Tag Archives: prayer

Prayer. Let’s just get started!

Again one of my beefs with Reformed Christianity, Christianity that is so prevalent in the United States today, is this obsessiveness with how everything has to be done right. Otherwise? What, just don’t?
I’m really not picking on the Blackabys but again, there are differences between Lutheranism and Reformed Christians. “Only when we pray according to God’s will is He pleased to grant our requests (John 15:16)”. So we limit God to what wecan request and require Him to answer prayer within these limits? Sounds a little presumptuous, He is going to do what His will is and, as it often goes, it’s not going to always make sense to us.
I submit that if it’s a choice between someone who’s not praying or, they will pray but they might not be in conformance with the rules the Blackabys list out:
If we are selfish. (James 4:3)
Are our requests worthy of the God we approach?
Do we lack the faith God requires…? (Matt 17:20)
Is there unconfessed sin? (Isaiah 1:15)
If we will ask according to His will. (Jeremiah 33:3)
(Henry, Richard Blackaby “Experiencing God Day by Day p 244)
I’d much rather that they pray. I have no doubt that God leads us in prayer. That by our taking a submissive posture, intentionally turning to and addressing Him, that He will lead us in prayer and that He is going to get us where He wants us to be from there, which doesn’t require our going through a briefing of what is and isn’t acceptable. But we have to start by being in prayer.
Getting people obsessed with, again, rules will discourage or give them another excuse not to even get started.
Bartimaeus asked to not be blind, to have sight (Mark 10:51), that’s kind of selfish. He could have asked for someone else’s benefit. But from that Jesus led Bartimaeus to follow Him. Maybe Bartimaeus became a disciple who subsequently taught and led other people.
As mature Christians we should pray in His will, and shouldn’t be self-centered. People will grow into spiritual maturity led by the Holy Spirit and hopefully by a faithful mature Christian disciple. Isn’t the Holy Spirit going to lead that new person into maturity? I have no doubt many aspects of a new prayers life are brought into closer conformance with Jesus’ will by taking to prayer. Let’s not get people obsessed with dos and don’ts, let’s get them praying first, then disciple them into efficacious prayer.

Worry, worry, worry, don’t let God handle it!

Ah yes, worry, worry, worry. Oh believe me, I can get sucked in so easily. Then, a few hours later, can’t even remember what I was all twisted up about, but at the time, literally it was like I was feeling my stomach dissolving.

Chuck Swindoll goes so far as to call worry sin! Why? For a Christian it’s lack of faith. Is God in control or isn’t He. If He is, could He possibly be leaving you just spinning in the wind? No. Are there times when we worry because of sin we’ve committed? Oh yeah! Are we worried about the consequences? Unless you’re not paying attention, of course. But even then, God will work it out. It may not be pleasant, yes there are consequences to sin, but trust in Him and it will work out in His wisdom.

Thomas Goetz in Inc Magazine (June 2015 p 48) writes: “What I’ve learned is that sleeplessness is part of the entrepreneurial condition. There’s just no escaping the all-around anxiety that comes with running a startup, brought on not only by the tenuousness of the enterprise, but also by the sheer volume of tasks that crop up each day. Though my recent insomnia is partly a barometer of fear, it’s a measure of effort as well. After all, when i can’t do everything I need to during my waking hours, at least my brain is trying to get something accomplished in the off-hours.”

Come on Thomas. First, from a practical management point, if there’s something you really can’t get done, you hire someone, cut out something you really don’t need, time management, or let it go.

I hear you saying: “Whaddya know about being an entrepreneur?” Fair enough, I always worked in established corporations, and now I’m a church pastor. I was vetted at seminary as a “church planter” and was called to do a church “renewal”. This is intended to reestablish a long-established church. In this case, this church will be observing its 140th anniversary in October.

Now Thomas, you want to talk about tenuous? There really is no established protocol for a “renewal”, we are all trying to figure it out and in the meantime, really just flying by the seat of my pants. I’m not trying to play tit for tat. Thomas has a lot of personal money and sweat equity in his effort. By the same token, I spent a lot of money for seminary, picking my family up from our home of twenty years, the city my wife, children and I grew up in to move from the Boston area to the midwest, then get called to another brand new city. So I think that I can weigh in and with a Christian perspective.

