Friday, October 5, 2012

But, I Prayed About It!

Prayer's Overlooked Partner

In Prayer, we release our cares TO God, and receive answers FROM God. Simply put, prayer is the dialogue that a person has with God.

But there is a difference between praying individually by ourselves and praying corporately as a body -- and both are important.

1) Individual prayer is an acknowledgment of God's   
    Authority in our lives and our Dependence on Him. 
    This type of prayer is private and personal.

2) Corporate Prayer, in Church, is public and demonstrates 
    a thing called "Humility."
    Bringing our requests and petitions to the Lord, openly 
    before others, really tends to slam our ego and pride -- 
    which is a good thing.

Why is this important?  Prayer is the vehicle, but Humility is the avenue by which we release our cares to God and receive His grace. You may have a nice car, but unless you're on the right road, it won't take you where you need to go.

Notice what the Scriptures teach about humility and prayer going hand-in-hand:

2 Chronicles 7:14; "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

1 Peter 5:5-7; "...all of  you  be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him,
for He cares for you."

Also, Jesus made this very clear in His teachings. Specifically, when He spoke of the prayers of two men, a Publican and a Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14 NIV)

Prayer is never about how good I am, but always about how good God is. Humility is truly a great reality-check for us. That's basically what the great revivalist, Charles Spurgeon, meant when he wrote, "Humility is to make a right estimate of one's self."  Pastor and Author, Rick Warren said it this way, "Humility isn't thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less."

This is the attitude we must bring, when we come before The Lord in prayer. it is necessary that we come humbly before our God. I believe that Jesus was reminding us of this in the closing line of "The Lord's Prayer" -- which is really a pattern for us to pray by -- that HIS "is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory."

James wrote that we need to be careful, because we can pray wrongly (James 4:3). When our attitude is wrong, our prayers tend to be wrong also. By the way, those prayers do not get answered. We simply need to remember that it's less about us and more about the great God with whom we are communicating.

Finally, I believe that the following is a good, scriptural attitude-checker: "...the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).  We need to follow Micah's advice, simple as that.

Just a thought today to remind us to keep it real and keep praying. 

Have a blessed day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Healer in the House!

The pain was excruciating and I doubled-over because of it…

After a busy week of graduations, celebrations and parties, I was actually looking forward to having a guest speaker in for Father’s Day at Cornerstone – I felt like I needed the break. It had been a long and stressful, but fun and successful week. I was just spent. Done. So, it was really exciting to have our first-time guest, John Morgan in to speak to the church (and to me) and we truly ended up having a great day at C3 – of which I was thankful.

Monday morning arrived and my daughter needed help with her car, so I went with her to the Auto Repair to have her car checked out and the oil changed. As they were servicing the car, I took Tara next door to the Boba Shop to get a drink.  She got an Oreo Boba Milkshake and I got a Strawberry-Banana Smoothie. For some reason, it seemed to take forever to get the drinks. So after standing around the Boba shop for what-seemed-to-be forever, I told Tara I was going back to the Auto Repair and she could bring my drink to me -- if we ever get it.

Before long, Tara brought my Smoothie to me and as I was finishing it, I was jolted by a sharp pain in my chest. The pain was excruciating and I doubled-over because of it, which freaked-out my daughter. The car was about finished and soon Tara was driving me home as quickly as she could. I had a difficult time getting out of the car because of the intense pain. Tara helped me into the house and over to the couch. Karlene asked what was going-on and so I told her of my chest pain. She quickly got me some aspirin, some antacid and had me lay down on the couch.

When she came back into the living room a few minutes later, she said “I’m taking you to the Hospital!”  By that time, my face was contorted and as white as a sheet. My left hand was numb, also. She put me in the car and rushed me to ER.

I must not have looked too good, because upon arrival at the Emergency Room, they immediately took me back and hooked me up to an EKG. Then they took my vital signs and drew several vials of blood. The next thing I know is they carted me off and put me in my own room.

I was blessed to have a great team of nurses, doctors and specialists taking care of me.  I was poked, prodded, hooked up, x-rayed, phlebotomized, tested and re-tested. Around mid-afternoon, the doctor told me that, depending on the test results, I could be going home around 10:00pm or so. He actually wrote a diagramed timeline (on my bedsheet) while explaining everything to Karlene and I.

