One Prayer Most Christians Don’t Say

At 10:30am I finally sit down on my bed, open my Bible and ask God to speak to me from His word. I had a full day of accomplishment. I worked out for an hour and made a new friend at Planet Fitness. I started drafting an e-mail newsletter and had an hour-long conference call with a client about a marketing project. I landed a ghostwriting contract and posted my stories for tomorrow. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep because of an unsatisfied crave.

Crave is an urgent desire that must be satiated. This could be a good thing if you crave healthy, good-for-your-soul food, music or books. Or a crave can drive you to do things you would never think of doing such as selling yourself for drugs. Either way, God has put in our soul a desire that only He can fulfill.

I dutifully read my assigned readings following the ‘read through your Bible’ in a year plan. And then suddenly, three scriptures kept commanding my attention. I wrote them down. I journaled my thoughts and tried to go to sleep. I couldn’t.

Several scriptures convicted me to the core. I bolted upright and imagined King David in his might and glory penning these words. He was the one who slayed tens of thousands, commanded armies, caused a pagan queen to cross an ocean and a continent because of his renown.

An emperor and heroic commander penned these words that pierced my soul:

With your hand you drove out the nations
    and planted our ancestors;
you crushed the peoples
    and made our ancestors flourish.
It was not by their sword that they won the land,
    nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
    and the light of your face, for you loved them. (Psalm 44: 2-3)

God’s right hand, His arm and the light of His face brought victory.  David declares:

You are my King and my God,
    who decrees[c] victories for Jacob.
Through you we push back our enemies;
    through your name we trample our foes.
6 I put no trust in my bow,
    my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies,
    you put our adversaries to shame.
In God we make our boast all day long,
    and we will praise your name forever.[d] (Psalm 44: 4-8)

David’s source of might was God’s right hand and His arm and the light of His face.  David’s accomplished his mighty exploits because he had an intimate, hand to hand, arm to arm, face to face, touch to touch, breath to breath relationship with God. He was utterly dependent on God.

I was convicted of how much I depend on myself and my own strength, might, connections and smarts to get done what I need to get done. I can get A LOT done WITHOUT God. I was terrified by my own independence.

I repented of depending on my own strength. I laid down my giftedness, my skills, my talents and connections. I asked Him to teach me how to depend on Him. I laid down my sword and trust in myself.

I don’t hear Christians saying this prayer because we don’t like depending on anyone. We celebrate independence and the self-made millionaire who doesn’t need anyone. We don’t want to need anyone or count on someone.

I’m immersed in a world chasing likes and shares as an editor of an online publication and social media manager. We want our video or our post to go viral. We want fame, fortune and popularity and we can deceive ourselves into thinking we will use this for God’s glory.

The chase for likes and shares creates pressure to hype or manipulate information to get people to read your post or share your video. We become a prisoner of our own hype. God’s victory doesn’t depend on my fame, fortune or hype. Winning God’s way comes by relationship alone.

A friend of mine at the International House of Prayer Kansas City told me how he quit writing for several years to get to know God. His relationship with God was more valuable then his journalistic ability.  I tried to imagine myself not doing what I’m good at for several years to seek God. Frankly I don’t see how I could do that because my family financially depends on my writing and business. God knows my situation and He has opened doors to people I would have considered 10 years ago out of my league.

The prayer coursing in my soul is to know how to depend on Him. To know victory by His right hand, right arm and the light of His face. A win that comes from a touch-to-touch, breath-to-breath walk with the living God.  A win that doesn’t come from my own ability to wield the sword or my talent to shoot the bow.  But a win or victorious season from hearing and responding to Him.

 

What Churches Can Learn From the United Airlines Debacle

United Airlines has lost $1.4 billion, been the subject of countless memes and outrage on the social media after a video of a forcible removal of 69-year-old David Dao went viral. United CEO Oscar Munoz initially applauded his staff’s handling of the ‘belligerent’ passenger and then reversed his position to an apology to the passenger after the company lost $250 million.

The airline was overbooked and offered 800 sky miles to passengers who would voluntarily give up their seat for four United Airlines crew members who had to get to Louisville, KY. Dr. Dao considered giving up his seat until he learned that the earliest he could get on another flight would be the next day. He told airline staff that he needed to get back to work. You would have thought the airline staff would have just picked another willing passenger or increased the incentive.