As you might expect I refer you to Matthew 6: 25-34: “”Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear? ‘For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Did Jesus have something to say about “worry”? Yea, I guess so. In essence, knock it off! Yea, meek and mild Jesus when He says “O you of little faith. You have enough to deal with right now, deal with that and then when we (you and the Holy Spirit) get to  tomorrow, you’ll deal with it then.” Thomas is talking about waking up at 3am worrying about all his stuff. Really, is there anything that you can really do at 3am to do what you were supposed to, solve some problem? No. Basically you’re spinning your wheels. Is that good management practice? No. It’s seriously taxing your resources, in particular your physiology. You break down and what? You sure aren’t going to solve any problems being treated for a psychological breakdown. I’ve seen it personally, everything’s about your work, your stress, the stress that you’re inflicting on your family, the overall environment becomes destructive. Again, good management practice? No! What do you have to do to constructively deal with this particular issue and move on? Dwell on it at 3am? That’s not accomplishing anything and inflicting actual physical damage.

What’s God’s answer? Knock it off. Are you going to trust me or not. I’ve had times when I’ve dropped the ball, certain that civilization as we know it will now come to a violent end. I’ve seen God work out some of those situations just so incredibly, almost as if I wasn’t supposed to do what I was supposed to. Other times, it got addressed and taken care of.

Believe me, I know what Thomas is talking about. But Thomas I’ve had to deal with life and death. At least 1800 hours of underway time on Coast Guard boats. Nothing you’re doing is going to result in anyone’s death. It might make life tough, but it’s not the end of life. You talk about waking up at 3am, try getting pulled out of bed at 2am to do a search or pull someone out. As a police chaplain getting up at that time to tell someone a loved one just died, or counseling someone who has just been a victim of a serious crime. Thomas and yes too many others of you, you need to get some perspective. Your final comment is “So what keeps me up at night? Knowing that if i start sleeping like a baby, that’s when I should really start to worry”. What as “if I’m not worried, I’m not paying attention”? Come on, all you business types are supposed to be smart guys. Tell me are your resources being wisely allocated? Is your time being used efficiently? Are you setting yourself up for failure. Believe me, it’s been five years for me of 50-60 hour weeks, with very little time off. Ministry is a 24/7 job. I’ve been called the away from a day off because of death. This year, we really can’t even afford a vacation, so probably won’t be one, except a couple of days here or there. I get it, but beat yourself down about it at 2am and see how that works. I’m feeling like a crispy critter myself, but I’m just not going to get into what we called “the overhead watch” in the Coast Guard (that’s laying in bed staring at the ceiling).

Now having said that, yes there seems to be a particular time of day that I’m really vulnerable to this. I’ve been getting up around 5am since pretty much my Coast Guard days started at 17 years old. I’ve been waking up at or a little later since then, it gives me time to pray before anything else and that is when I really feel it. And I really feel it as a demonic attack, I know but seriously it’s like I’m being just dragged through. Christian or not I think that is what is being experienced by anyone who is going sleepless. Now the difference for me is this, when I’m up at that time and really feeling under siege, I take the time to lift it up in prayer. This is where I show faith. I don’t always do it great, and yea I can get really spun up, but I do also feel the Holy Spirit sitting me down, giving me some perspective, reminding me Who really is control. Rubbing His hand over my head, kicking my sorry butt out into the dark and cold to run 7k and get on course for what I need to do in the day.

As I said at the beginning, lack of faith = sin. Seems harsh, but hey, if you’re just rejecting the Holy Spirit, “it’s all up to me and no one can help me”! Another time Jesus said “oh you of little faith”? The disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee and being tossed around by a storm and in imminent danger of drowning. Jesus stepped up and calmed the storm. He then turned around and said “wow, I’m right here and couldn’t trust that I’m going to keep you safe?” How would you feel if someone close to you just rejected you like that? Yea, we’re telling the Creator of the Universe, that He’s just not sufficient to work out our problem. That problem that a week from now you won’t even remember? Yet you lost all that sleep over it. Oh yeah, that’s a smart move, Mr big deal entrepreneur, or anyone else!

Get some sleep, really help yourself. Then wake up a little earlier, spend some real time in prayer, enough for God to let you hash over your issues and what He’s going to do and to calm you down, focus you and send you out there to serve Him.

Wednesday mornings, 10am, we get together to discuss how we live our Christian life in the workplace, anywhere God puts us from Monday to Friday. We’re at the coffee shop at the corner of Beaver and W King Sts in downtown York. Park behind the church and I will buy you a cup of coffee for you first time.

Our emotional responses

I guess this is a follow up on the previous diatribe, it’s not intended to be, not as high minded but something I feel I should raise. Henry Blackaby (Experiencing God day by day p 19) “…discipleship … Is learning to give Jesus Christ total access to your life so He will live His life through you…” Okay, I’m not sure about Jesus “living His life through us” I would see it more as Him guiding our life to be more like Him.  Blackaby goes on to write:”when others see you face a crisis, do they see the risen Lord responding? Does your family see the difference Christ makes when you see a need? What difference does the presence of Jesus Christ make in your life?”