Karlene had been with me the whole time. She was in constant contact with friends and family, giving updates and requesting prayer. I'm blessed to have an amazing wife. I understand that people were praying for me all around the world. That knowledge is humbling and encouraging at the same time. Richard and Darlene Welling came to the hospital to pray for me. My Mother did also. I appreciate all the prayers and believe that they truly made the difference. The pain in my chest had subsided dramatically.

At around 6:30 in the evening, I told Karlene to go and get herself some dinner. The Cafeteria was near the ER, so she didn’t have to go very far. Karlene wasn’t gone 5 minutes when another Doctor popped in to my room and asked me how I was doing.  She was the Chief and she started ordering the nurses to do this and that. She checked my test results, examined me, called for another EKG, etc.  Then she stated, rather matter-of-factly, “You didn’t have a heart attack. In fact, according to what I can see from the test results, your heart is fine.”  She then told me, “You don’t need to be here, you just need to go home and rest.” The next thing I know is that they were disconnecting and discharging me.

Still waiting for Karlene to return, I took my time getting dressed and then I thanked all the nurses and staff for their excellent care before heading to the exit. A bit after 7:00pm, I headed out, looking for Karlene, who was quite surprised to see me walking about. She actually couldn't believe it -- she had a funny look on her face when she saw me. Then we both gave God the glory! 

I am now home resting – per Doctor’s Orders – trying to take it easy.

There is much more to this story – the prognosis going from bad to good, the differing opinions of the doctors, and other things.

One thing I do know is that God has touched me! I went from Heart Issue to NO Heart Issue whatsoever, in a matter of hours. I am extremely thankful for the Lord's healing virtue and great grace in my body and my life. 

Yes, God is Good… All the time! 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Tale of the ZAX

The Zax = by Dr. Seuss
One day making tracks
In the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax
And a South-Going Zax.
And it happened that both of them came to a place
Where they bumped. There they stood.
Foot to foot. Face to face.

“Look here, now!” the North-Going Zax said, “I say!
You are blocking my path. You are right in my way.
I’m a North-Going Zax and I always go north.
Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!”

“Who’s in whose way?” snapped the South-Going Zax.
“I always go south, making south-going tracks.
So you’re in MY way! And I ask you to move
And let me go south in my south-going groove.”
Then the North-Going Zax puffed his chest up with pride.
“I never,” he said, “take a step to one side.
And I’ll prove to you that I won’t change my ways
If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!”
“And I’ll prove to YOU,” yelled the South-Going Zax,
“That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax
For fifty-nine years! For I live by a rule
That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School.
Never budge! That’s my rule. Never budge in the least!
Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east!
I’ll stay here, not budging! I can and I will
If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!”
Of course the world didn’t stand still. The world grew.
In a couple of years, the new highway came through
And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax
And left them there, standing un-budged in their tracks.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Seasonal Surprises

"There's a reason for the sun shiny sky
And there's a reason why I'm feelin' so high
Must be the season..."

Several years ago, I spent a few days in Colorado Springs, CO, on business. It was late Summer and i was enjoying the near-perfect weather in the high 70's. It was simply beautiful and I was having a great trip. The day before I was to fly back home, I played in a golf tournament wearing a hat and sunscreen -- appreciating the wonderful vistas of the majestic Rocky Mountains contrasting the clear blue skies above and the fertile green valley below me on an incredible God-painted canvas that i was privileged to personally witness. It was in a word, picture perfect.

I slept soundly that night, entranced in the sweet Summer aroma of nature. The sights, sounds and scents of that day lingered on my mind pleasantly to the next morning. Upon waking at the Holiday Inn that next morning, I opened the shades to discover a blanket of white had covered the ground as snow was falling from the sky!

The same sky that, a day earlier, had been blue, beautiful and bright, had suddenly turned dark and ominously threatening. Had the season changed? No, it was still late-Summer. Had my position changed? No, I was in the same place that I had been for three days. Had I changed? I wondered, so I pinched myself and let out an "ouch!" I was still the same. I wasn't dreaming.

In life, there are "seasonal surprises." Everything is beautiful, everything is going well, you are in the right place at the right time and all-of-a-sudden, wham! Suddenly, you find yourself in the middle of a storm.

