One Way to Find God

906 Words – Approx. Reading Time 4 Minutes

Hide and Seek…it is one of the oldest games in history. Historians have evidence of children playing the game in the 2nd Century, but it is believed it was played earlier. Not only is it an old game, it is also a worldwide game.1 Children in Asia, Australia and Africa play this game as well as the kids in Russia, Brazil and Ohio. Everyone understands the concept of the game. One person closes his or her eyes and counts while everyone else hides. The purpose of the game is for the person who is “it” to find those hiding. The goal of those hiding—don’t be found.

If you read the Bible it might be easy to get the idea that God is playing a cosmic Hide-and-Seek game with us. Notice the word “seek” in these verses.

  • If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.1
  • The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.2
  • Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.3
  • Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.4

Seeking the Lord is a common theme in Scripture. “Seek the Lord” or “seek him” are mentioned 33 times. Even Jesus got in on the whole “seeking” theme when he said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…”.5 It would be easy to think God created us and then said, “Come find me!” Thirty-three times we are told to seek God, but it is not until the 32nd time we discover God is not playing Hide-and-Seek.

The 32nd time happens in Acts when Paul was speaking in Athens. The people there had never heard of the relational God Paul talked about. To them God was a mystery, a Being they were constantly seeking. They had fully bought into the idea that to find God one must look for him like a child looks for her friends hiding behind a tree or under the bed, but Paul informed them, and us, that God is not playing Hide-and-Seek. Notice Paul’s words:

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.6

When a child is muffling her giggles hiding behind the curtain, she is playing the game at its best, but a hiding God seems cruel. Paul clarifies; God is not hiding so He can’t be found. He is hiding so we can find Him. The two most common ways people seek God Paul debunks.

1) People build structures for God and then go there to find Him. The Creator cannot be contained in a building, monument or sanctuary. We can’t build something to find God.

2) People make sacrifices to find God. The Creator is not disabled and in need of our services. He doesn’t need anything we have to offer. Therefore, we can’t find God by being pious, generous or volunteering.

Finally, Paul gets to the point. God created all the different ethnic groups that make up the nations. He determined when people would live, where they would live and what boundaries they would have to rub up against. All of this is still in play today.

We were created by God to live in this time and in the places we find ourselves. We too have boundaries. The key to seeking God is seeing the boundaries as God’s interruptions. They are His reminders that He is relevant and close.

18 3 26 Easter Egg HuntDo you remember Easter Egg Hunts? In my family the adults would hide colorful eggs all over the yard for the children to find. They thoughtfully and purposefully “hid” them so the kids could find them. Eggs would be hidden in easy and challenging places, but the goal was for the eggs to be found not lost forever. No one has fun when Easter Eggs can’t be found.

God, like an adult hiding and Easter Egg, has carefully hidden Himself in the boundaries of your life. Boundaries look like limitations, feel like frustrations and are untimely interruptions, but it is also where God hides Himself for you. Remember what Paul said, “He [God] marked out their [your] appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands [your life]. God did this so that they [you] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”

God is not hiding from you. He is hiding for you. He does not play Hide-and-Seek. 18 3 26 Easter Egg Hunt 3Instead, he has planned an elaborate Easter Egg Hunt. Whenever you bump into a boundary, you just rubbed up against God. He is hiding there for you. Seek Him there. Reach out for Him there. He is close and can be found.

Let me give you some examples…next time.

1-, 2 – 1 Chronicles 28:9, 3 – Psalm 14:2, 4 – Proverbs 28:5,  5 – Isaiah 55:6, 6 – Matthew 6:33, 7 – Acts 17:24-27

Is God Still Relevant?

Is God out of touch with what is going on in the world? It is a popular question. People are being bombarded with one crisis after another. The tragedies unfold in all shapes and sizes from human inflicted pain to natural disasters. It is easy to wonder if God is paying attention. Sixty-three percent of Americans still believe in God, but a growing number of individuals are joining Stephen Hawkins’ conclusion: “There is no God.”1

For most people the role of God in their life is not as black and white as “I believe in God” and “There is no God.” Most think He exists, but they struggle with understanding His ability to relate to them. They believe He knows more, sees more and cares more than the average human. They think He wants to help, but the world has become too complex…too far-gone…too advanced. People have a convoluted view of God. They respect Him and remember His great reputation, but doubt He really understands where they live?

In spite of our 5G, 4k, Alexa and Siri world, spiritually we have not advanced much past the 1st Century citizen of Athens, Greece. They too were confused about God. Peering into their social, political and philosophical world we discover their city contained a forest of idols; statues that represented the different gods accepted by their society. They, like us, valued being religiously inclusive. No one had the right to tell someone else their god didn’t exist or the morals their god represented were wrong. There were many truths—not one. Does that sound familiar? The only difference between them and us; we don’t make statues. Our idol is our right to believe whatever we want.

In their efforts to leave no one out, they erected a statue to “The Unknown God.”3 They did not want to overlook a deity or offend its followers. They were open to new ideas and truth could not be absolute. This created another issue that closely relates to our current times. They were addicted to information.

recreated image
Digitally created image of the Areopagus.