” God wants to reveal Himself to those around you by working mightily through you…” I will say that when it comes to genuine crisis that I respond pretty rapidly and effectively. Over twenty years of being in a U.S. Coast Guard boat station, responding to many cases I have had to deal with many life threatening situations and I can only remember one time when I had an emotional reaction and I did get that under control.  Business, church, I think I do well in that area. If I do get a little assertive I think it is for the right reasons. I’d like to say it’s always Christ like, conforming to His nature, but I’m sure you would be, at least dubious and rightly so. I do need to respond in a more Christlike way and set aside the emotion, except for compassion. But the areas I really need help in is the petty nonsense.  I just get so fed up with the selfish, lazy (intellectualy and physically) attitudes. I expect others to be Christlike because I try to be and when I see the failure in others prayI respond in a manner that is most definitely not Christlike. I end up shooting my self in the foot by exemplifying unChristian behavior to those in the world who are certainly never going to be Christlike.

I need your prayers to help me to respond in the highest manner. Sometimes that response does require an emphatic demonstration that shows this is serious and vitally important. But if the other person just doesn’t even get it, what’s the point of getting in a twist? Pray that I can properly respond. To remain composed in a crisis, to respond lovingly to those who just don’t know better and in those times, which will be rare to be emphatic, but to not lose my composure. I do have to be strong. We just had Good Shepherd Sunday. The point being that Jesus stays strong and vigilant to protect us and isn’t going to stand for Satan’s nonsense or the nonsense of the world, He is there to protect the flock, His church, from so many dangers. As a pastor I am an under shepherd and Jesus uses me to protect the part of the flock I’m responsible for.  Help me do it in a way that honors Jesus. So that the world knows I, in Christ, am serious, determined even to death. But still compassionate and welcoming. And also so that my share of the flock will feel safe and secure in Christ. Thank you for your prayers.

It’s God’s will, we are in His will or we are condemned.

What seems to be missed by people is this idea that there are “choices”. When it comes right down to it, there really aren’t. Sure there are choices that you make like, I like the whopper better than I like the Big Mac. I like the Red Sox, I don’t like the Yankees. What house I’m going to buy, yea, maybe. When it comes right down to it, like it or not, the real choices are in God’s hand. We are either in His will or we are separated from His will.

That doesn’t mean we sit and obsess if we really can’t discern God’s will. A lot of times in my life, I can honestly say that I knew what His will was/is, and He made it very plain how I should follow it. At other times, I did the best I could, put it in prayer and trusted Him that what i was doing was the way He wanted. I can’t say that I was always right or that I did it faithfully, that I did it according to His will. Sometimes, frankly, I have to admit I didn’t even take His will into account. Seemed obvious, jumped in and then afterwards realized that I should have given it more time, more work, more consideration. As in anything in humans, we’re just not going to be perfect. We do the best we can to pull it together, to execute the plan and then leave it in His hands. Sometimes it doesn’t work because He wanted us to do it and He used it to His own will, even if it seemed that it wasn’t such a good deal to us. “ESV Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” [Bible Works]

I am trying to write, that for those who pursue this attitude, that God is somehow unfair, because many go to Hell, Jesus made it very clear that many would chose to ignore Him, that they would chose their own path: ” ESV Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” [Bible Works]
Dr Martin Luther in his book Bondage of the Will addresses the idea that there is “free-will” in terms of our salvation. The idea that we are in some way “free agents”. The only way that works is God’s way in Jesus. Any “free-will” is purely from Satan and puts the individual on the path of destruction.

Luther writes: “You describe the power of ‘free-will’ as small, and wholly ineffective apart from the grace of God [Luther’s NB – As in those who lack grace (special grace, I mean) reason is darkened but not destroyed so it is probable that their power of will is not wholly destroyed, but has become ineffective for upright actions.’] Agreed? Now then, I ask you: if God’s grace is wanting, if it is taken away from that small power, what can it do? It is ineffective, you say, and can do nothing good. So it will not do what God or His grace wills. Why? Because we have now taken God’s grace away from it, and what the grace of God does not do is not good. Hence it follows that ‘free-will’ without God’s grace is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil, since it cannot turn itself to good…it is ineffective apart from God’s grace, straightway you rob it of all its power. What is ineffective power but (in plain language) no power? So to say that ‘free-will’ exists and has power, albeit ineffective power, is, in the Sophists’ phrase, a contradiction in terms. [Luther’s NB – oppositum in adiecto]” p 104

