Good Question

I’ve been in my fair share of classrooms, meetings, and training sessions. A common component is the question and answer time at the end. This is the time where people can seek understanding, gain further insight, and ask ridiculously stupid questions. That’s right – I said it. Now the kind, encouraging teacher almost always says, “that’s a good question,” when in fact, sometimes it is NOT a good question. You’ve heard the saying, “there’s no such thing as a bad question.” Well, that’s simply just not true. I’ve heard plenty of bad questions.

I’ve heard plenty of good questions, too. Questions that we were all thinking of, questions with tough answers, questions that help us understand. Those are good questions. Maybe it’s a question asking for advice from someone with wisdom or directions from someone who knows the lay of the land. Good questions. King David asked a good question in 1 Chronicles 14:9-10.

Now the Philistines had come and raided the Valley of Rephaim; 10 so David inquired of God: “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” The Lord answered him, “Go, I will deliver them into your hands.”

David asked the one who knew all the answers: God. He didn’t just knee-jerk go into attack mode on the Philistines; he asked first. Imagine the confidence he had going into that battle, because God had told him to go and that he would win. I’ll take that battle every day. David asked a really good question!

The problem is, I often fight my own battles. I don’t ask God for His input. The result is often the messes I find myself in. Those messes range from unnecessary worry to all out failure, neither of which are desirable. I should be asking good questions to the good God. He knows all the answers!

So join me today. Start asking good questions. Let’s talk to the Lord and find out what He has in store for us before we act.

Unrealistic Expectations

Mom. I’m thirsty. Mom. Mooooom. I’m hungry mom. Mooooooooooooooom. I’m hungry and thirsty.

Sorry son, I don’t have any snacks with me. You’ll just have to wait until we get home. 

But mom. Moooooooooooom. I think I’m going to die of thirst. I need a drink now.

No, you won’t die of thirst. And I can’t get you a drink now, because I don’t have a drink now.

But mom, I’m thirsty.

Dude, you are in the backseat of a car. Not trekking through the Sahara Desert. It can wait.

really thirsty

Sometimes, that’s how it goes. Kids People have unrealistic expectations. Maybe you’ve been put in that kind of a situation. You know, where there’s no actual solution to the problem? Just whining. Moses found himself in a similar spot, too.

Exodus 17:1-2 The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin,traveling from place to place as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the Lord to the test?”

Here’s the situation: there’s no water to drink. None, zip, zilch, nada. No water. But the people demand water. Talk about unrealistic expectations! How in the world can Moses give them water when there’s no water? It’s not possible people! Don’t you see there’s no river nearby? No lake, no spring, nothing. The kids are just going to have to wait until they get home because daddy’s got no water. In fact, don’t talk until we pull into the driveway.  Seems like a fair response to me.

The odd thing is that’s not what Moses did. Even though their request was impossible and their whining unbearable, he did something. He asked God for help. This is huge! I mean, I don’t always think that way. Either there’s water or there’s not. It doesn’t occur to me that maybe God could just make water. If this was multiple choice it would go like this:

A) Yes I have water. Here you go. B) No I don’t have water. Stop asking.

But with God there always seems to be a “C” choice. Like He’ll just produce some water from a rock. Or He’ll take away your thirst. He’s got a solution, I was just too focused on choices A and B and didn’t C it. (You see what I did there?)  Friends, we have got to stop limiting God based on what we think the possible outcomes are. He is bigger than the solutions we can come up with. Unrealistic expectations don’t phase Him. We just need to ask. If we do, He might just point us to a rock that produces water like He did with Moses.

How dudes in delis are like the prayer ministry

1 Timothy 2:8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.

deli workerMany years ago, I had the opportunity to work in a deli. Actually, let me rephrase that: I was assigned to work in the deli. At the time, I was stocking shelves and looking for a promotion. I was hoping for cashier, but they really needed someone in the deli for just a short time. So I would be working there first. A couple of things worth noting… 1. I didn’t enjoy it. 2. It wasn’t a short time.  You should know that at the time, I was in my early twenties and every other worker in the deli was a female not in their early twenties. I can only explain the working atmosphere as uncomfortable. I felt like an alien who didn’t speak the language, didn’t get the jokes, and couldn’t relate to the stories. I was the lone dude in a world of ladies.  (For the record these were good women. I just didn’t fit well in their culture.) And this dude didn’t want to work in the deli!

I’ve noticed another subculture in the church that can often resemble my deli experience. It’s the prayer ministry. Now, before you start writing hate comments, let me explain myself. Our churches are full of faithful, praying women. Ladies, please do not stop praying; you are needed! But prayer teams seem to be lacking men who would find it valuable to seek the Lord. I wonder why that is? Is it because as men we don’t see sitting at the feet of Jesus, basking in His presence, and pouring out our lives as perfume masculine enough? Maybe. Honestly, even typing that sentence made me cringe. But maybe that kind of language is used because men aren’t there to define the language we use.  

1 Timothy 2:8 is a specific charge to men. In this verse, Paul is not speaking about general mankind.  He is talking about MEN.  He is calling men to pray.  He is calling men to lift up holy hands. We are to worship. We are to sing. We are to lift our hands to God. We are to dance… oh wait that escalated quickly. Men everywhere are called to pray! For “everywhere” to happen, every man must take up the call to prayer in his life. Our prayer meetings should be filled with both MEN and WOMEN calling on the name of the Lord.

It’s time to rise up, men of God!

*Have you relegated the ministry of prayer to the women of the church? If you have, it’s time to rise up and take your place. We should be seeing BOTH men and women everywhere praying and lifting holy hands to God.

 

God said what?