They did not have Facebook, Instagram or Tik-Tok. Fox News, CNN and NPR did not exist. Instead, they had the Areopagus. Imagine a gathering of intellectual elites who had the authority to form public opinion. That was the Areopagus. We are told people gathered there to spend “their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.”4 Sounds like surfing the Internet or watching national news. They were addicted to hearing something new and then adding their spin to it. Even if the process was futile, they did not stop. They could not stop, because they were so unsatisfied and frustrated with what they already knew. Again, sounds like us.

It was in this environment that God sent an interruption. His name was Paul. We are told Paul walked among their statues and started talking to people about Jesus. He spiked their curiosity because they had never heard of this God. They wanted to hear more so they scheduled him to speak at the Areopagus. Some were sincere in their quest to understand Paul’s God. Others were just looking for a good debate. Either way, God interrupted their world.

The reason this episode recorded in Acts is so important is because God reveals His relevancy. He proves He is in touch with what is going on in the world. Through Paul, God reminded everyone He is intricately involved in every human’s life. We will dig into it in the next time.

1- Religious Landscape Study from The Pew Forum, 2014 and “Stephen Hawking makes it clear: There is no God” by Chris Matyszczyk. September 26, 2014.
2 – “John McCain Doesn’t Know the Price of Gas/Can’t Remember the Last Time He Bought Any” by Chris Kelly. The Blog, July 5, 2008.
3 – Acts 17:23
4 – Acts 17:21

The Interrupter

920 Words – Approximate Reading Time 4 minutes

I think God likes interrupting us. Interruptions are a part of life so it should not surprise us that God would use them to get our attention. Interruptions happen at a frantic pace. Because of this, we know what they are but we may have forgotten what they actually do. Interruptions stop us in the midst of feeling, thinking, saying or doing something. They break our normal routine and create a reaction either by force or coincidence.

An interruption can infuriate us or recalibrate our thinking. It all depends on how we interpret the interruption. A well-timed and well-received interruption can stop us from making a mistake, rescue us from faulty ideas, and spare us from embarrassment. It can even set us on a new course with a new perspective. But, if we are in a hurry…or cocky…or totally self-centered…an interruption can set us off. It can feel like an emotional traffic jam at the worst possible time.

The way we handle an interruption can be an indicator to the spiritual well-being of our heart, and our heart is the most important piece of equipment when it comes to recognizing God’s voice. If our heart is alive to God and practicing trust, a divine interruption can be a lifesaver. If our heart is cold toward God and skeptical of His intervention, then the same interruption becomes a nuisance. There are many examples of this in the Bible.

Early in his ministry before becoming a national celebrity, Jesus was a traveling teacher. The bible tells us he went from one town to another speaking in synagogues all through Galilee.1 On the Sabbath he would arrive at the local gathering. It was the custom to let a traveling teacher speak, but by our standards he was an interruption. No one had invited him. His presence stopped them in the midst of what they were going to say or do and they would allow him to speak.

These synagogue interruptions had mixed reviews. When he taught at Capernaum, the people were pleasantly shocked by his teaching.2 The group received the interruption as a blessing and were introduced to the One who came to save them. God got their attention and they gained a new perspective.

When Jesus spoke in Nazareth, his hometown, the mood got ugly quickly.3 Again, he showed up unannounced interrupting their Sabbath routine. We are told his teaching at first amazed the people, but the excitement quickly faded. He claimed to be their Messiah and that was just too much. After all, they had seen him running through their neighborhoods as a boy. They hauled Jesus out-of-town intent on killing him. His words offended them because of their pride. They simply were not receptive to God’s interruption.

Think about it: Jesus interrupted both synagogues, but we find two very different reactions. The people at Capernaum welcomed the interruption and experienced joy. The people at Nazareth were offended by the interruption and tried to kill Jesus.

Here’s another example: Shortly after Jesus’ resurrection and return to heaven, the disciples were overcome with the Holy Spirit. We are told they left the upper room they were huddled in and went to the streets of Jerusalem interrupting the religious celebration called Pentecost. Language groups from all over the world where in Jerusalem that day. Due to the power of God’s Spirit in them, the disciples were able to give a powerful explanation of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in each person’s native tongue. These Galilean men were speaking languages they had never learned. What an amazing interruption that must have been?

Yet, there was a mixed response. Three thousand people were amazed and believed in Christ. Others saw and heard the same interruption and claimed the disciples were drunk.4

Not all of God’s interruptions involve large crowds. Once, Paul and one of his missionary partners were put in chains and placed in a maximum-security cell. At midnight God sent an earthquake. Their chains fell off and every cell door to the prison was opened. The jailer woke to see the cell doors open and his first thought was to kill himself. Before he could impale himself with a sword, Paul interrupted him. This interruption spared the jailer’s life and influenced him and his family to become followers of Christ.5

I could share more (and I will), but here is the point: God uses situations and people in our world as an interruption to get our attention. Remember, an interruption is anything that stops us in the midst of feeling, thinking, saying or doing something. God can use a spat with your spouse as an interruption. He can use a disappointment, a failure and even a disaster in an attempt to get our attention. Not all interruptions are negative. He can use the comments of a friend, the kindness of a stranger or the birth of child to interrupt our world in hopes that we might recognize Him.