Instead, airline staff called airport security who dragged Dr. Dao off the plane. Dr. Dao’s nose was broken and he was hospitalized after the incident. United CEO initially said Dr. Dao was belligerent and out of control. Really? Would you get belligerent and out of control Mr. Munoz if you were forced to get off the plane when you paid for the ticket and went through the security procedures?

Mr. Munoz and his staff at United Airlines failed to see that their system or policy created their problem. The message sent to customers is: #1 Our employees are more important than you; #2 Your plans, your health condition and commitments don’t matter to us. In fact, you don’t matter to us because we have a policy we need to adhere to. #3 Our policy is a priority, not the customer.

Here are some lessons churches can learn from this crisis that erupted within hours.

Don’t call the person the problem. Demonizing customers as being belligerent when your system created the rebellion is a common tactic for clueless people in authority. Stock prices drop and everyone else can see that your system or structure is wrong but you continue to justify the policy by blaming the customer. I’ve seen this scenario play out over 20 years of being in different churches where attendance spirals.

In one church that I attended, over half of the members left in one year. Some of them left for legitimate reasons such as moving to another city for a better job. But I soon learned why their was a massive exodus. The church was anti-women working outside of the home which mystified me because one of my best girlfriends had a very thriving home-based business.

I was made to feel like their was something wrong with me because I worked outside of the home. In face one of the leaders that I asked for help with a troubled niece told her that I was a bad parent because I worked outside of the home. That piece of advice for a troubled teen just made things worse for us.

The church was hemorrhaging members because of this tactic of saying the member is the problem instead of trying to help them.

Say your sorry. United Airlines CEO Dan Munoz said he was sorry after the company lost $250 million and the social media outrage that sparked disapproval from President Donald Trump, and a host of government officials and high-profile celebrities. The apology is suspect and prevailing public opinion speculates that he apologized after being caught. An aviation lawyer representing Dr. Dao says he wasn’t impressed by the apology. “I thought it was staged,” Thomas Demetrio said at a press conference.

Apparently most people think it was staged as well. If Munoz would have apologized to Dr. Dao in the beginning instead of calling him belligerent, the scenario would have been much different. Munoz chose to protect a broken system instead of reaching out to someone who was broken by it.

If your system created the problem, fix it. Dr. Dao was kicked off because of an industrywide practice of ‘overbooking.’ Common sense dictates you would let Dr. Dao stay on the plane and pick a willing passenger instead of forcing Dr. Dao off the plane. I understand that overbooking system benefits consumers. That message of how overbooking benefits consumers didn’t play into this because of the inhumane application of this practice in Dr. Dao’s situation. United Airlines legastically adhered to this practice instead of executing it with kindness and humanity.

Now that the video of Dr. Dao being dragged off the plane has generated public outrage, the U.S. Department of Transportation is investigating the incident. This incident is forcing the travel industry to re-examine this practice. I hope they listen to their customers and fix it.

The church hemorrhaging members shut down and was absorbed into a larger church which was a smart move. The pastors and I have reconciled since then and we are friends today. I respect them for their honest assessment that the church needed to be absorbed into another thriving ministry. They also apologized to me right after those incidents.

Sometimes you need to tweak your system or shut it down if it is not producing good fruit. Churches can learn so much from the United Airlines fiasco. The bottom line is to treat people with kindness, humility, love and mercy. The system should not dictate how you treat someone but your faith and value of people should be the standard. When your system is flawed, fix it. Don’t blame the people, fix the system.

Other excellent posts I recommend for this issue:

Why United’s PR Disaster Didn’t Fly by Michael Hyatt

United Airlines and the Firestorm of Social Media by Phil Cooke

Why Christians Need to Stop Silly Fights

“What are the benefits of public school,” a person asked on Twitter.

I answered, “You learn how to get along with people who are different from you.”

Instantly without any notice I was ambushed on Twitter by home schoolers who thought I said ‘home-schooling is Satanic.’ I said nothing about home-schooling. I answered a question about public school.

Unfortunately I innocently stepped into the middle of a conversation launched by a blogger pitching his pro-home school post. The Christian blogger had an agenda and he used me to launch his crusade against public school. I quickly bowed out of this accidental argument and called out the blogger’s agenda.

The home-school versus public school is one of those silly fights Christians tend to get into in the name of God. My friend Lee Grady posted an article about how Christians misuse the Bible. One way we pervert the Bible is when we attack each other with scriptures. We think we’re defending God’s honor and the truth when we’re justifying our position at our friend’s expense.

