Are you bold enough to follow God when no one else will?

Something incredibly revealing happened at the WSU vs. KU game last Sunday, and it had very little to do with sports. I don’t talk about politics very often, mostly because my opinions and beliefs usually vary from everyone I know.

The last thing I want to do is offend anyone. The last thing I want to do is start up a huge ugly conversation about topics nobody has researched enough to truly understand. But what happened at the game stunned me, and what happened afterward made me really sad.

Governor Brownback was sitting in the stands, watching the game. And the moment the camera focused on him, the whole stadium started booing. It was obvious. It wasn’t just one or two people. The noise was so loud, the announcers had shout to hear over it.

I’m not going to sit here and say that Governor Brownback is perfect. I’m not even going to sit here and tell you I agree with all of his decisions. But what I will tell you is that he is the current Governor of Kansas, and that didn’t happen by accident. And you’d think that a Christian would know that.

Obviously, the stadium wasn’t full of Christians, but after it happened? Christians and non-Christians alike were all over social media rejoicing. “Wasn’t it great how we all booed the governor?” and “That was the best part of the night!”

Is that how Christians are supposed to act?

Maybe you don’t like him. Maybe you don’t like his politics. Maybe you don’t like the choices he’s made, but you know what? If you’re a Christ-follower, you have been commanded to respect our elected officials, whether you like them or not, whether you voted for them or not.

More than just respect, though. And more than simply not disrespecting them too. Christ-followers are supposed to pray for our leaders.

brownbackToday’s verse is 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

This isn’t the only verse in the Bible about respecting our elected officials. There are lots more where that came from.

You did realize you’re supposed to be praying for our leaders, right? Not just the leaders in your church. Not just your boss. But the governor and the senator and the representatives and the president. Americans don’t have kings really (although some people might disagree), but we do have governmental leaders. And that’s what this verse is about–praying for those people.

When was the last time you prayed for Governor Brownback? Maybe you’re bold enough to stand up in a stadium and boo him and act disrespectful because it’s the popular thing to do. But are you bold enough to stand up and exclaim that you don’t agree with him but that you will pray for him because he is the one God allowed to win the election?

It’s easy to go along with the crowd, but are you a Christian or not? If you’re a Christian, why don’t you do what God has told you to do?

It’s not easy. It’s hard. You have to give up things you want. You have to let go of dreams sometimes. And, yes, you have to submit to elected officials you don’t like. But would you rather bear up and trust that God has control of everything? Or do you find it better to be childish and throw a temper tantrum when you don’t get your way?

It’s time to grow up, Christians. Dark days are coming. Darker days than any of us have ever seen before, and we need to get our eyes on what matters.

God has told us what He expects of us, and I’m pretty sure “behaving like spoiled brats” didn’t make His list.

The best way to show you love someone is to pray for them

Have you got someone in your life who you want to love but just can’t? Either because they are difficult to love in general or because they won’t let you love them at all?

I think everybody does. We all have those people in our lives. Maybe they’re friends. Maybe they’re family. Maybe they’re even what you could call your enemies. Whatever role they fall into in your life, you’re trying to do what God tells you to do and love them. But loving someone is hard enough when they love you back. How do you manage loving someone who doesn’t want it–or worse, how do you love someone who just doesn’t like you right now?

apart_bridgeToday’s verse is 1 Timothy 2:1.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.

Prayer is the go-to answer for most questions in our life, especially the questions we don’t know how to handle. It’s easy to say that you’ll pray for someone. It’s easy to say that you’ll take it to the Lord in prayer. But it’s easier said than done.

Have you tried to pray for an hour before? Have you tried to pray for someone for more than five minutes? Not so easy. Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, but sit yourself down in a quiet room and try talking out loud for five minutes. You might run out of things to say.

The point is that prayer isn’t easy. We talk about it like it is, but that’s probably because most of us haven’t really tried it seriously. It’s a habit you have to get into.

Praying for someone is the best thing you can do to demonstrate how much you love them. Think about it. You’re approaching the God of the Universe and asking Him to help this other person in your life. That’s better than giving them money. Granted, they may not see it that way… at first.