Is it possible for us to recognize His interruptions when they happen? I think it is, but it all begins with the condition of our hearts. If our hearts are unconvinced about God speaking, then recognizing His interruptions will be a challenge. If our hearts are struggling to trust God, then seeing an interruption as God’s intervention is almost impossible.

I bet God has been interrupting you. If you haven’t recognized it, it is because something is cattywampus in your heart. Let’s go there…next time.

(1) – Mark 1:39 (2) – Mark 1:21-22 (3) – Luke 4:16-30 (4) – Acts 2:1-41 (5) – Acts 16:22-34

Divine Interruptions

How does God get our attention? We live in a world flooded with information. How do we know when an event, a conversation, a news story or a Facebook thread is more than just an interesting fact or tidbit of information? How do we know when God is trying to get us to notice Him? I believe God uses interruptions to get our attention, but how do we know when something is a divine interruption or just normal noise?

I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama right in the middle of what is known as the Bible Belt. In case you don’t know, the Bible Belt runs from Texas to Georgia and roughly from Florida to Virginia. This region of the United States was given this strange title in the 1920’s because Christian church attendance in these states was higher than the national average. The statistic is still true and as a result conservative evangelical Protestantism plays a strong role in the South in both culture and politics. Let me give an example. In 1987 the social activity of horse racing was completely acceptable in New York and California, but in Alabama it was frowned upon, and it was creating cultural clash in Birmingham.

I was seventeen years old and Birmingham had just opened its first and only horse track. Gambling was the hot topic in social and religious circles. Churches from all over the city began sending its members to the racetrack…not to gamble, but to evangelize. The poor souls at the racetrack—either employed there or just gambling—needed to be saved. The churches of Birmingham saw it as mission field. My church was no different. I signed up to go “witness” to people at the racetrack. For some reason I thought I was on high moral ground and I needed to do my part to scourge the city of this evil. I didn’t go with love. I went with contempt.

I prepared myself by studying a curriculum called CWT: Christian Witness Training (don’t waste your time Googling it…no one uses this or remembers it). The reason I remember CWT is because it encouraged me to start a conversation about God by asking this question: “If God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?”

The material provided different responses someone might give to answer the question and armed me with Biblical comebacks. The purpose of this: To encourage someone to think about a relationship with Christ, and hopefully influence them to accept Jesus as their personal savior. I went to the racetrack ready to talk to someone about God, but little did I know God would interrupt me.

When I arrived at the track, I was given permission to go to the stables. I spoke with a jockey. It was the only conversation I had and I’ve never forgotten it.

He was a small man, at least six inches shorter than me, and really thin. He was rugged. His face looked experienced and tired, but he was friendly. I don’t know if he knew why I was there, but he stopped tending his horse and began to speak with me. I went through the pleasantries of introducing myself and getting his name (although I don’t remember it). Finally, I asked him the question I had come prepared to ask. Let me recall for you word for word what I remember.

Me: If God were to ask you “Why should I let you into my heaven?” what would you say?Jockey: If God were to speak to me, I’d shit in my pants.

Needless to say, CWT had not considered this a possible response to the question.

I was unprepared for his comment, but I noticed something. He looked sincere. I’ll never forget it. He wasn’t trying to shock me. He wasn’t trying to trip me up. He wasn’t mocking me. He was sincere. And because honesty was in his eyes something moved in me, I began to care about him. BOOM! God interrupted me.

I internally cried, “God, help!” I then departed from the CWT script and said the next thing that came to my mind. “Why would you do that if God spoke to you?” I then got an education on how some people view God.

I learned three things as I talked with him:

1) He felt his life was tiny and unimportant. In the grand scheme of the universe, why would God even want to speak to him? He did believe in God, but he believed God had more important things to do.

2) He felt his life was far from God…so different from God’s expectations…that even if God did speak to him would it be relevant? He believed God was out of touch with his life. What could God say to a jockey that would remotely help him?

3) He felt God personally speaking to him would not be pleasant. In fact, the thought terrified him. Hence, his bowel moving comments. He was not being crass or irreverent. He was being honest. If God were going to speak to him, it certainly must not be good and it would absolutely be terrible.

As we talked, God interrupted this man’s life. He was just tending his horse, like he had done hundreds of times before, but this time God sent a humbled, foolish 17-year-old to question his thoughts about God. Using the same moment and conversation, God interrupted both of us for different reasons.

I realize what I’m calling an interruption others might call fate or chance, but God does not work that way. He is intentional with his interruptions. He says, “I know the plans I have for you.”1 God is the Master Interrupter, but how do we know when He is interrupting us? That’s the next blog.