When this happens -- and it will -- remember the season. Your season. Know this, the "surprise" will pass. It didn't come to last, it came to pass! So some snow fell on your Summertime. You'll be back in the sunshine again, and soon.

Don't allow the "surprises" to spoil your season. 
Don't let them throw you off your game or derail your faith.
Remind yourself that God is for you and God is in you. 
That means God is with you -- 
and God with you, supersedes any of life's surprises.

"I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished" - Philippians 1:6

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Above the Circumstances

Numbers 27:12; "the LORD said to Moses, "Go up this mountain in the Abarim range and see..."

Yesterday, (Monday, the 23rd of April), was a dreary and drizzly day in the Los Angeles basin. It didn't really rain, but was just a gray and threatening day punctuated with intermittent sprinkles. Just one of THOSE days.

It was our day off, so Karlene and I headed up to our mountain home. After a stop at Starbucks to fuel up and warm up, we began our ascent up into the San Bernardino mountains. As we headed upward, the weather worsened and it became a much more difficult drive. The higher we climbed, the foggier it became, and coupled with the light rain, made it hard to see where we were going. We were forced to slow down and proceed with caution.

Oftentimes, life is like that. In our attempt to climb higher, the storms seem to worsen and the ascent becomes even more difficult. However, for those situations, let me offer one piece of advice -- KEEP GOING. Many times, the worst thing one can do is stop in the middle of the storm.

1) Stopping can get you stuck.
One of the new experiences that we have had, since frequenting the mountains, is driving in snow and ice. When driving in those conditions, you just have to go slow, but the key word is "go." It may be a little slippery, and you may not feel as in-control as you would like to, but the important thing is to keep moving. Stopping is the worst thing you can do when you hit a rough patch because if you stop, you'l get stuck. Keep moving slowly, but surely and you will get where you need to be.

2) Stopping can get you hurt.
One of the major reasons for accidents in the fog, is caused by people stopping on the road because they can't see the road good enough. Again, it's important to keep moving slowly and cautiously. Stopping on the road or the side of the road in the fog is extremely dangerous.

So yesterday, in the middle of the storm, fog and rain, we continued onward and upward toward our destination. No, we didn't stop -- even though we were in the midst of the storm. We didn't give-up simply because we couldn't see our way clearly enough. We didn't quit because the way was somewhat treacherous, but we continued on. On journey was slowed and more stressful than usual, but onward we went.

Then, once we reached an altitude of 5,300 feet above sea level, something wonderful happened. We drove right out of the storm and the fog and the rain and into the bright, beautiful sunshine! In a moment, our storm turned into blue skies. We could see clearly -- and for miles! The rain was behind us and beneath us. The change was immediate and amazing.

Don't allow your surroundings stop your ascent in life. Things may not be what you want them to be right now, but keep climbing. Like God told Moses in the opening verse, if you want to "see" -- get to the top of the mountain. I would encourage you to do like Moses did, keep moving onward and upward -- before you know it the circumstances and the scenery will change, and it will change for the better.

"So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up." (Galatians 6:9 NLT)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Happened to the Power?

The rhapsody was rapturous as LifeStyle Praise Band belted-out one of my very favorite songs, (Glorious Day by Casting Crowns), during one of the largest Celebration Services of the year, on Easter Sunday no less, at Cornerstone. The congregation was moved, as the powerful song built to a worshipful crescendo when the unthinkable (and unplanned-for) happened, the power went out. A myriad of questions and thoughts went through my mind in a manner of seconds, such as, "A Powerless Resurrection Service?”, "Really, on Easter Sunday?", and "Why, Why, Why?!!"

Thankfully, the Worship Band didn't miss a beat, as they continued with the two acoustic guitars taking the lead and LifeStyle bravely kept singing without the benefit of the Sound System. Meanwhile, the tech, media and usher teams scrambled in a frantic fire drill trying desperately to find the culprit and get the power back on in short order. In a matter of minutes, the blown breaker was reset and order (and power) restored.

It was one of a Pastors' worst nightmares -- a blown Breaker right in the middle of church. Not the worst -- I've seen worse and no, I won't divulge what they are (at least not today). Suffice it to say, it was bad enough and to top it off it was on EASTER SUNDAY! I mean, c'mon, Easter Sunday?! Easter is the big church day of the year. The day that you are trying to reach the crowd of CEO's, (Christmas Easter Only) in the audience. It's the day you want to make an impression on the guests -- a favorable impression, that is. It's the day you want everything to be perfect.