“…that we do everything of necessity, and nothing by ‘free-will’; for the power of ‘free-will’ is nil, and it does no good, nor can do, without grace … The term ‘free-will’ is too grandiose and comprehensive and fulsome. People think it means what the natural force of the phrase would require, namely, a power of freely turning in any direction, yielding to none and subject to none. If they knew that this was not so, [p 105] and that the term signifies only a tiny spark of power, and that utterly ineffective in itself, since it is the devil’s prisoner and slave,…” [p 106]

“…However, with regard to God, and in all that bears on salvation or damnation, he has no ‘free-will’, but is a captive, prisoner and bondslave, either to the will of God, or to the will of Satan.” [p 107]

You have either stopped resisting what God is doing to you and are chosen by Him to be your Lord, or your right where you are because you have resisted the Holy Spirit and simply want to wallow in where you are. If you aren’t in Jesus, you are already condemned. While you continue to assert your own will, to think it’s all about you, that you are the master of your own fate, then it’s just another way for Satan to assert his control over you. If you come to the realization, that God is in control, that it really isn’t about you, that it’s all about what the Holy Spirit is doing in you, then you are saved.

Once we accept that it is about God and His will, that what we do outside His will is separation from God, that separation is Hell, is condemnation. There is no will for salvation other than God’s. Anything is the path to destruction. Separation from God is Hell.

In Revelation 12: 7-17 and 13:5-8 God has removed His hand from earth, Basically He has said that this is the end, that there is no more grace and man is left to his own devices. Honestly, how do you really think that’s going to work out? I know there are times when things look crazy and out of control, but God is still very much in control. The difference will be very obvious when Satan rules and there will then be unrestrained evil. We like to think we are somehow able to conduct ourselves properly, but when God removes His hand, when God simply allows us to do our own will, is there any doubt that the outpouring of evil, of violence, of greed will be absolutely stupefying? Is there really any doubt in anyone’s mind that when God has removed the Holy Spirit, when Satan rules that there will be unrestrained evil? This is what those who reject God will have, what they’ve accepted, there will be survival of the fittest. They don’t want God’s control, His blessing, although they think they’re entitled to the benefits of His blessing. They don’t realize what unrestrained evil is and they’ve shown that they really don’t care. And we’ve all met people that fill that bill, there are those who are obvious and the rest, not so obvious.

God is good, God is perfectly Holy. Being in a downtown church, being in the inner-city, albeit a small city, there are still lots of people who will knock on the church door and expect that I will just hand over money to them. In more subtle ways, there are plenty of people out there who have the same attitude, they expect God to hand over everything, including salvation on their terms. Then they will accuse God of not being “good” because He won’t save them! God is perfectly good, not according to our individual agenda (let’s face it, there’s God’s agenda, then there’s yours. In the end, which one do you really think is going to win out?)

God is perfectly good, perfectly holy, perfectly all knowing, all powerful, transcendant beyond anything that we can understand. Your agenda is just not going to be perfectly good, come on, it’s going to be covered in sin, if not completely submerged. It’s all of us, we are all completely unredeemed sinners and the only way to redemption is through Christ, The Son of God. God certainly does have an agenda, He revealed it, in His revelation, the Bible. We look to God for Him to guide us in how we fit in that agenda. Not our way, but His. Certainly that agenda is different for different people. If you are a great Christian mom, or Christian office worker, or Christian soldier/sailor, or Christian plumber, Christian factory worker, does that not serve God? We are put where we are at to serve God to the best of our ability, to be the best Christian factory worker we can as a witness to those around us to Jesus. We like to think that it’s all about us, it’s all about our control. Let’s face it the more you try to assert control, the more you realize that you just don’t have control. You can keep wrestling with God over it or figure out that it is all about Him and not about you. When we stop resisting the leading of the Holy Spirit and surrender to His will, when we are concerned about God’s agenda and not ours, when you trust His control, His will, and operate our life accordingly, It may not be “easy”, but it will be much easier then struggling against God.

True disciples in Jesus, not phoney expectations

This is from Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Experiencing God Day by Day p 142: “James and John sought to outmaneuver their fellow disciples in order to gain the places of greater honor next to Jesus (Mark 10:37). Over and over the disciples’ actions showed that they did not truly understand who Jesus was (John 6:7-9; Mark 6:49). Even after three years with Jesus, Peter was afraid to confess Christ before a young servant girl (Matt 26:69-75).

Yea these guy’s definitely failed, but I respectfully disagree being in Jesus does not mean that we all of a sudden become lions for Jesus. As a Lutheran we certainly know that we become a new creation in Jesus. Baptism makes us a new man or woman, we have been born again in the Spirit a new creature. We absolutely do. But Martin Luther always cautioned that the old/worldly person would always be lurking waiting for the chance to jump in and assert itself.

