter stood up and announced the message for all to hear.

In the future, when you are blessed with spiritual fireworks in your devotional life, look for the message God is trying to communicate. Ask, “What is Jesus trying to say with this? Where is the Holy Spirit trying to lead?” As you do, you will find important direction for following God’s will. You will also enjoy God’s spiritual sparklers to the very fullest.