Nobody needed that roof anyway

When was the last time you had faith that something would happen? It doesn’t have to be something miraculous. Maybe it’s something as simple as having faith that there would be a movie ticket left to buy when you went to see Avengers: Age of Ultron this past weekend (rockin’ awesome show, by the way). Or maybe it was faith that God would answer a prayer.

Everybody has faith in something. It’s an essential fact of life. But it’s been proven over and over again through history that only faith in Christ is truly life-changing. It’s easy to grasp the fact that faith changes you, but did you realize that your faith can change other people too?

hole-in-roof-2-big.jpgToday’s verses are Mark 2:2-5.

Soon the house where he [Jesus] was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

I hope to meet these four gentlemen someday. I’d love to talk to them, hear about this experience from their own perspective. I mean, it had to be terrifying. Trusting Jesus so completely for the well-being of someone they all cared about.

That’s my sticking place. I don’t have a problem trusting Him with me. It’s trusting Him to take care of the people I love that I struggle with the most.

But these four guys were out of options. Jesus was their only hope, and they were determined to do whatever was necessary to get their friend at His feet. But what I love about this story isn’t that the paralyzed man had faith that Jesus would heal him. It’s that his friends had faith that Jesus would heal him. And it was because of the friends’ faith that Jesus responded.

And I don’t know if that resonates with you like it does with me today, but it’s something I need to remind myself of frequently. I don’t know if you recognize this, but we live in a really screwed-up world. Nothing is as it should be. People hurt each other. Families self-destruct. Friends tear each other to bits.

Trapped in the middle of all of it, helpless and useless, I watch. There’s nothing I can do. I have no words of comfort to speak. I have no wisdom to share or encouragement to offer. What can you say in the face of so much brokenness? When people you love are hurting so badly, what can you do?

And then I remember the four friends. What did they do? They brought their friend to Jesus. Whether their friend believed Jesus could make a difference or not was irrelevant. They believed it. And that’s where I’m trying to stand in our world today.

Regardless of what happens, I believe that whatever God does will be something beautiful. Maybe it won’t start off feeling that way, but He’ll turn even the darkest moments into shining light. I believe that with all my heart. But beyond clinging to the vague, ethereal hope that everything will be okay eventually, I’m not afraid to ask Him to fix what’s wrong in our world right now.

I know what some end-times scholars will say. The way the world is just means Jesus is coming back sooner. The world is supposed to be this way. And maybe they’re right, but they don’t know.

Yes, eventually everything will be okay. But what would have happened if those four friends took that perspective? Sure, their paralyzed buddy might have suffered in this life, but when he dies, he’ll be in paradise. I’m sure their friend was thankful afterward that they hadn’t thought that way.

And just like them, I don’t want to give in to the “eventually” club. Yes, God will make everything right in the end, but it’s not the end. Not yet. We’re close, but we’re still here. And as long as we’re here, why not ask for a miracle? Why not believe He can do the impossible?

Who cares if you’re the only one who believes it? What does it matter if you have to dig a hole and get your hands dirty? What does it matter if people look at you funny? If you believe Jesus is what your friends need, then wouldn’t you do everything in your power to get them to Him?

So drop everything right now and bring your friends to Jesus. Just lay them at His feet. Maybe you can’t do it physically, but you can do it emotionally and spiritually. And don’t just ask Him to help because you feel like you have to. Ask Him for help because you know He can, because He’s the only one who can.

Maybe it’s your faith that’s the key.

Don’t be afraid to ask God for something impossible

When was the last time you asked God for something impossible? I’m not talking about asking for a million dollars or asking for a dream vacation. I’m talking about something out-of-this-world extraordinary. Something no person on Earth has the capability to achieve. Like the restoration of a broken relationship, the redemption of a lost soul, or the healing of a broken body.

We get so caught up in our material wealth in this country that we lose sight of what is truly impossible. We live buried in debt that we can’t get out of, so our idea of impossible is being independently wealthy. But what about the things that really matter? The people we care about, the lives around us, the hurting hearts?

When was the last time you asked for something truly impossible?

Nothing-is-IMPOSSIBLEToday’s verses are Jeremiah 33:2-3.

This is what the Lord says—the Lord who made the earth, who formed and established it, whose name is the Lord: Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.

Yes, this is God inviting you to ask. Throughout the Bible, God invites His people to talk to Him, to get to know Him, to have a conversation with Him, and in every instance in Scripture when someone gets closer to God, they change from the inside out.

Can you imagine what it’s like to encounter God like Moses did? Or like Joshua? Or even like the prophets Elijah and Jeremiah, who heard God’s voice clearly? After you’ve experienced God like that, how could you ever doubt Him?

Granted, they all had their bad days, when the struggles of life overwhelmed them, and then God had to remind them who He is. And, fortunately for them, they listened.

But what about us? What great God experience do we get? Well, I guess that depends on how closely you’re paying attention. No, we don’t get to see oceans parting and or city walls collapsing, but we do experience divine appointments–those moments that only God could have coordinated. We get to witness Him working in our lives and in other people’s lives. We get to see the miracles of nature that God has created.

Everything is a miracle.

And just because we don’t see crazy ridiculous “miraculous” events here in this country doesn’t mean they aren’t happening elsewhere. There are all sorts of reports of impossible things happening around the world–the dead being raised, impossible prayers being answered, God intervening in ways that are obvious.

Just because it’s not happening in America doesn’t mean it isn’t happening in other countries. Sorry to burst your bubbles, friends, but America isn’t the bastion of hope and light that we used to be.

But that doesn’t mean God won’t do the impossible if we ask. I’ve seen Him do impossible things, just in my own life, and I can think of several impossible things that I’d like to see Him do right now. I bet you can think of some too.

So why don’t we ask? Are we afraid He’ll say no? Are we afraid He’ll tell us that He can’t do it or that He won’t do it?

Don’t be afraid.

You know who God is, right? God is good. Regardless of the situation or the circumstances, God is inherently God. He’s the only one who is. So whatever God does is good.

Maybe it doesn’t seem good to us right now, but that’s because we don’t understand it. That’s where trust comes in. Maybe He’s withholding something that’s good right now in order to provide us with something better later on down the road. You just don’t know.

He won’t strike you down for asking. The Bible is full of examples of people who asked God questions we might think are impertinent, and Jesus never rebuked them. If it were an honest question from a heart genuinely seeking, Jesus never turned anyone away. And God is the same.

What is that impossible thing in your life that you desperately wish would happen? Who is that one person you think will never change? What is that relationship you’re afraid is doomed to fail?

Don’t be afraid to ask for the impossible. God is in the business of the impossible, and there is nothing beyond His reach. That doesn’t mean He’ll always do what you ask Him to do, and there are uncountable reasons why He might say no. But we should always remember that if God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want, that just means He’s going to answer them in a better way later on.

God never ignores us. Not ever.

So ask already.

I know what I’m asking for. How about you?

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.