When it’s not about Jesus it’s about me. I have no doubt that the ratio is well over fifty percent weighted to me. Sure they became new men on the day of Pentecost and we praise God for that. We do become spiritual beings in Jesus and the Holy Spirit does keep working on us.  I pray that we do respond to Him when we are called on, that we are raised up far more than we fail.  But the beef I have with Reformed theology falls in to works righteousness theology, that we have to become virtually perfect. This side of heaven we aren’t going to be perfect or even too close. I’ve talked to too many people who have given up, have despaired because some uneducated, self-proclaimed “evangelist”, who doesn’t know what he/she is talking about and makes it up. Who genuinely thinks he/she has reached some state of perfection and thinks everyone else should be. They just don’t know what they’re talking about. The Blackabys certainly are much better educated than me, but all Reformed theology still breaks down in this works righteousness and creates an environment where too many give up because they can’t reach an impossible goal of perfection.

I’m not saying give up and don’t strive. Christians should always be striving for Jesus. But don’t get sucked into this idea that you’re going to be perfect and have it all together. Too many have been spit out the “big box” church because of faulty teaching and faulty people. These are the kinds of Jim Jones/cult kind of thinking that causes serious spiritual dysfunction. The fastest way to truly die is to let your spiritual life be undermined.

Look at ISIS, all the places where Christians are truly persecuted and truly living for Christ. They don’t have the time and resources for big box Christianity, the Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll, nonsense. We have brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia who have and continue to suffer persecution. While people sit in their non-denominational big boxes being amused and convinced they’re perfect just by virtue of being them, the denominational churches, the ones who live the life and put it on the line are out there truly serving. I wonder when non-denominational churches are going to be sending military chaplains who are right on the front line. Who are going to do the work of Lutheran World Missions, for those who sit in pretty sanctuaries, world pleasing sanctuaries.

The big box phoney churches can try to sell that you need to be perfect, but for those who are living the life by actually serving, who are suffering, who know the real world of Christianity, we aren’t perfect. Dr Luther knew the old man, and I certainly have never known a Christian more real than Martin Luther. We need to quit creating phoney expectations that are not Biblical and are only in the head of some self-important big box player to the crowd. Let’s stand up as true brothers and sisters in Jesus accept that we and those around us are fallible and go out and really live the life in Jesus. Let’s not set people up for failure which the big box churches are doing.

Prayer, prayer, prayer da, de, da

Da, de, da, love, love, love, the Beatles tune. How about Prayer, Prayer, prayer da,de, da?

Is there a greater way to show love then through prayer? No… Yet we in the church, given the opportunity to prayer for others often just pass, or make a perfunctory attempt. I’m not saying you have to wax eloquence, not at all, simple sincere prayer is much more effective. Just make it sincere.

That prayer is the the greatest weapon of the church is quite plain and I can speak to that from personal experience, as well as from what is taught, what we know from the Bible, and learned others who have written profoundly about prayer.

I’ve seen some crazy answers to prayer and often did not know how to deal with those answers. Often it took prayer to understand what I was dealing with.

Why do we as a church and faithful individuals give such short shrift, a nod to prayer? “Sure prayer is important, but then we have to do something “real”, afterwards!” Yea, there’s some genuine faith for you. The important part is done, the next important part, God’s answer and action, usually requires that you wait, for the real important part.

There is corporate prayer, the whole church body, a small group, two or three, more than one person raising their prayer concerns and the concerns of each other. Their is individual prayer, what we do in our prayer closets. Often the time we struggle over the deepest concerns in our souls.

I had really been pouring over a problem that I just did not know how to deal with. My inaction could have been perceived as procrastination. But while being in personal prayer, it was as if the Holy Spirit just knocked me across the head and said: ‘OK, pay attention this is what you’re going to do, bang, bang, bang, bullet point, bullet point. As things resulted, I have no doubt it was in His time and in His way.

I do wonder if some of the people who just like to carry on, how they really quench another’s spirit. I get it, sometimes there are issues where someone really does need some space and to let it out. I’m not criticizing that, I have a problem with the person that often just carries on and doesn’t realize how much another person’s spirit is being doused.

Those kind of people usually don’t offer any kind of encouragement, nothing uplifting, mostly just pointless, not creative, but often heartlessly critical. They always find the negative, never the upside.

It’s as if they are saying: “I know this is important to you, but I really don’t care. All I care is that I carry on about it and everyone knows where I am at. I am going to discourage you, not do anything constructive and actually feel like I’ve done something and that it’s really you who are clueless.”

Hmmmm, how about, “you know what? We really need to hit our knees and pray together and you’re going to do it without thoughtless comments, or just trying to indulge me. We are going to pray in genuine faith, put all the negative blah-blah behind us and trust God’s will.” How do you think prayer would help the person who needs encouragement? How would it help the person whose critical spirit maybe needs to be quenched?