Life's like that.

Everything seems to be going great -- you're in the middle of your moment, the celebration is on, and then, out of left field, something happens. You get unplugged. Something or someone blows your breaker. Next thing you know, you’re disconnected.

Your reaction and subsequent actions in those moments of life will determine your success or failure – moving forward or backward.

So what are you to do in those moments of life?

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Re-Connect Quickly.
When you experience a blow-out on the road of life that drains you and threatens to get you off-course, as quickly as you can, go to the Power Source and reconnect. The Bible encourages Christians to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). Jesus is the Christian’s source of power and strength. Disconnecting from Him is the worst thing that can happen to you.

2) Find the Culprit and Eradicate it.
Whatever is “blowing your breaker” needs to be removed or changed in your life. If not, it will continue to happen, over and over again. You can’t just reconnect and expect everything to be fine – you must deal with the issue that keeps zapping and sapping you.

3) Add a Surge Protector to the Line.
Get some good and Godly people in your life that can help you keep the power flowing, in spite of life’s ups and downs. Proverbs 11:14 says “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Good advice for all of us.

So, one of my worst nightmares on Easter Sunday turned into a great illustration for my Easter sermon, “Follow.” The end result was positive with several people choosing to follow Jesus and many more reconnecting with Him. What could have been a curse, instead became a blessing.

When life deals you lemons, you can get sour or you can make lemonade.

Easter Sunday at Cornerstone ended up being as your “outage” can…
powerfully refreshing.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Drama, Dreams & The Music Man

It's a clear and beautiful Thursday winter morning. As I sit here in the kitchen sipping my cup of tea, my mind is still filled with, and fueled by, the thoughts of the great Service we enjoyed last night at C3. We are presently in the middle of a series based on Kevin Gerald's book entitled "Forces that Form Your Future" and the session last night was on "the Power of a Dream." We learned why dreams are important, how dreams need to be nurtured, and what to do when facing "dream thieves." it was a powerful evening at Cornerstone.

Upon returning home and getting ready for bed, I turned on the tv and began flipping through the channels. I ended up landing right in the middle of "The Music Man," the 1962 classic featuring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones, which may be my all-time favorite in a genre that I'm not really into -- musicals. This is one of those rare gems of a film that puts a smile on my face every time I see it. Robert Preston was at the top of his game portraying "professor" Harold Hill. Surprising that he did not get a Best Actor nomination with his performance. As a side note, the movie was nominated for Best Picture that year, though neither it, nor, another one of my all-time favorites, "To Kill a Mockingbird," won that year -- thanks to the epic "Lawrence of Arabia."

Back to the story. "The Music Man" is a wonderful tale about a con man by the name of Harold Hill, who comes to the conservative town of River City intending to cheat the community with his oft-played scam of offering to equip and train a boy's marching band, then skip town with the money (since he has no music skill anyway). However, while running his scam, he ends up falling for the beautiful town librarian which provides the conflict in the story. Does he take the money and run, or does he stay and face the music?

In the movie, the "Professor's" charismatic, musical scam, actually brings hope, life and vitality to the people of River City. We know it's a con-game, but is that all it is? In the latter part of the film, there is a great scene where Robert Preston, the con man, is on a bridge waiting for his love-interest, Shirley Jones. He looks down into the water and a marching band appears -- which he begins to lead. We now get to see what most people in the film could not see -- Harold Hill's DREAM. What was driving him, down deep inside, was the dream of having a band and leading a band! We realize that Hill wasn't a terrible person after all -- just a dreamer who had lost his way. The wonderful story ends with the redemption and reclamation of Harold Hill and his dream!

What about the story of your life? What about your dreams? Have they been forsaken, forgotten, or lost? God has planted dreams of a better future and a brighter tomorrow in the human heart that need to be embraced and nurtured. In the Bible, it took Joseph years of challenging obstacles before he realized his dream. Don't let life's challenges cause you to let go of your dreams. Don't be hindered by doubt, fear, and time. Keep believing in the God who believes in you! Keep the dream alive -- you can still make beautiful music after all!