 1 – Jeremiah 29:11

Broken Receivers

We are all broken, therefore, it is hard to hear God’s voice sometimes. There are two kinds of broken. If we can determine which type of broken we are, we can better diagnose our situation.

My family follows college football (Roll Tide!). While living in Sacramento, we returned home from a Christmas vacation spent with family in Alabama. The Crimson Tide was playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game and we intentionally came home on New Year’s Eve Day so we could watch the game the next day. I vividly remember getting home, bringing in luggage and finally settling down in front of the TV. I pressed the power button and an Error page popped up on my screen. It said something like “Error ####: No signal.” At the time we were using a satellite dish provider.

Try to imagine the angst this moment created. We had just flown over 2000 miles on a holiday so we could be home TO WATCH THE GAME! On top of that, what were the chances a repairman would be available ON NEW YEAR’S EVE DAY? All I wanted to do for the next 48 hours was binge on college football and end it by watching my favorite team, but all I was receiving was an error message.

Hearing God’s voice can be like this. All we want is a little guidance…a little hope…some encouragement…some reassurance that we are not monumentally messing up our lives. At times it would be nice to hear from Him and know He is there.

Like coming home and grabbing the remote, we do what we know to do to receive a signal from far away. We might fold our hands, bow our head or close our eyes before we start talking. We might recall a prayer we learned as a child or got off a bumper sticker. Those who call themselves Christians might recite the Lord’s Prayer or open their Bible searching for words that will satisfy as God’s voice. They may even pull out the big guns and close their prayer by saying, “In Jesus’ name I pray.” But for many, both the novice and the expert, what they feel in that moment is what I saw on my TV screen: “Error ####: No signal.”

To my surprise, I did get a satellite repairman to my house that day. When he arrived, I hustled him into my living room so he could see the error message. As he began his diagnoses I learned something; satellite dishes have two kinds of broken.

The first kind of broken is an equipment issue. The satellite dish receives an encrypted signal from an orbiting satellite. The signal moves through a cable to the box near the TV called a receiver. The receiver decodes the signal and sends it through another cable that is connected to the back of the TV. The TV then displays the signal allowing us to see images and hear sounds that are being transmitted from space. If the satellite dish, the receiver, or any of the cables and their connection points has failed, then the TV receives an error message. Finding and replacing the failed equipment is the only way to repair this kind of broken.

The second kind of broken creates the same error message, but it has nothing to do with faulty equipment. It has to do with the environment. The error message could be the result of a misaligned satellite dish, bad weather or an object blocking the reception of the signal. The repairman explained there might be nothing wrong with my equipment. A tree limb could be blocking the field of reception. Kids throwing a Frisbee could have hit my satellite dish and misaligned it. The weather was fine that day, but if it had been storming I would have gotten the same error message.

When all we feel is an error message from God, it is usually either an equipment issue or an environment issue. The most important piece of equipment to hear God’s voice is the heart. It both receives and decodes God’s voice. I’m not talking about the muscle that pumps blood. I’m talking about your mind, soul, and spirit, your inner-self that is uniquely you. If our heart is broken, it is extremely difficult to hear God’s voice. The heart cannot be repaired. It can only be replaced. God speaking on this matter said it this way:

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.1

We will discover how to get a new heart in some other blogs, but when our heart is broken the only message we can receive is an error message…but THAT is God’s voice.

If your heart is working and you still can’t hear God’s voice, it is an environment problem. Multiple things can block your reception or misalign your heart (not forgiving someone, willful disobedience to God, disappointment, failure, temptation…just to name a few). Only one thing removes obstacles and realigns the heart: trust. When our trust fails, we will get an error message. Trust is a heart issue. The wisest man who ever lived said this of trusting the Lord:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.2

When we are committed to trusting the Lord then our heart is in the right place and we will hear from God (however, we can’t make God speak to us nor do we know when He will speak…more on that later).

The satellite repairman ran his tests and determined my receiver was broken. He replaced it with a new one and the error message went away.

If you are not hearing God’s voice, which type of broken are you?

1- Jeremiah 24:7 (NIV)     2 – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

Does God Still Speak?

Does God still speak to people? If so, how does He do it? And if He is speaking, how do we know it is His voice we are hearing? After all, we all hear multiple voices. Some voices are audible. Others are just in our heads, but for the sake of argument, let’s just assume one of the voices we are hearing is actually coming from God.

I heard and recognized God’s voice for the first time when I was twelve. It was humbling, scary and exciting all at the same time. It was also addictive. Because of his voice, I became a follower of Jesus and I began a journey that has been both frustrating and delightful. Because of his voice, I became a pastor and entered into Biblical studies. I earned a Masters of Divinity with an emphasis in Pastoral Studies. I then earned a Doctorate of Ministry with an emphasis in Spiritual Disciplines. I have been a pastor for over 25 years. For all of my adult life I have been dedicated to hearing God’s voice, trying to obey it and attempting to share with others what I’ve heard from Him. I know a little bit about this topic, but at the same time I feel as though I really know nothing. That’s what makes this journey frustrating sometimes.

