Sunday, August 31, 2008

Token Prayers

Keith Green’s song, I Make My Life A Prayer to You, talks about “token prayers.” So it got me thinking about just what is a token prayer.

A token is like a substitute for the real thing. If I go to Chuckie Cheese, I give them money, and they give me tokens to play the games. Tokens are a substitute for the money – the real thing. One dictionary I used gave this definition: “Something that serves as what it is not.”

After thinking about it for awhile, I think a token prayer could be two different kinds of things. It could be the prayer that you pray when you don’t even think about the words. You just kind of go through the motions because you know you are suppose to pray but you aren’t even thinking about the idea that a prayer is talking to God. It’s more like repeating a formula.

My other thought is that it is like putting in what you are suppose to in order to get out what you want. You want something to happen or to get something and so you pray. You might even thank God for some things first but you end the prayer with the “give mes”. The “vending machine” approach to prayer. Put your token prayer in, and get your “healing” out.

Prayer is talking to God. The God of the Universe. The God that created you. The God that loves you and walks with you every day. He is worth a lot more than a “token prayer”. It should be like talking to your best friend. Talk to God honestly. It’s Ok to tell him your needs and your worries. (1 Peter 5:7) But don’t approach him with the “give mes”. Lay out your needs and pray that God would answer in a way that would be best for you. He is the only one who sees the beginning and the end. He knows what is best for you and he loves you. Trust him and believe that he will answer. Be real before him – he knows your heart any way. Real prayer will change you – from the inside out.

White Lies

Lies are easy. The more we do it, the easier it becomes. What’s the harm in stretching the truth a little. It’s just a little white lie? It didn’t hurt anyone.

God has another word for stretching the truth. He calls it lying. A lie is a lie to God. There are not little lies or big lies. He says, "Do not testify falsely against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16), and “Do not lie” (Leviticus 19:11). God knows that lying is destructive. It separates us from God. It erodes our character and destroys our reputation. It makes us less like God.

Remember the words of Jesus when He said, “I am the truth.” We count on Him to tell the truth. We rely on the truth of His word to pattern our lives after it. His word never changes. We can trust Him with everything in our lives. If he told even one white lie, then we couldn’t trust anything he had to say. I am so thankful that God never lies. We can trust everything he does and everything His word says.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Make My Life a Prayer to You

I've had a song running through my head tonight. Make My Life a Prayer to You by Keith Green. This is an old song and I have no idea why it popped into my head tonight.

Make my life a prayer to you
I wanna do what you want me to
No empty words and no white lies
No token prayers no compromise

I wanna shine the light you gave
Thru your son you sent to save us
From ourselves and our despair
It comforts me to know youre really there

Well I wanna thank you know
For being patient with me
Oh its so hard to see
When my eyes are on me
I guess Ill have to trust
And just believe what you say
Oh you're coming again
Coming to take me away

Keith Green was one of the first Christian artists that I started listening to. It seems like that was a life time ago - back around 1979 or 1980. His words really reached me. I was a young Christian and I was just learning what it was to follow Christ.

I'm not sure why my mind went to this song tonight but it is a great one. If you've never heard it, you can play it for free at

Have a blessed and safe Labor Day weekend.

Book Recommendation

I just finished reading "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch. A couple of things drew my interest to this book – the man who wrote it was a professor at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, PA – not too far from where I grew up. And – he was the original designer for the “Alice” software. We use that software in my department at Wesleyan School. The book really has very little to do with Computer Science. Randy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died in July 2008. This book is based on the ideas he wanted to impart to his students at Carnegie Mellon and to his three children. It talks about overcoming obstacles, treating people right, achieving your dreams through hard work, and making the most of the time you have. As I was reading it, I was thinking it had a lot of good practical ideas for young people. I don't often recommend books but this one was good. Perhaps I'll write some more about it later.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why not me

Bad things happen. That is part of life. They happen to the “good” people and the “bad” people. Did you ever think why do bad things happen to good people? Or perhaps you consider yourself a “good” person. Did you ever think “why me?” You’ve given your heart to Jesus and tried to serve him. Yet it seems like you can’t catch a break. I’ve had some of those thoughts from time to time. I naturally think. “Why would God allow this to happen to me?” He is God; He can do anything he wants. He could stop this.

My first thought goes to the idea that I am saved by faith. It is a gift from God, not from works. (Ephesians 2:8-9) I can’t earn my way to heaven. No one is good enough to earn their way to heaven. We are all sinners saved by God’s grace. We are made righteous in the sight of God. Not because of what we have done but because of what Jesus did on the cross. So going back to the question about bad things happening to good people, I guess we are saying they are good in comparison to other people. In reality, there aren’t any good people. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Isaiah says that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags before him. While we think some people are better than others, before God we are all the same. The real question should be “Why not me?” God owes me nothing.