Prayer is powerful in so many ways. Jesus told us to pray to the Father “…Our Father who art in heaven…” He wants us to lift our prayers to Him, He wants us to help and encourage others. Let’s pray a lot, let’s spend meaningful time in our own prayer closet, time with others and time in worship for real prayer. Prayer! Got it?!

We are always looking for outward sources not to to Holy Spirit within us

We spend way too much time looking for things outside ourselves for inspiration. Sure God puts things around us to inspire us, but it is a mistake to only rely on that inspiration and ignore what the Holy Spirit is trying to impact you with. He is indwelt in you and He is trying to inspire you directly, in a way that uniquely impacts you.

It helps me to wait on His inspiration, I try to put it into prayer that I want Him to move on me and guide me. it seems as though He gives me the inspiration/emotion/drive and then helps me with the words, but never seems to tell me how I should write or what I should write. He’s guiding the writing, but not micro-managing. He’s leaving it to me to fill in the substance, but always with His leading, His Spirit.

Im not trying to get all mystical on people. I think it makes perfect sense that if we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit that He will find many ways to express Himself through us. Not compelling, but in a way that helps us to maintain our relationship, which is a way among many ways.

Great habits to help to make life great, to live our best in Jesus.

We know that there are times when we are just on our game, at our creative height and we can associate that with our physical condition. How can we recreate those conditions to be at our best more often?

Prof Baba Shiv of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business offers some really great direction.

In an article in Inc Magazine (Feb 2014 pp 86-87) Ryan Underwood writes: “According to Shiv, creativity resides at the intersection of two primary pathways in the brain. along one pathway, the neurotransmitter serotonin governs whether you are operating from a sense of calm and contentment or from a position of anxiety and fear. On the other pathway, dopamine moves you from boredom or apathy to excitement and engagement.” You want a high combination of serotonin and dopamine to be calm and energized at the same time.

Serotonin is the key and the article discusses a way to maximize the effect of this neurotransmitter which is a sense of well-being, satisfaction, seems to be in terms of initiating, creating. Shiv/Underwood points out that a calm, probably aesthetically pleasing environment, work space finding ways to reduce stress enhance the effects of serotonin. Other studies I’ve seen have discussed a pleasant ambient noise, like a coffee shop environment, pleasant music. They point out that “…two hours of deep, non-REM sleep at night enables the body to restore the proper levels of serotonin.”

“Serotonin levels tend to be highest in the morning, making it an optimal time to schedule brainstorming sessions.” I know I always seem to be at my best in the morning, if I really need to do my best I try to get on the task immediately and get as much as possible done in the morning. Shiv points out that a good breakfast helps to enhance the effect of the serotonin. That means put the donuts and the puffy carbs away and eat a breakfast higher in good proteins and carbs. My breakfast is boring as heck, but it’s two par-boiled eggs (and get over the cholesterol thing. The effect is no where as bad as has been suggested and eggs have elements that are necessary and not available in other foods. Boiling retains the health benefits and minimizes the effects of frying and cholesterol.) Also oatmeal with strawberries. All good energy food and Shiv adds: ‘”That’s the best brain food,” he says. “The proteins produced from it in the body are converted to the much-coveted serotonin and dopamine.”‘ And they both add, throw in the caffeine for extra effect.

“Cardiovascular exercise also enhances the neurological conditions for creative thinking by releasing a peptide that helps produce serotonin.” it helps to get up and get a little exercise before any effort. Forty minutes of vigorous exercise at least five days a week are recommended. I have been doing a vigorous workout every morning since my twenties (over thirty years). I have found on days when I didn’t do a workout, that I was very sluggish, everything seemed to be challenging and I was not very productive. You may think that tough physical activity might somehow wear you out, make you too tired to be productive, but it’s been my experience it enhances my entire physical well-being.

“Maintaining a variety of intellectual interests also keeps the creative juices flowing. Shiv says it’s important to talk to people in other disciplines and read widely outside your field  to develop ‘knowledge nodes’ – bits of unrelated  information that can come together to produce an unexpected solution.” I maintain a wide variety of interests, having had a professional career in corporate finance, in the Coast Guard, in Christian ministry. Add to these interests in physical fitness, science, travel, language, writing, I like to read extensively, talk with different people. As a Police Chaplain I get to interact extensively with various levels of police officers and people undergoing trauma, stress. In ministry I get to share with people over some of the biggest life events, marriage, birth, death. injury, loss etc. Some may seem more pleasant than others, but all of them present their own stressful challenges.