Due to my training and years of experience, I can give a solid theological answer to the question: “Does God speak?” I can also provide a Biblically grounded answer to the question: “How does God speak?” In fact, let me just go ahead and answer those two questions right now. But I warn you, even though they are correct and fully accurate, they will leave you unsatisfied, especially if you are currently struggling with hearing God’s voice.

Does God speak? Yes. See, I told you the answer would leave you feeling empty. Right now I could share with you a dozen Bible verses that all point to God’s ability to speak to people. One of my favorites is Isaiah 30:21.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Isn’t that a cool verse? But this is not the experience of many people. More than a few people who believe in God have told me they just can’t hear his voice. They pray earnestly. They go to church. They strive to be moral, good, kind people; but God seems silent. If the people who love God get frustrated with this phenomenon, imagine what the skeptical person who doubts God speaks must be thinking?

How does God speak? The answer to this question is a little more complicated, but my years of training and experience have prepared me for the task. Here we go. God primarily speaks to people through four different venues or some combination of them:

  • He speaks through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 1:1-2)
  • He speaks through the reading and/or teaching of His word—the Holy Bible. (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • He speaks through His presence on earth known as the Holy Spirit. (John 14:26 and 16:12-15)
  • He speaks through His creation. (Psalms 19:1-4)

Wow! Don’t you feel better? Now you know how God speaks. I’m guessing angel’s voices are ringing in your ears since the great secrets of hearing God’s voice have been revealed to you. But again, I’ve sat with hundreds of people who already knew this information. I’ve listened to them share their struggles with hearing God’s voice even though they know how He speaks. The knowledge of how God speaks does not guarantee we will actually hear Him when He speaks.

Imagine how disillusioned or disheartened the person is who doesn’t read the Bible or listen to people who teach what it says. What about the person who has a hard time swallowing the idea of a Holy Spirit on earth or the individual who might believe Jesus was a real person, but can’t accept he was raised from the dead? Think of that individual who is awed by nature, but can’t yet accept there is a Creator. Is God trying to speak to them? And if so, how? They have internally disqualified all or some of the venues He uses.

Does God only speak to us if we are willing to meet Him on His terms? Or, is God speaking all the time and we just aren’t recognizing it as Him? Does God only speak to people who think favorably of Him? Or, is God speaking to everyone, even those who don’t think He exists?

For the next several weeks I’m going to be blogging about God speaking to us. I hope you will join me. The blogs are for those who want to hear God’s voice and for those who are skeptical of God speaking at all. Please follow my blog and lets hear God’s voice together. And, if you think it is worth someone’s time, share my blog with someone and encourage him or her to follow along.


Have you ever seen a fainting goat? Here is a video.

History tells us a traveling farmer named John Tinsley brought 4 of these goats with him to central Tennessee from Nova Scotia in the 1880’s. He called them “stiff” goats.

Their popularity sky rocketed and new names began to emerge: Tennessee Fainting, Tennessee Meat, Texas Wooden Leg, Nervous Goat and Scare Goat. Farmers loved these animals because they were easy to fence in and they tasted good (not that I know that first hand).

Fainting Goats do not actually faint. They have Myotonia Congenita, a condition in which the muscle cells experience a prolonged contraction when the goat is startled. In other words, when they get excited, stressed, or scared their muscles stiffen and freeze. They fall over completely awake.  There is no evidence this condition causes pain. I guess that makes me feel better when I watch videos and laugh. What happens to them happens too many of us when we get spiritually startled. 

Paul explains this spiritual condition in the book of Philippians. The people there were facing persecution from their neighbors and arguments from within their own gathering. Knowing these challenges were rubbing up against their faith in Christ Paul wrote…

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then,…I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.

Paul speaks of standing firm and striving together without being frightened. This is the only time in the New Testament this word is used. It is the image of a horse frozen stiff on the battlefield due to the noises and images of war. When a military horse was too frightened to act in battle, it was liability to the rider and an opportunity for the enemy. We may smile at fainting goats, but a soldier on a frozen horse in the midst of battle was no laughing matter.

The Philippians were in a spiritual war. They had enemies trying to harm them…silence them…shut them down. They had conflicts within their group that threatened friendships and stability. It was a startling time. It was a stressful situation. Life was difficult. It was frightening, but they could not freeze up. They could not faint.

Followers of Christ in today’s world find themselves in awkward situations. We are living in a world that perceives faith in Christ to be either irrelevant or evil. In the U.S., we have not yet faced physical harm for following Christ, but emotional harm and contentious relationships are very possible. Unfortunately, the uneasy, tense emotions that come from doing the right thing or saying the right thing is all that is needed for some of us to “freeze.” Some of us  “faint” at just the thought of talking about Christ because we fear being misunderstood or judgmental or politically incorrect.