While he owes me nothing, He promises me eternal life. I must never forget that this world is an evil world. Satan and his demons rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven. The earth is now their world; their home. This world is not really my home if I belong to Jesus. One day I will be removed from this world and I will be with God in heaven. One day I will get what I don’t deserve – I will get eternal life in heaven with God. Jesus will be there speaking on my behalf. He will tell the Father that I belong to him and that I have been made righteous by his shed blood. He’ll testify to the Father that I have repented of my sin and made him the Lord of my life. He will talk of our relationship.

James tells us to "count it all joy when you fall into various trials". Notice he says when not if . The fact is that adversity is a reality for every person, and specifically every Christian (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; James 5:11; 1 Thessalonians 3:3). Does God get some joy out of seeing us suffer? NO! What good father gets pleasure out of seeing his child suffer? But on the other hand, what good father does not understand that suffering is part of the growth process for any child, and to protect the child from all suffering would cause the child great harm?

While it doesn’t seem right to see godly people suffer, remember that this world is a mess. The good news is that we are destined for somewhere better. Pray for strength and courage to face the tough times when they are here and remember where the finish line is.

Romans 5:3-5 “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

John16:33 “"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I Thessalonians 3:3 “so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

God's love pursues me - Part 2

Love is a verb. It is something you do.

"We love because he first loved us." I John 4:19

Even before I loved and accepted Christ, He loved me. He loved me knowing that I would sin. He loved me knowing all my shortcomings. He loved me knowing I would not remain faithful all the time. God loved me then, loves me today, and will never stop loving me. God pursued me. He never gave up on me. He reached out to me when I didn’t deserve His love. He saw me in my worst conditions. He loved me through it all. He saw me when I was weak and weary from the load I was carrying. He ran to me and took me in His arms and held me. His love pursued me and never gave up on me.

You can’t buy love. You can’t earn love. You can’t contain love. It can’t be harnessed or quenched. What amazes me about God’s love for me is that there is no end to it. God never runs out of love for me. Even when I am faithless, He continues to be faithful and continues to pour out His love to me. That kind of love will change your life……

Thursday, August 21, 2008

God pursues me!

This song was going through my head today.

Who is this King of Glory by Third Day.

Who is this King of Glory that pursues me with his love
And haunts me with each hearing of His softly spoken words
My conscience, a reminder of forgiveness that I need
Who is this King of Glory who offers it to me

Who is this King of angels, O blessed Prince of Peace
Revealing things of Heaven and all its mysteries
My spirit's ever longing for His grace in which to stand
Who's this King of glory, Son of God and son of man

His name is Jesus, precious Jesus
The Lord Almighty, the King of my heart
The King of glory

Who is this King of Glory with strength and majesty
And wisdom beyond measure, the gracious King of kings
the Lord of Earth and Heaven, the Creator of all things
Who is this King of Glory, He's everything to me

The Lord of Earth and Heaven, the Creator of all things
He is the King of glory, He's everything to me

In all the other religions of the world, people are pursuing and trying to please their god. One of the key differences between these religions and Christianity is that Christianity is the only faith where God reaches out to man. He pursues and seeks us out. We are the ones who are lost, not God. This amazes me. I rejoice not only because God sought me out but because He wants to know me. The God of the universe desires to know me. He wants a relationship with me. He wants me to talk to Him. Try getting an understanding of that concept. We can talk to him just like a close friend. We can know the very heart of God. That’s what makes Christianity a relationship not a religion.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's Your Biggest Rock?

This is a follow-up to my last 2 posts – Urgent or Important and Big Rocks First. If you haven’t read them, go there and read those first.

Rocks are like priorities. Only so many rocks can fit in a jar. Only so many activities can fit in one week. The issue isn’t prioritizing your schedule, but scheduling your priorities. Put the big rocks in first and then see what little rocks will fit.

Our greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important. An urgent task, calling for an immediate response, may not be important in the long run. By the same token, an important task may not appear urgent. For example time spent in Bible study and prayer, visiting a sick friend, or reading a significant book isn’t often at the top of a “to do” list. Because those things can wait, they often get lost in the shuffle.