The thing about prayer is that it’s rarely immediate. You don’t always see results right away. Often, you have to pray for something for years before you see God’s hand at work, although that doesn’t mean God waits for years to start working. It just takes us years to notice.

Prayer takes persistence, because quite frankly it feels like you’re not doing anything at all. It’s hard for me because I’m a doer. I’m a fixer. I want to get up and work. I want to go show somebody I love them instead of just telling them from a distance. But in the situations where you have people in your life who don’t want anything to do with you, you can’t exactly rush up to them, hug them, and start talking about life with them. I mean, you can try, but it probably won’t be well received, especially if it’s someone who doesn’t like you right now.

If you’re trying to reach out to someone who has cut you off, jumping back into his or her life and boldly exclaiming your love for them won’t come off genuinely.

It doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything to love someone by praying for them, but it’s truly the best thing you can do. And, frankly, you can’t do anything anyway. That’s the point.

Want to make a difference? Pray for the people in your life that you love. Pray for the people who love you and the ones who don’t. It’s the best gift you can give them. It’s the best way to show them how much you care. Maybe they don’t understand what it means. Maybe they don’t understand what prayer actually is. And that’s okay. Keep praying for them, and someday they will.

A prayer with serious intent can do the impossible

Do you ever get frustrated when God doesn’t answer your prayers? I’ve been there. I’ve asked God for things that He didn’t provide. I’ve asked Him for things I didn’t receive. It’s frustrating, because all throughout the Bible we see that we have not because we ask not. All you need to do is ask, and God will provide. Knock and God will open doors. Seek and you’ll find. Etc. etc. etc.

So why does it only seem to work half the time? It almost seems like a fifty-fifty shot, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to why some prayers are answers and some are left hanging.

Sure, maybe you’re asking with the wrong intentions. Maybe your reasoning is off. Maybe your heart isn’t in the right place. But what if it is?

Something clicked for me recently. It’s one of those things that I’m sure I’ve always known. I just am not certain I knew how to apply it.

Today’s verse is James 5:16.

Praying-the-Lords-PrayerThe earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Well, first off, what does it mean to earnestly ask something? I thought I knew. I assumed it meant that you ask believing God will answer. I thought it meant that you asked and really meant it. And maybe that’s one way to look at it, but look up the definition of the word earnest.

I just checked on dictionary.com, and it means: “serious in intention, purpose, or effort.”

With that definition in mind, when you ask for something—let’s say a raise—do you ask with serious intention, purpose, and effort? Do you go into your boss’s office and ask for an increase in pay and explain the details why you need to make more? Or do you just declare that you deserve a raise?

That puts it in a different perspective, doesn’t it?

So how do you ask God to answer your prayers? How do you make your requests to God? Do you just say, “Dear Lord, please bless me today”? Or do you say, “Dear Lord, please be with so-and-so as they do such-and-such”? Or how about this classic: “Dear Lord, bless this food”?

Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of those prayers, but knowing how we now define earnest, are any of them earnest? Do any of those prayers demonstrate serious intention, purpose, or effort?

If you just walked into your boss’s office and asked your boss to give you a raise today, do you think they’d just do it? No! If they didn’t fire you right away, I’m willing to bet they’d want to know why. Why do you deserve a raise, and what are you going to about it if you get it?

If we wouldn’t walk into our boss’s office and demand a raise without giving some kind of indication that we were willing to invest ourselves in the company more, why do we think God would just drop blessings on us if we haven’t indicated that we aren’t going to be committed to Him?

No, blessings can’t be earned. No, you can’t work your way into God’s favor. No, God doesn’t play favorites. But according to Scripture, if you are righteous and your prayer is earnest (if it demonstrates serious intent or purpose or effort), that prayer can accomplish the impossible.

If you follow Christ, you’re righteous. Period. If you are trusting in Jesus for your salvation, God counts you as righteous. But just because you’re righteous in God’s sight doesn’t automatically mean all your prayers are going to be answered. No way. I know many Christians who might be righteous, but they are certainly not earnest.