Fainting followers of Christ are not cute like the Fainting Goat. No, unfortunately they are a liability to themselves and other believers. They give an opportunity for the enemy to advance. I know that is harsh, but it is exactly the image Paul was painting. In the face of hardship, strained relationships, and uncomfortable conversations, we are to stand firm and strive together without being frightened.

The courage to not be frightened happens when we stand firm and strive together. To understand how these three things work together let me share a legend from World War II.

In April of 1940, German tanks rumbled into Denmark. To intimidate and oppress, the Germans would require every Jew in an occupied country to wear the yellow Star of David. Any Jew who failed to comply would be put to death. The Star of David, a proud symbol of Jewish faith and culture, was being used to mark Jews as second rate members of society—to rob them of their possessions, their dignity and their lives.

Denmark and its people were in no position to do battle against the powerful German army. But their leader, King Christian the Tenth, made a bold move to protect Danish Jews—a move that put his own life at risk. The Danish king called for all Danish citizens to wear the Star of David. He called for every Danish household to stand firm in their conviction that all human life was important and to strive together to protect their Jewish neighbors.

What would you have done? Would you have pinned a Star of David on your child and sent them to school? Would you pin one to your own chest as you walked out the door to go to work? Would you be the only family to do this? What would others be doing? If you did it, would you and your family suffer with the Jews?

The story goes that what the Germans saw after King Christian made his plea was nothing short of a miracle. Stars of David were everywhere on every person. Jews were weeping tears of joy in the streets as they saw their neighbors willing to suffer with them and not be frightened.

The story is a legend. It never happened.

The legend grew from remarks that King Christian made to German officials, on the radio to his countrymen and in his personal journal. In all three places he stated that if the Germans called on Danish Jews to wear the star, he would wear it and ask all Danes to join him. Because of his opposition to the enemy and their tactics, and because of his willingness to stand and suffer with the Jews, the Nazi’s full plan of persecution against the Jews was never carried out in Denmark. Danish Jews were never asked to wear the Star of David.

Stand firm, strive together and do not be frightened. These are the keys to pushing back against the evils that can frighten us. They are the non-violent actions required to resist injustice, cruelty, hatred and ignorance. God uses these actions in us and through us to show love to people who have lost their moral compass or been hardened by the disappointments and tragedies of life.

Don’t be frightened.

Fine-Tuned Prayers

I would not call myself a prayer warrior. I do pray…often…daily…regularly. I even have a prayer list. I pull it out at least once a week, read over it, add to it and highlight prayers that have been answered. But, I’m no prayer warrior. You know the person who exercises regularly but will never be a professional athlete or body builder? That’s the kind of prayer person I am. I strive to keep my praying in shape, but I don’t think I’ll ever be elite.

I’m okay with this. I don’t feel guilty about it all. However, in my efforts to keep my prayers in shape I am always looking for ways to pray more effectively. I don’t mean that I am trying to be more eloquent or even spend more time. I just want to do it better…fine-tune my prayers. Especially when it comes to praying for my boys. I call them boys, but three of them are closer to manhood than they are to boyhood. I guess that is why I feel the urgency to pray more effectively for them.

The pull in my mind is to pray for their situational challenges. Things like success in school, activities with friends, protection when they are driving or good attitudes. My tendency is to gravitate toward the hardships they are encountering that are making their relative comfortable lives uncomfortable. The normal teenage, young adult challenges that in 10 years will mean nothing. Although these things are not insignificant, I’m not sure these requests are the most effective prayers. Here’s why: even if all of my prayers for their current challenges were answered today, they would wake up tomorrow with a new set of problems. I can’t pray their troubles away because life on this planet will always be laced with trouble. Jesus said that. He wasn’t kidding.

So really, how effective is it for me to spend my time praying for their normal challenges to end when there is another round of problems just waiting to take their place. Am I really helping them by asking for their adolescent discomforts to go away? Maybe there is a better way to pray. Prayers that will help them learn from their troubles, grow through their obstacles, and even be used of God while they persevere.

Fine-tuning my prayers happens best when I use Scripture. I recently came across this prayer the Apostle Paul prayed for his friends in the city of Philippi:

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

Paul does not pray for their challenges to change or cease to exist. He prays for their love to grow implying that love is needed more than easier circumstances. Notice these key words in his prayer and their meanings:

Love – their love for God and others

Abound more and more – their love for God and others would be a growing and controlling influence in their lives

Knowledge – they would learn to love God and others the best way

Discern – they would learn to love what is best…choosing best over what is good

Pure – a sincere love with selfish motives filtered out

Blameless – a love that will not cause others to stumble

As I came across this prayer I thought, What if I prayed this way for my boys? What if, instead of praying for their troubles to cease, I began to pray for their love to grow? What if I prayed for them to have a knowledgeable love, a discerning love, a pure and blameless love? I can’t pray all their challenges away, but I can pray their love for God and others will increase. In the long run this prayer may help them more than praying for their immediate discomforts to go away.

