Prayer

Asklessness

“If you never ask, the answer is always no.”

The person who made this statement recently was talking to marketers about closing the sale. It got my attention because it also applies to our prayer life.

James said, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2)

More and more I see asklessness as the root of our problems.

True, James also said that we don’t receive because we sometimes ask with the wrong motives … but I’m convinced that the first part of the equation is the bigger obstacle for a good many of us.

The best way to solve this problem is with pen and paper and time spent in solitude.

Write down the things in your life that you have been dealing with on your own, that you have (inexplicably) neglected to pray about.

Then make a decision to bring these matters before the throne every day until they’re resolved.

You and I both know from history that it works.

Why we go through seasons of asklessness is a mystery for the ages.

Moments of Grace

Moments of Grace

Joshua BellIn January 2007 the Washington Post conducted an experiment: What would happen if a world class musician performed elegant classical music on a priceless instrument in the Metro station of a major American city?

The city was Washington D.C.

The musician was Joshua Bell, who can earn upwards of $50,000 for an evening’s performance.

The instrument was a 300 year-old Stradivarius valued at $3.5 million.

The music included the works of Bach and other masters.

The experiment was captured on hidden camera.

So, what happened? How did people respond?

During Mr. Bell’s 45 minute performance, 1097 people passed by. 27 dropped spare change into his open violin case, for a total of $35. And seven of them stopped what they were doing to listen for at least one minute.

The other 1070 people hurried past, oblivious, uninterested, unmoved.

This experiment might offer hope to pastors and teachers who find themselves frustrated at the lack of response their timeless message too often receives.

But we must also ask ourselves: how many times a day does we do the same thing?

How many times do we encounter truth, beauty, and excellence, without giving it a second look? How many messages of hope do we ignore? How many demonstrations of grace do we disregard? How many divine appointments do we overlook?

Ezra wrote these words:

But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage. (Ezra 9:8)

Let’s make an effort to recognize — and fully experience — those brief moments of grace God sends our way.

There were be at least few today. Will you see it?

The Power of a Clean Slate

The Power of a Clean Slate

In the movie Clean Slate, Dana Carvey plays a private detective involved in a murder investigation.

The problem is that he has anterograde amnesia and is unable to remember any details of his life from the day before. So each day, as he wakes up, he listens to a cassette tape reminding him of who he is and why he is here.

Just like Carvey’s character, sometimes it’s easy to forget day-after-day just who the real “you” is.

It’s not a bad idea to pick up his habit — to begin each day with a reminder of who you are and why you are here.

It’s a reminder that you don’t get from a cassette tape machine. You get it from the Word….

Who are you, then?

A child of God. A friend of Jesus. A new creation. Whole and complete. Forgiven. Accepted. Chosen. Renewed. Alive.
And that’s just the beginning.

Each new day is a clean slate, another chance to live the life God called you to live, to be the person he called you to be.

Forget yesterday. Remind yourself today of who you are in Christ, and who Christ is in you.

Let this be your identity. Let this determine who you are and what you do.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:23)

Paganini and One String

Paganini and One String

Niccolo PaganiniA story is told (I first heard it from Chuck Swindoll) about the great violinist Niccolo Paganini, who was performing one evening before a packed concert hall, surrounded by a full orchestra.

As he began the final piece one of the strings on his violin snapped. In his genius, Paganini was able to continue playing the piece on the remaining three strings.

A moment later, a second string snapped. Still, Paganini continued, playing the concerto on the remaining two strings.

And then, a third string snapped, but still Paganini continued. He finished the piece, note for note, with one string on his violin.

When the performance was over, the crowd rose in thunderous applause.

Paganini, ever the humble musician, raised his violin and boldly proclaimed, “Paganini and one string!” He cued the conductor, the orchestra began to play, and he performed his encore, note for note, with one string on his violin.

The time may come when you feel like you’re down to one-string — when your marriage is down to one string, or your financial future is down to one string, or your hope is down to one string … and you know you’re no Paganini.

Here’s the good news.

One string is enough. God’s grace is that amazing. His power is that invincible. His love, that unstoppable.

If you feel like one string is all you have left — and maybe it’s about to snap — it’s time to stop trying to be one-man show. Let God do in your life what only he can do.

As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me. (Psalm 55:16)

Seeking God

The Restless Heart

American author once Iving Kristol said, “Being frustrated is disagreeable, but the real disasters of life begin when you get what you want.”

This is because what we want — or what we think we want — is often not what we really need to lead a fulfilled, meaningful life.

Eventually, the time comes when we realize that the trinket we worked so hard to acquire — or even the goal we sacrificed to reach — doesn’t bring the satisfaction we expected it could.

We then find ourselves asking, as so many have asked, “Is that all there is? Is this as good as it gets?”

Goals will always have a place in our lives, and accumulating possessions will always be part of the human experience, but we serve ourselves best the sooner we understand that these things will never be enough.

We serve ourselves best when we learn to say, as Augustine said, “O Lord, our heart is restless, until it finds its rest in thee.”

Where are you seeking your rest today? In a paycheck? In a relationship? In something you possess?

These may not be bad in and of themselves, but we must also remember that neither are they the finish line. There’s something better, something greater, something more meaningful to seek.

If your heart is restless today, take a moment to re-evaluate what you really want.

Strive today to say as David said, “My soul finds rest in God alone.” (Psalm 62:1)

Give Your Morning to God

Give Your Morning To God

Preaching editor Michael Duduit once asked Warren Wiersbe which one word of encouragement he would like to pass on to other preachers. Wiersbe said…

“Give your morning to God. Start your day with the Lord. Ministry is not what we do as much as what we are…If I didn’t spend time every day with the Lord and let him build me into what he wants, I couldn’t do what he wants. So my word would be that: Cultivate your spiritual roots. Give your morning to God.”

Blank Page

A Blank Page

Doug MarletteDoug Marlette was an editorial artist / cartoonist (creator of Kudzu) whose job, for decades, was to draw a new cartoon every day. He didn’t consider it pressure; he enjoyed it.

He said, “I have learned to love a blank sheet of paper. It braces me with its endless potential.”

Every morning you are given a blank sheet of paper: the new day that lies before you. You can fill the page with whatever you want: holiness, love, praise, service — or criticism, hostility, and bitterness. It’s your choice.

You’re not limited today by what you put on the page yesterday. It’s a new morning — a blank page — filled with new opportunity.

Even if you blew it yesterday, and ten thousand yesterdays before, you still have today. You can fill this day’s page with God’s presence.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:23)