Ok, so a little digression, but the take away from all this is as follows: Good diet, eat right. Cut the nonsense with the big donuts, muffins etc. They don’t do you any good. Find some way to make a calming environment, not to put you to sleep, but to help build the up lifting effects of serotonin and the calming effects of dopamine. Dopamine is important because it keeps you in control, you can have a high level of energy and creativity, and you focus with a good dose of dopamine. Vigorous exercise also produces dopamine necessary to help you maintain your composure. Get your sleep and maintain a lot of interests. Yes, be expert at what you do, but maintain a broad perspective.

A good way to maintain that perspective, on top of everything else, is to maintain your life in Christ. Yea I know, “something else?”. I manage to fit it all in, get into the office and pretty much always put in a 50 plus hour work week and I will match a lot of the stress I deal with, have dealt with, with anyone out there. Remember what it is all ultimately about. What we do today is important, but in Jesus we have an eternal perspective, and we also have a here and now perspective. I’m sure Prof Shiv could have taken it a little further and added that when we have positive relationships with those around us, stay in prayer and connected to God the Father, that we are energized and guided by the Holy Spirit. Get up a little earlier, quit the stupid things that waste time, focus on the things that make you better. Put the lameo games away, the phone, the silly stuff; Take time in prayer, get some real exercise, get good nutrition, get good sleep, interact with people who will help you grow, broaden out your interests to help you grow and then watch the good things happen.

A side bar to the Inc article talks about how “Method” which makes cleaning products offers employees training in improv acting … “all in an effort to keep people weird, creative and humble.”‘ Hmmm, I’m thinking there’s a lot out there and we’re spending way too much time on silly stuff that not only doesn’t do anything for us, but actually can harm us. Start it all up with prayer and look for God’s guidance in all you do.

We meet Wednesday mornings 10 am, First St Johns, 140 W King St, York, Pa, take some time in the middle of the week to discuss your life in the workplace as a Christian. No charge, I even buy your first cup of coffee, no obligation.

Good News to the Poor, All of us Isaiah 61: 1-11 First St Johns Dec 14, 2014

Please check out the audio version of this sermon, click on he above link or copy and paste into your browser.

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and if you are anointed and if the Holy Spirit is on you, say … AMEN!

The reading in Isaiah is the theme of the sermon today, but I have to start with our epistle reading. Paul tells us to exhort, so I am going to exhort you: “Rejoice always!” We know what time of year it is, we are reminded that while Advent is a time of penance, of clearing the clutter of sin that has gathered in our heart we are prepared for the coming of the Christ child and just as significantly, His second coming at the end of time. So yes, rejoice, but still remember to pray without ceasing. Part of prayer should be repentance. Pray for forgiveness, but a special emphasis on praying for help to prepare for His return. For myself, Lord remind me of whose I am in You, that I am saved in You. Yes I need forgiveness, that I am sinful, that I need a Savior.

700 years before the fact, before it actually happens God is giving Isaiah the words that Jesus says in Luke 4: 18-19. These are the words that Jesus says at the beginning of His earthly ministry. He had just gone through the temptation by Satan, certainly Satan knew Jesus is God the Son and now Jesus has gone back to his hometown, Nazareth. He proclaimed the words of Isaiah to identify Himself as the one anointed by God. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but His ministry started when He returned to Nazareth and in front of the synagogue on the Sabbath day He proclaimed, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim the good news to the poor.”

What, just the poor? Yea! Who are the poor? In terms of our relationship with God, we are all poor. Remember “Christmas Clubs”? I don’t think banks have them anymore, but all year long, you would go to the bank (yea, definitely before electronic banking), you would take part of your regular income and deposit it in your Christmas Club account? Back then it would actually earn some meaningful income and then just before Christmas, not Black Friday, that wasn’t around either. You would take everything you’ve saved, go and buy your presents and decorations and holiday food. When you emptied that account you might have felt like you had some money, but after a few days of Christmas shopping you felt even lighter in the pocket book then you had before. You may have been poor again, but celebrating the birth of Jesus makes us rich.

Yea, this time of year, like it or not, we are all kind of poor so that we can have that great holiday celebration. But that’s not what Jesus is really talking about.  He’s talking about the “Poor in Spirit”. Where does that phrase come from? … The Beatitudes, “The Sermon on the Mount”. What does He say about the “Poor in Spirit”? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We want to be “Poor in Spirit” don’t we? As Christians, by definition we should be poor in spirit in order to have the Kingdom of Heaven. That Kingdom came when Jesus came into the world. We who are the poor in spirit have inherited that kingdom. We are living that kingdom today. While that kingdom has arrived in Jesus and we should live our lives as subjects of the kingdom, as loyal subjects of King Jesus, the kingdom that is to come, as we pray for it, has not yet been realized. You may not think you’re “poor” in anything, but you would be wrong, unless of course you don’t know Christ as your Savior.