It is possible that God is using pain, disappointment and struggles to make them better people. If that is the case, when I pray for their discomfort to go away I am actually praying against what God is trying to accomplish. However, I can’t go wrong by asking God to give them a better, stronger, more intense love for Him and the people He wants to reach through them. This is a fine-tuned prayer.

Let me give you an example of how I might do this. Without specifically naming one of my sons, I might use Paul’s prayer as a model to pray for my son:

Father, please teach my son to love You more in the challenges he is facing at school and in sports. I ask his love for You would be so strong that it would influence the way he acts around his girlfriend, his teachers and our family. Let his love for You not be boring or routine. Instead let it grow. Let this love give him discernment in his choices. Let it root out selfishness in his heart. Let it help others find you as walks the halls of his school. Father, let him love, follow and share Jesus so that on the day of our Lord’s return he will be found faithfully living for You. I pray this in Jesus’ name.

We can pray this way for anyone. It doesn’t just have to be our kids, but I think I will start with them. I think they need me praying fine-tuned prayers.

Pardon the Interruption

“Don’t interrupt me!” That is what I wanted to say. I was busy. I was in my zone. I was finishing a sermon outline. Others needed me to get it done. I needed to get it done. Yet, here was this person standing in my office pleading for my attention.

We all have to deal with interruptions. They bring information forcing us into a decision. The first decision is the most important one: Is the information contained in the interruption worthy of my attention? If not, we blow off the interruption and get back to what we were doing. However, if the information grabs us our life is set on a new course.

Interruptions are one of God’s favorite tools. He uses them to give us a choice. Will we listen to Him or ignore Him? Will we shrug off the interruption or will it set us on a new course? Interruptions are a door to faith.

Christmas is an interruption. It just ended. Right now we are all getting back to what we normally do because the interruption of Christmas is over. But ever since the birth of Jesus, we have an annual interruption from God. He interrupts our lives to give us an opportunity to respond in faith to Him. This is not a new tactic. He did it first with the shepherds.

I am reminded of God’s ability to interrupt each time I see a Nativity scene. Joseph and Mary, the shepherds and a small cluster of farm animals all gazing at the infant Savior lying in a manger. Joseph and Mary knew the Savior was coming. They had insider information. The shepherds had no idea that Jesus was being born that night. Someone had to tell them. If you want to know how God uses interruptions, pay attention to what happened to the shepherds.

God gets their attention.

The shepherds were minding their own business that night. They had no idea something special was happening within walking distance of their routine lives. All of sudden God interrupted their comfortable existence. He sent them a messenger.

We don’t get to choose when or how God gets our attention. The shepherds’ calendars failed to point out their divine appointment. They had no idea God would rattle their cage and they certainly did not know the messenger would be an angel followed by a heavenly parade of angelic beings.

The angel announced the birth of Jesus. The announcement reminds us we don’t get to choose what God brings to our attention. We all have questions we would like God to answer, but God interrupts and speaks to us about what we need to know not what we would like to know.

God still interrupts our lives. We don’t get to choose when He does it. We don’t get to choose how He does it, and we don’t get to choose the content of the message. He interrupts our lives and tells us what we need to hear. Without these interruptions, we would never know faith is an option.

God’s interruption made them feel something.

We are told they felt “frightened.” It is an interesting word. It means fear, alarmed, uncertain. In others words, God’s interruption scared them. We would like to think God uses pleasant tactics when getting our attention, but that is not always the case. God doesn’t always give us a warm fuzzy. In fact, I would say God’s interruptions are going to make us feel unpleasant before we feel safe and for many of us that is the problem.

The shepherds felt fear not comfort. What would they do with that? Would it motivate them to listen and respond? Or would they be offended?

Because God interrupts us with what we need to know instead of what we want to know and since His interruption will create an unpleasant feeling instead of tingly goose bumps, it becomes easy for us to ignore the interruption or worse be offended by it. This is critical. If we ignore the interruption, we will miss out on what God wants to pull us into. If we are offended by it, we begin to think God is rude, inconsiderate and out of touch.

The shepherds had a choice: Would they obey their feelings or would they push against what they felt and listen to what they heard? We are presented with the same choice every time God interrupts our cozy existence.

They pushed against their fear.

After the angels left, we are told the shepherds decided to go see what the Lord had told them about. They pushed against their fears and responded to what they had been told. This is faith. Faith is not just believing information. Faith is believing and acting on information. The information from the angel gave them the option to move in faith. Before the interruption and before they felt unpleasant, faith was not an option.

Humans don’t get to choose when faith is an option. God creates that option when He interrupts our lives. That’s why the interruptions are so important. It is at His discretion when He calls to us. His interruption may feel rude or inconsiderate or simply not what we want to hear, but it is God. Give Him some space. He probably knows something we don’t know. If we can get past how it makes us feel, we will be swept off our feet into the wonder of God’s power and love. That is what happened to the shepherds and it can happen to us too. (Fact-check what I’m sharing. Please read Luke 2:1-20.)

Christmas is over. The nativity scenes will be put away this week. We won’t see the shepherd figurines for another 365 days. This year’s interruption has ended. How did you respond?