Acts 7:4-8 4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.”

wide-eyed-girlI wonder what this time with the Lord was like for Abraham.  It says that God gave him no inheritance, told him his descendants would spend 400 years in slavery, and then said “time for surgery.”  That doesn’t seem like a very good prayer time to me.  God said what!?  When I go to the Lord in prayer, I am hoping for a word of encouragement, something to help me get through my day with vision and purpose.  But maybe I’ve put that time with the Lord in a box.  Because that’s not what God did for Abraham.  He just spoke the truth.

The truth was good, though! It meant that a man with no children would have many descendants.  It meant that God was going to give him a different inheritance.  It meant that he would be a man marked for God’s purpose – a man in whom God made covenant.  Now that’s a different perspective!  Sometimes we wonder what God is up to or don’t understand what He is trying to tell us.  We try to filter His words with our own outlook and it seems like bad news.  Not Abraham – it brought him hope and joy.

What would happen if we prayed differently?  What if instead of handing God a to-do list, we asked Him what He was up to.  What if instead of remaining focused on today’s issues, we let God speak to us about the bigger picture?  As I prayed today, God spoke to me saying, “I want to open your eyes to the bigger things I have for you.  Like Abraham, I have plans that span beyond what is in your reach and even beyond your lifetime.”  It’s impossible to focus on God’s bigger picture when I refuse to look past the circumstances of today.  But like Abraham, I will choose to receive God’s vision for my life.  I will lay down my own ideas and plans in exchange for His.  For I know that the God who created the universe and holds my future is the One who knows best!

The right response to a country’s mess

Joel 1:14 Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.

Israel was in trouble, God wasn’t happy, and locusts were everywhere.  The land was being destroyed and things weren’t getting better.  I bet the economy was a mess, leadership was corrupt, and people were frustrated.  Can you relate to a world like that?  Does it seem that things are falling apart and not getting better?  Are you frustrated with leadership and the direction of your country?  Then form a committee, talk about it on facebook, and complain like crazy!  Wait a minute – I don’t see those instructions in the Bible.

The Word of the Lord came to the people of Israel through the prophet Joel.  He said to cry out to the Lord.  This was the response to bad leadership: Pray.  This is how God told them to respond to locusts that were annihilating their economic growth: Pray.  This is THE solution… pray.  Call God’s people together and cry out to Him.  That’s the answer.  Isn’t that really how God would want us to respond today?  In many ways, America is in the same boat as Israel was in the Old Testament.  We are plagued with broken leadership, economic collapse, and spiritual bankruptcy.  Yet God didn’t tell us to solve those problems by complaining.  He told us to gather together and pray.  Why is that?

I think there are two reasons.  First, He wants us to gather together because He wants to see the church rise up in power.  He has anointed His Body to be the change in this world.  And it can’t happen just by flapping our jaws, it has to happen with our hands and feet.  So we must gather and encourage one another.  We must gather and gain strength.  We must gather and be equipped for the unique calling that God has placed on our lives.  Second, He wants us to cry out to Him because He wants us to see Him as the only answer.  He wants us to acknowledge Him as our only Savior.  And even though many of us are waiting around for our nation’s leaders to depend on Him as their Savior, He wants His people to lead the charge by making Him theirs.  How will you respond to your country’s mess?  I suggest you take Joel’s advice: be the church and pray.  I believe that it is then and only then that we will see change begin to happen.

God just threw up a little

Luke 18:9-14  9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

Jesus told lots of parables, many of which were hard to understand.  This one… not so much.  In fact, this is probably one of Jesus’ more in your face stories.  His audience is arrogant people and he pulls no punches.  The story is about a self-righteous religious guy and a humble sinner.  The religious guy liked to pray about himself:   “Lord, I thank you that I am so awesome.  You have given me so many gifts.  I understand your Word and I have the gift of teaching.  And thank you Lord for making me freakishly good-looking and talented beyond compare.  Make me greater Lord… for Your glory of course.  You are so good, God.”  Uh, I think God just threw up a little.

Some people pray like that.  They use the platform of prayer to flex their religious muscles.  They use prayer to preach and to impress.  They focus on themselves and escalate their spiritual importance.  But Jesus said God wasn’t too fond of that.  God was fond of those who are poor in spirit.  He is fond of the type of prayer that comes out of a heart of humility.  He is interested in those who will cry out to Him in their need.  It is those prayers that He desires to answer.

 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  Think about that statement today.  What camp are you in?  Do you lean toward humility or pride when it  comes to prayer?  Public prayer is not a showcase for your knowledge of Christian language.  It is not an arena for you to talk about yourself.  Here’s the thing: trees don’t have to talk about their fruit, they just produce it.  People will take notice.  Your gifts will be seen, your talents will be used.  And if your heart is humble, God might even get the glory.

 

Knock. Knock.

Luke 11:9-10  “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  

Knock, knock jokes are pretty lame if you ask me.  Although when I was a kid I thought they were amazing.  Remember that annoying kid who would never stop doing the whole knock, knock thing?  At some point, I would stop asking who was there because I didn’t want to hear another lame joke.  But I have to give him credit for knocking.  At least he was persistent.

Jesus told us to be persistent, too.  He even told us to knock.  Because he isn’t going to open the door if you won’t put forth the effort to knock.  That’s how many people treat God, isn’t it?  They just hang out on His front porch expecting Him to do something.  They look in the windows, take a nap on the porch swing, and hope He will show up at some point.  But He wants us to knock.

Jesus said that if we would just ask, it would be given.  If we would just seek, we would find.  If we would just knock, He would open the door.  But we don’t.  We hope God will show up and fix our lives.  We expect Him to speak to us even when we don’t take the time to listen.  Then we get frustrated when he doesn’t.  He would say to us, “Pursue me.  Look for me.  Wait on me. Ask me.”  Will you?  Get specific with God about your need.  Tell Him what it is you need.  Pound on His door and you will find that He will answers.