The home-school versus public school is one of the many silly wars we fight. I’ve seen these battles as well:

  • Moms with children who work outside of the home versus moms with children who stay at home
  • Purposefully single versus marrieds
  • Purposefully childless couples versus marrieds with children

And the list goes on and on. I was in a church where the pastor’s wife wanted to debate me about my decision to work outside of the home. My mom just died and I had a baby. I was not in the mood for an open debate about my decision to work.

I respectfully told the pastor’s wife that the decision to work was between me and God and my husband. We believed the job was a financial blessing and my children were being taken care of. “I think you’ve crossed some boundaries here,” I said.

A week later she called crying and repenting for her mistake. I was thankful she responded but my guard was up in that relationship. That was the beginning of the end for me for that church.

While I’m a firm believer in seeking wisdom and counsel from respected, trusted leaders, I believe these issues, among many, are between you and God:

  • Taking birth control
  • Have kids or not have kids
  • Get married or stay single
  • How you date
  • Where you live
  • What you do for a living
  • How you spend your money
  • How you decide to educate your child

Some people can’t afford to send their child to a private Christian school or lose income from a working adult. Instead of judging them for their decision to send their child to a public school, why not pay their way to a private Christian school? Paying for their tuition is a more constructive way of addressing your conviction about private Christian education instead of berating the parent for subjecting their child to the ‘liberal agenda.’

Christians who fight silly wars are at-risk for breaking this scriptural guideline for relationships:

Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.[a] If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.  God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

Who are you to judge your neighbor because….

  • They send their child to a public school
  • They home-school
  • He/she doesn’t want to get married
  • He/she doesn’t want to have children
  • He/she wants to have a big family
  • She has children and doesn’t want to work
  • She has children and wants to work
  • He/she drives an expensive sports car or an older vehicle
  • He/she is a different race, gender or economic class

Who are you to judge?

Instead of judging, let’s love by praying and caring for one another. Let’s fight for another, stand with another and respect each other’s decision. Help an overwhelmed parent. Bring a meal. Take care of their kids. Celebrate life!

Tell me about a silly war you may have accidentally stepped into.

 

Bridging the Racial Divide in the Church

racism-church

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,

“It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

Progress is slow on racial reconciliation in this country, particularly given recent events. But why do lingering divisions exist in the Church, the very communities built on the promise of forgiveness and reconciliation? Finding racial unity in a congregation is a complex task that requires a deep recognition of racial differences in how Christians understand and practice their faith. In a recent study that builds upon our research on racial tension and the Black Lives Matter movement, Barna examined the divergent ways in which black and white Christians approach discipleship, individually and collectively, revealing insights that may contribute to the realization of King’s dream of an unsegregated hour of worship.

What Is Spiritual Progress?
The term “spiritual progress” is open to interpretation, and when asked to define it, differences in perspectives begin to emerge between black and white Christian leaders Black Christian leaders are more likely to describe the process of spiritual progress as “spiritual maturation” (31%), while white Christian leaders prefer the phrase “spiritual growth” (21%). The language of “maturation” implies more of an internal transformation and the development of wisdom through life experience, whereas the word “growth” tends to suggest an approach that entails reaching key milestones.

When both groups define “discipleship,” white believers are more likely to refer to it as a “process of learning to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, seeking to observe all that Jesus commanded, by the power of the Holy Spirit and to his glory.” Black Christians instead commonly refer to it as “The process of transformation that changes us to be increasingly more like Christ through the Word, the Spirit, and circumstance.” For black Christians, spiritual progress tends to focus more on life experience rather than achieving goals, about maturing into a Christ-like character as they weather life’s storms. Read more.

The 21 Questions to Ask Yourself

21-questions-to-ask-yourself

 

I ripped this list off Ed Gandia’s podcast directed towards high income business writers. This was such a good podcast that I listened to it 3 times when I worked out. Answering these questions will help you frame your direction and attitude for 2017. I’m going to work through this list. I encourage you to work through it with me by answering these questions for yourself.

The first question is: What am I most proud of this year? I would have to say that what I’m most proud of is the effort I took to connect with a whole world that I didn’t know existed a year ago. I’m a mother of a daughter with special needs and fought feelings of being isolated and alone in my fight for her dignity and spiritual growth. I took a step out of my isolation to meet a group of moms of special needs children at Grace Church.

This group of moms play bunco once a month through out the year. The ‘bunco’ moms group have been a lifeline of encouragement, exhortation and advice for me. They have connected me with a ton of resources for helping my daughter with special needs.