So if you’re frustrated about your prayers going unanswered, take a moment and really look at your heart and the way you make your requests to God. If you’re just haphazardly asking Him for random things that make you sound like a great Christian, don’t expect much. If you’re just flippantly asking Him for things that will make your life easier because you aren’t willing to be uncomfortable, you aren’t going to impress Him. But, if you know what you want and why you want it, tell Him.

You know what I want? I want a novel on the bestseller list so that I can tell more people about my faith in Jesus Christ. I want to make enough money to support myself and travel to encourage His missionaries around the world. That’s what I want and why I want it. That’s specific. That’s earnest.

I’m taking God at His Word. Through Christ’s blood, I’m made righteous. My prayers have purpose, effort, and serious, specific intention. So I am expecting wonderful results.

God may not answer the way I think He will, and that’s okay. Because He will answer. And however He answers will be better than I expect. I just have to give Him enough time to work out His perfect plan in my life, and in the mean time, He’ll take care of me. That’s what it means to trust Him. That’s what it means to have faith. And faith, my friends, will impress God. In fact, it’s the only thing that does.

Mom and baby red pandas chilling at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Why doesn’t God answer prayer the way we expect?

Ever seen a kid on a leash? Not an animal leash. Like a harness thing for toddlers. I saw one some time ago and thought it was a pretty cool contraption. I know some people don’t like them, and I understand the reasons why. But still—seems like a neat way to let a kid explore the world without getting too far away.

It’s usually expected in our culture that parents watch over their kids. At least in some form. But if you hover, you’re called a helicopter parent. Seems to me a leash is the best of both worlds. But then, I’m single with no children, so I may not be the best source for things like this.

What I do wonder sometimes is whether or not God is a leash-type of parent, because it seems to me that He is. And, you know, I’m actually okay with that.

Mom and baby red pandas chilling at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Mom and baby red pandas chilling at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are 1 John 5:14-15.

And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.

I know God hears my prayers, but He rarely answers my prayers the way I want. I mean, I have those few examples of times when He’s helped me remember where my keys or when situations worked out to my benefit. But generally speaking, God doesn’t snap His fingers and give me what I want just the way I want it or even when I want it.

I have so many examples of answered prayer in my life, but none of it happened the way I thought it would. Best example?

I have a published novel. Sort of. At least, it will be published in December 1. But it didn’t get published in a normal way. No, God pretty much opened all sorts of doors for me to start a publishing company first.

Not what I planned. At all.

Another example? I wanted to write for a living. I wanted to build a career using my writing skills, and I planned to be a journalist. Where am I now? I work for a plumbing manufacturer—a company with a global workforce of 5,000 and I am the only full-time company creative writer. I make a living writing… about plumbing. But I’m writing for a living.

Not what I planned either.

In every instance of answered prayer in my life, God answers in a way that shows me He wants what’s best for me but doesn’t allow me to stray too far away from Him. Let’s take this crazy novel of mine. I had reached the point in its life that I either had to self publish it or give up on it, so when God said, “Start a publishing company!” I wasn’t sure I was hearing Him correctly.

Nameless, by A.C. Williams, available December 1

Nameless, by A.C. Williams, available December 1

So, yes, God provided a way for my first novel to hit print (December 1), but my need for God to be involved with it doesn’t end when my book hits Amazon. No, I need His help to influence decision makers and others in the bookselling industry. I need His help to keep the company running. I need His help to make wise decisions. If anything, I need Him more now that my prayer is answered than when I did before.

Have you got examples like that in your life? Where God answers your prayer in a way you didn’t expect but still makes it necessary for you to hold tighter to Him than you did before?

I really think that’s the same idea as a leash, especially for stubborn, strong-willed people like me. I know just enough and I’m just capable enough that I can go my own way and do my own thing on my own without God’s help and be pretty much okay for a while. I know that about myself.

But I don’t want to be okay. I want to be extraordinary. And I can’t accomplish that without God’s help. He knows it, and I know it. And that’s why I can’t wander too far off. I’ll get myself in trouble.

So when God doesn’t act when or how I want Him to, I need to chill and trust His plan. Because no matter how you look at it, I’ll need him more tomorrow than I do today.

Barney as a kitten, Haven, KS

What does boldness before God look like?