It is Jesus who has been xv;m’ That is anointed, kings and priests would be “anointed”, this would be a special blessing to them to bear their duties, to faithfully serve, to be the ones who would do what Yahweh has designated them to do. We call Jesus, Messiah, that is the One who is anointed, who has been blessed and designated by God to bring us the Good News, to bind up, proclaim liberty, release those who are bound. All the things that sin imposes on us and Jesus is anointed to save us from.

While Yahweh is giving the words to Isaiah of the great promise of the Savior, He’s also reaffirming a previous promise. He’s reaffirming a promise made about 800 years earlier, to Abraham, not just that Abraham will have, what we know to be hundreds of millions of descendants, but that they will be blessed in Jesus who has been anointed, who has the Spirit of the Lord. We who are blessed to be eternally saved in Jesus, in the resurrection. In one of the verses not quoted, Yahweh promises “…you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of God;…” Peter re-emphasizes that when he writes 700 years later: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” You may be poor in spirit, but Yahweh says that we are priests, minister of our God and speaks through Peter to re-affirm that promise 700 years later.

We end with God’s promises that will be confirmed and carried out by Jesus during His human lifetime and will be the gifts of all who are in Jesus, you and I, until He returns that second and last time. Isaiah writes: “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; … He has clothed me with the garments of salvation…the robe of righteousness, the bridegroom will have a beautiful headdress and the bride will be adorned in jewels.” It may be difficult to picture or appreciate, but there is no doubt in my mind that we will understand how magnificent it will be when we see it accomplished in all of us who are in Jesus. We have a tiny little speck of it when we celebrate Christmas, the lights and decorations, for the Lord’s first coming. We can’t even begin to imagine how magnificent it will be, what we will see in the second coming of Jesus.

Paul’s words, two simple phrases, write them down in your journal, really think over them: “Rejoice always” “Pray without ceasing”. Rejoice because we have the promises. Pray to stay strong in God’s promises. Rejoice always means, always. It’s often tough to do, but always means always; not just when you’re in the mood. Not just when Christmas is coming, or maybe when it’s over. Rejoice even when someone bashes in your door, when you’re in the hospital, yes even when the time of year reminds you who won’t be at the Christmas feast this year. Rejoice not because they’re gone, but because we have the eternal promises to be with those we love and to enjoy the magnificence of eternity in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So how do you rejoice this Advent, what are your prayers?

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

Unemployment it’s especially hard during the holidays. Enjoy the holidays, but on Monday try this

I have developed a heart for those dealing with unemployment. I worked in corporate finance for twenty years and went through my share of. Corporate challenges  I do know the drill. If you are dealing with this I am sure you have been working hard, doing all the things that are recommended and still keeping a great attitude. I would certainly encourage you to keep trusting in God, looking for His will and trusting that he is moving you where you should be.  I truly hope that you will take your foot off the pedal for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keep a positive attitude, keep regular hours do what you can do but take time to enjoy family and friends to let a group like ours give support, for your pastor to encourage and give comfort. I know how you’re feeling and you need to stop beating yourself. This time of year is particularly tough for two groups, those who have lost a loved one and those who are unemployed. Please be with brothers and sisters in Jesus and enjoy their support. If you are in the York, Pa area and we can provide support of clothing, food, fellowship, please don’t hesitate to contact me at bm2driskell@aol.com.

Now something to think about for next week, maybe you’re kind of in a rut so try this. This is something we suggest to people in the group we facilitate, but now it is backed up with professional opinion. The following is from “Men’s Health” Jul/August 2014 page 20:

“Donating your time really will help you get ahead. In a study in the “Journal of Career Assessment”, unemployed people who volunteered weekly were far more likely to have a job within six months than those who didn’t lend a hand. Even those who volunteered less than two hours a week had a better shot at being hired elsewhere, says Varda Konstam PhD, the study’s lead researcher. The key word here is “elsewhere”. The ability to ladle out soup doesn’t mean you’re qualified to work only in a cafeteria. Interviewers are increasingly viewing such basic skills as indicators of broader skill sets. That means serving soup isn’t about serving soup; it shows that you’re good at customer service and work well with others. Try telethons to show off your sales and marketing tactics  or find another opportunity in your area at volunteermatch.org ”

i have seen at least two people in our group end up with really great positions by following this advice. One other note we are more and more seeing ages forty and over with this group. Either they’re the only ones taking the initiative to be part of such group or it’s hitting older workers. I’d be willing to be a combination of both. Any discussion on that would be appreciated we would like to get better in this area and input would be appreciated. Again Happy Thanksgiving and God bless.