I’m also most proud that I made her faith and well being a greater priority in 2016. D’Andra is 14-years-old and has had a rough first semester at her new high school. There were times I wanted to tune everything out and ignore her struggle. But my new friend, Georgia who I met through the Bunco game night, and many other moms of special needs children, pointed me to other resources or people to talk to about my issues.

I had no idea that assistance was available for me to help with my daughter’s issues from the Down syndrome Guild and other organizations. The more I learn about her challenges, the better equipped my husband, Jerome and I become to help her. I’ve learned to look at challenges unflinchingly and unashamed with bold, tenacious faith.

I made some dramatic changes to help her such as joining a local community center with a heated pool. She loves to swim and this has helped her deal with her stress. I’m also looking for a Special Olympics team for D’Andra to join since I just discovered that she likes to kick a soccer ball. D’Andra may be the one who inherited her dad’s athletic genes. Jerome was a track star on his way to the Olympics in college.

So what I’m proud of is admitting my weakness and pushing myself out of isolation to find other moms in the same battle for their child’s dignity and well being.

What are you most proud of from 2016?

The Surprising Way God Sees Success

Yesterday I was driving and I asked my 18-year-old son Alex what does he think Jesus looks like. While he was thinking of an answer, I told him what I thought Jesus looked like. “I think Jesus is an unassuming, ordinary Arab or Jewish man. I don’t see Jesus as a Hollywood glam hunk but someone that we would be blown away by the ‘ordinariness’ of his appearance. I think of Jesus as someone who could have been easily overlooked or dismissed until he got on the religious leaders radar when he started teaching in the temple. I think of Jesus as a short Jewish man with thick curly black hair.

Jesus is the pinnacle of success yet consider that he never owned a home, never married or owned a business. His very life contradicts our worldly idea of success. Of course He was the son of God and could have called down angels anytime yet He lived on earth in His fully humanity.

I told my son that I’m concerned how obsessed our Christian culture is with worldly success. Prosperity preaching entwined with American Christianity can make you feel ashamed for having a job and trying to make ends meet. I’ve even heard ministers preach that your house or car is an indication of your faith. I’ve always been appalled when I hear this because what do you say to the Chinese Christians who lose everything for the cause of Christ or Christians being persecuted for their faith whose homes are taken? Does that mean they don’t have faith because they lost everything for the sake of the Gospel?

Another person who lost everything – his identity, his family and his wealth was Joseph in the Bible. Despite his brothers selling him into slavery, God was still with Joseph.

“When Joseph was taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelite traders, he was purchased by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer. Potiphar was captain of the guard for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served in the home of his Egyptian master. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph, giving him success in everything he did.” Genesis 39: 1-3

Joseph was a piece of property in the eyes of Egypt yet this did not stop God from being with Him and blessing Him. A slave who owned nothing and not even his own life, was called a success by God.

Joseph’s fortunes end when Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph of rape. Joseph is sent to prison and God follows him there.

Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained. But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.” Genesis 39:19-23

Joseph is a slave and a prisoner and yet God calls him a success. Joseph didn’t own a mansion or have millions of dollars or a following. Joseph had God.

What God calls success is a slave who can influence his master with his relationship with God. An influencer who has a relationship with God which impacts their boss’s business or makes life better for those around them, is a success according to God. You don’t have to own a mansion and be a high-powered CEO or famous celebrity.

You can be a slave and be a success.

You can be a WalMart cashier and be considered a success by God.

You can be a stay at home mom and considered a success by God.

Success is having God with you. When God is with you, you have everything.

Don’t let American culture dictate your definition of success. Set the Bible as your barometer of a successful life.

(Disclaimer: I was influenced by Kris Valloton’s message called “Cultivating Prophetic Families” where he mentions Joseph’s life.)

Stop Yelling And Start Listening

by Ben Woodward

workerviolence

The election here in the U.S. is finally over. At least we thought it was. Half the country was disappointed and the other half rejoiced. Democracy happened. But then began the protests. And the riots. And the walkouts.

And all of a sudden we began to wonder – what the heck is going on? Is this really what democracy looks like? Are people really sore losers? Are the winners really gloating like that?

I get it. People have a right to be upset if they “lost” and happy if they “won”. People have a right to protest if they disagree. But it feels like there is something deeper going on that goes far beyond the election. People are in pain and they don’t know what to do about it. Read the rest of the post here.