Are you bold? Would you call yourself a bold person? I’m not really. People think I am, but that’s mainly because when people really see me, it’s in a place where I’m comfortable. And when I’m comfortable, I can be just as bold as the most extroverted extrovert in the world.

Sometimes I wish I were more bold because then I could ask all those extroverted type questions I’m never brave enough to ask. If you’re an extrovert, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. If you’re an introvert, we’re on the same page exactly.

Being bold is good. It’s great and healthy, as long as it’s tempered with a fair amount of humility, kind of like everything else in life. But for me, the danger in my lack of boldness doesn’t affect my relationships here. For me, the danger comes when I lack boldness when I talk to God.

Barney as a kitten, Haven, KS

Barney as a kitten, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:19-22.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we have access to God Himself. We have a relationship with God the Father through Christ. We can be bold.

What does boldness before God look like?

Well, we shouldn’t doubt what God has promised. If God has promised us something, we should approach Him with confidence, knowing and fully believing that He will do it. No, it may not look like what we expect, but if He’s promised it, God will deliver in His time.

We should trust that God knows what He’s doing.

We should expect God’s answers. When we ask Him for an answer, we shouldn’t forget that we asked for it. We shouldn’t be surprised when He responds. If we ask Him, He heard us. Granted, He usually doesn’t answer when we think He should, but He always answers.

Do you have a friend you can be bold with? Someone you can be direct and assertive with? Someone you trust, someone you expect great things from? If you know anyone like that, you know what I’m talking about. Those people deliver. Those people can be trusted.

How much more can you trust and expect from God?

The point is this: I’m timid sometimes. I’m afraid to ask for something because I’m scared God will say no. I’m afraid to expect things because I’m afraid that I won’t get my way.

If I’ve learned nothing else in my life it’s that God never answers my prayers exactly as I expect. But every time He says no to one thing I’ve asked for, He gives me more than I expect later on. Most of the time, God doesn’t tell me no. He just tells me to wait. And if I honor that and wait, He blesses me beyond my wildest dreams.

I know that. I know that God can be trusted. I know that He knows what He’s doing. I know I can expect great things from Him.

So what am I afraid of? I don’t know what it is, but I’m learning how to overcome it a day at a time. It won’t happen overnight. Fear is a difficult thing to conquer. But God has told me I can be bold. God has promised me I can approach Him directly and ask for what I need. So I’m going to.

How about you? What are you afraid of? What are you waiting for? God has told us how to live. He’s told us what He expects. He’s showed us who He is.

So what’s stopping you? Be bold.

The fountain on the plaza at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Bosses are people too

Are you a manager or a supervisor? Are you responsible in some way for people? Whether it’s for work or ministry, serious or play, if you’re in a position of authority, you probably look at the world a little differently than those who report to you.

When you aren’t responsible for other people, you have a lot more freedom in how you live and how you make choices. When you are in a position of authority, your choices directly affect the people who you’re responsible for. So you can’t exactly just do what you want to do. I mean, you can. But it may cause more trouble than it’s worth.

The fountain on the plaza at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

The fountain on the plaza at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior,  who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, in the past few days, God has brought a couple of situations to my attention where I haven’t been as thankful for my leaders as I should be. And I know I haven’t prayed for them like I should either.

But there’s this little voice in my head that always whispers to me that if they didn’t want to be a leader, they could just step down. Well, they can’t always do that. A leader can’t always just walk away from his or her responsibilities. Life doesn’t work that way.

I’ve been in enough situations of my own where people were relying on me that I couldn’t just give up and walk away.  And leadership works like that no matter what sort of job or ministry you’re working in.

Do you ever think about your boss? Do you ever think about the pressure and the stress he or she must feel? I mean, I’m sure you have enough on your plate as it is, focusing on your own work, but just for a little while, take a moment and think about your workload. And then think about your boss’s workload. Not all bosses shovel their work on to their minions, you know. A lot of bosses have to pass it on down because they have too much other stuff to concentrate on doing.

We are commanded as Christians to pray for the people in authority over us. That’s part of our job. That’s what God wants us to do, and sometimes it can be very difficult to do. I’ve been there. I’ve had people in charge of me that I didn’t particularly care for, bosses I didn’t really like, although those have been few and far between (thank God).