If you don’t think you did to well, don’t be discouraged. As long as you are breathing, God will be interrupting. He’s not being rude or inconsiderate. He just wants you to see what He is doing.

I Lost 14% of Me

The only reason I am sharing this is because I’ve had so many people ask. They did not start asking until about 6 weeks ago. Before then, no one seemed to notice; but over the last 6 weeks I think I’ve been frequently asked this question: “Have you lost some weight?” The observation is correct. I have lost 25 pounds.

The next question is “How did you do it?” Before I share the answer let me cover my legal obligations by stating that I am not a doctor or a nutritionist. I’ve had no training in the proper or healthy techniques of weight loss. By all means, if I share something that you think will help you, then please try it. However, if you have an existing medical condition or are taking medications, please contact your physician before trying these weight loss methods (see…I do pay attention to legal disclaimers).

1st: My doctor and a trusted friend humbled me.

It was last March. I went for my annual physical. The doctor weighed me, examined me, poked, prodded and then questioned me about my overall health. He then looked at me and said, “You are a healthy 40 something.” If his comments had stopped there I would have walked away with a smile, but he didn’t stop. He looked at me with no emotion and said, “You need to lose 30 lbs. I’ll see you next year.” He turned and walked out of the room. I think he said, “Call me if you need me” as he walked away. That was it. No explanation. No motivational speech.

My inner voice yelled, “If I’m healthy then why do I need to lose 30 lbs.?” I might have actually said something with my real voice, but he was gone as if he knew I would object. The next day I shared this encounter with a trusted partner at the church. This person is a friend. An advisor. A confidant. I thought he would tell me the doctor had lost his mind, but instead he looked at me said, “Yeah, you probably need to lose some weight.” I couldn’t believe it. I was looking for sympathy and found validation. It was on! I decided I was going to lose some weight.

2nd: I found an app

Being a product of the 21st Century, I did what any reasonable person would do. I searched “weight loss” in the App Store. If you like options this is the way to go. I found a weight loss app for every day of the month. Apparently my desire to lose weight was not an isolated situation. I did not let the options overwhelm me. I began to read through the descriptions and finally landed on MyFitnessPal.

MyFinessPal is a calorie counting app with a huge food calorie database, but it goes one step further. It also counts how many calories I burn each day by counting my steps each day. The app notifies me when I’m not reaching my goal. It is free app.

After I plugged in my information, stated my weight loss goal and the rate at which I wanted to reach that goal, I simply started following the personal notifications (you do have to type in what you eat each day). After about 3 days of using the app I realized something needed to change. I could not burn enough calories just walking around the church and to the frig.

3rd: I started exercising…regularly

I have always exercised, but this app was notifying me every day with bright red letters that I was not exercising enough. I could eat less, but when I tried lowering my calorie intake enough to make the red letters go away, it would notify me that I was starving. I realized I had to start exercising and lower my calorie intake at the same time.

I started jogging. I have jogged on and off for years, but I’ve never really done it consistently. Here is the shocker: I don’t really like jogging. I do it because it is free. I jog 3 times a week…Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I have a love hate relationship with it. Listening to music and audio books is what keeps me sane.

One upside to this commitment of burning more calories is that I also started walking with Cherry. When the weather is nice, we walk. It is one my favorite things to do. Before the cold of winter showed up, it was not uncommon for me to walk and jog over 25 miles a week. During winter this will be hard to maintain. I will jog at the YMCA and walking will resume in the spring.

4th: I quit eating breakfast

Even though I became more active, I still needed to reduce my calorie intake. I cut out snacks, getting seconds and closely watched my portions, but it was still not enough. One morning while eating cardboard that I called cereal, I discovered how many calories I was consuming. It dawned on me the “healthy” cereal I was shoveling into my mouth was secretly thwarting my calorie goals. I decided I did not need breakfast.

I know everyone says breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but honestly I haven’t missed it. Instead of eating breakfast, I drink water; and to change it up, some days I go crazy and drink a diet green tea. By the time lunch rolls around, I am hungry, but I’m not famished. I realize this might not work for you, but it seems to work for me. On the days I have a breakfast appointment, I skip lunch and drink water.

Some Final Thoughts

I told you at the beginning. I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. And I was serious; if you’re thinking about trying what I’ve been doing and you take medications or have an ongoing medical condition, please speak to your doctor first.

I’ve been following this routine for 9 months and I’ve lost 25 pounds. Winter will be a challenge and the holidays will require some extra discipline. I’m going to keep going until I reach my goal of 30 pounds. Here are three things I learned:

1) It takes time to lose weight. I’ve been doing this for 9 months. With the app, I chose a moderately aggressive weight loss goal and it has still taken almost 40 weeks to lose 25 pounds.

2) No one actually said anything to me about my weight loss for 7 months. That means there were no outside voices of encouragement. Be prepared for that.

3) The first 3 months are the hardest. I practiced my new habits 3 months before I actually started feeling better and having more energy. Don’t give up too quickly when starting new habits.

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