Over the years my greatest continuing struggle in my Christian life has been making adequate time daily to spend with God. Since this time is so important, Satan will do everything he can to squeeze it out. Yet I know from experience that only as I spend time with Him can I accurately identify my “Big Rocks” and place them in the jar. I like to make to do lists and then complete all the things on the list. In my job, I can never complete the list. I never go home “caught up’. It is a constant battle to determine what gets my time today and what can wait. What I need to remember is how Jesus succeeded. He did not finish all the urgent tasks in Palestine or all the things He would have liked to do, but he did finish all the work which God gave Him to do. The only alternative to frustration is to be sure that I am doing what God wants. Nothing substitutes for knowing that this day, this hour, in this place I am doing the will of the Father. Then and only then can I think of all the other unfinished tasks with calmness and leave them with God.

P.T. Forsyth once said, “The worst sin is prayerlessness.” We usually think of murder, adultery, or theft as among the worst. But the root of all sin is self-sufficiency – independence from God. When we fail to wait prayerfully for God’s guidance and strength we are telling God that we do not need Him. How much of our service is characterized by “going it alone”?

The opposite of such independence is prayer in which we acknowledge our need of God’s instruction, provision, and protection. Prayerfully waiting on God is crucial to effective service. Like the time-out in a football game, it enables us to catch our breath and fix new strategy. As we wait for directions, the Lord frees us from this tyranny of the urgent. He shows us the truth about Himself, ourselves, and our tasks. He impresses on our minds the assignments he wants us to undertake. It is not God who loads us up until we bend, crack, or break from stress. We bring this on ourselves.

A quiet time of prayer and meditation to start the day refocuses our relationship with God. Ask Him to help you prioritize your tasks to be done and “pick out your big rocks”. The busier you are, the more you need this time. It has to be the “biggest rock in your jar.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Big Rocks First

This is not original - many say Stephen Covey first wrote this illustration.

One day an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget. As he stood in front of the group of high powered overachievers he said, "Okay, time for a quiz." Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed Mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, "Is this jar full?"

Everyone in the class said, "Yes."
Then he said, "Really?" He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the space between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, "Is the jar full?" By this time the class was on to him. "Probably not," one of them answered. "Good!" he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, "Is this jar full?"

"No!" the class shouted.
Once again he said, "Good." Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, "What is the point of this illustration?" One eager beaver raised his hand and said, "The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!"

"No," the speaker replied, "That's not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don't put the big rocks in first, you'll never get them in at all." What are the 'big rocks' in your life? Your children; Your loved ones; Your education; Your dreams; A worthy cause; Teaching or mentoring others; Doing things that you love; Time for yourself; Your health; Your significant other? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you'll never get them in at all. If you sweat the little stuff (the gravel, the sand) then you'll fill your life with little things you worry about that don't really matter, and you'll never have the real quality time you need to spend on the big, important stuff (the big rocks). So, tonight, or in the morning, when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the 'big rocks' in my life? Then, put those in your jar first."

So - What are your Big Rocks? more on this tomorrow ...... if I can fit it in my schedule.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Urgent or Important ?

Image this scene:

You awake from a good night’s sleep and your first thought is, “ This is going to be a great day!” You arrive at school 10 minutes early, grab a cup of coffee and head for your desk. You are greeted with 5 voice mails, 22 emails, 2 teachers wanting help, and a student who missed school yesterday and wants you to reteach all the material just for him. This scene could happen to any teacher and parts of it happen to each one of us every day. Urgent stuff screaming at us from all directions, all demanding time, effort and response immediately.

It’s a circular problem or in programming what we call an infinite or endless loop:

Because we don’t know what is really important to us, everything seems important.
Because everything seems important,
We have to do everything.
Other people, unfortunately, see us doing everything, so they expect us to do everything.
Doing everything keeps us so busy, so ...
We don’t have time to think about, what is really important to us

Figuring out priorities is a challenge. More coming ... come back to read - Big Rocks First ......

Have a blessed day and remember, urgent things aren't always important.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Get a life

Summer is over and school for teachers is under way. Life is returning to a somewhat normal state. I am desperately trying to finish my planning so I am ready for the return of our students next week.

Here's a thought to ponder over the next couple of days.

Everyone dies - you don't have a choice about that. However, not everyone truly lives. Is what you are doing really living or is it just existing until you die. Are you really making a life for yourself and enjoying the ride? There are no "do overs". You only get one chance at this. If you have priorities in order, you will experience the joy that Jesus promised. Priority #1 - Jesus first. Spend time with the Savior every day. Priority #2 - Other people - Look for what you can do for someone else. Priority #3 - yourself. Joy doesn't come by seeking to obtain it for yourself. Joy comes from what you do for others and what you give away.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." -- Winston Churchill

My goal - to "get a life."