But beyond just praying for them, have you ever taken the time to thank them? Maybe your boss is a jerk, but you still have a job. Maybe your boss is lazy, but he or she is still your boss. And nothing happens without a reason. People don’t come into your life without a purpose. There are no accidents.

So, yes, pray for them. Ask God to bless them. Seriously, ask God to bless them because the more God blesses them, usually the more you’ll be blessed too.

But go the extra mile. Don’t just pray for them. Take a moment to thank them. Stop by and just tell them that you’re glad to work for them. And if you can’t say that honestly, just tell them that you hope they have a great day and that you’re praying for them. Gracious, just smile at them.

People have no idea how far a smile can go.

Bosses are people too, and (just like you) they aren’t perfect. Just because they’ve been given rank and authority over you doesn’t mean they have any more of an idea about life than you, even if they have to act like they do. So give them a break.

God wants us to pray for our authorities, and that includes our bosses, whether you like them or not, whether you agree with their policies or not. So do it. And I’d be willing to bet your perspective on your boss might change after a few weeks of praying for them. After all, it’s really difficult to be angry at someone you’re praying for on a regular basis.

Leader of "", a Kekchi Village that had never seen white people before we visited, Peten, Guatemala

What God can do with your story

When was the last time you told somebody about something God did for you? I know some people who are really good at sharing God’s work with others, whether they believe in God or not. I can certainly write about it all day long, but when it comes to talking about it, I don’t do so well. But when it comes to talking, I tend to clam up anyway.

Leader of El Chilar, a Kekchi Village that had never seen white people before we visited, Peten, Guatemala

Leader of El Chilar, a Kekchi Village that had never seen white people before we visited, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are 1 Chronicles 16:23-30.

Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
He is to be feared above all gods.
The gods of other nations are mere idols,
but the Lord made the heavens!
Honor and majesty surround him;
strength and joy fill his dwelling.
O nations of the world, recognize the Lord,
recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
Bring your offering and come into his presence.
Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
Let all the earth tremble before him.
The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.

The Bible says over and over again that we need to talk about what God has done. We need to tell others. We need to tell the world. We need to shout it out at the top of our lungs. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons.

First off, how are people going to know what God has done if we don’t tell them? Yes, people can read the Bible. That’s one of the best ways to get to know who God is, but if all people know about God comes out of Scripture, will they believe He’s relevant today? I’m not saying Scripture isn’t relevant. Far from it. The Bible is the most relevant book in the world to modern times. But if my only knowledge and experience comes out of a book–living book or no–I’m not sure I would hold to it as dearly as I do. Because my experience with God, though its foundation is in Scripture, goes beyond what was written thousands of years ago and happens today.

I talked to God this morning. I asked Him for help for today. I asked Him to help me know what to write on this blog. And He answered. He’s not just the God of the Bible; He’s my God today, tomorrow, and far in the future. But if we don’t tell people that, they aren’t going to know. They’ll just assume all there is to God is in Scripture, but the testimony of God’s people is often what makes the difference.

Secondly, we need to tell others about what God is doing so we don’t forget.

We’re forgetful creatures. At least, I am. Maybe you’re better than me. I forget what God’s done all the time. He can answer a prayer of mine in the morning and by evening I’m wondering where He went and why He won’t talk to me.

I need to tell people about what God has done in my life, because the very act of telling means I won’t forget. Telling others helps me remember that God has never let me down, and He’s always been there for me. I’ve always been able to count on Him. I’ve always been able to trust Him. And if I’m not in the habit of telling people about Him, I run the risk that I will forget. And God doesn’t deserve that. Beyond that, if I get in the habit of forgetting God, I’ll be tempted to try to live my life without Him. And that’s not a life I want. That’s not a life that will make a difference or help people. That’s a life that will be about me and what I want.

So what if people don’t understand? So what if they look at you funny? And they will. But tell people about what God has done in your life. Share your story with them. You never know what God might do with your story. Sure, it’ll help you remember what He’s done for you, but it also might be just what the person you work with needs to hear to encourage them or to help them take that next step toward getting to know God better.