Prayer and Harry Potter Don’t Mix

prayer Harry Potter

I hope you liked the pic of Harry Potter and the Bible. It helps me illustrate something very important when it comes to prayer in the life of a believer. Some people believe that if you pray the right “incantations” in scripture then you can get what you want as long it was the right length, said with the right tone and said by the right person. Others don’t understand why people even pray because they think that God knows everything anyways so why tell him things he already knows. And still some believe that if you only pray enough then life will go right for you and nothing bad will happen to you. I think all of these definitions are incorrect.

To me prayer is more about reminding us and God of his promises and that we are basing our life off of the truths found in scripture and speaking those things over our lives. Just because a prayer has the right tone to someone and words to make sure that it is fighting the demonic realm at that perfect moment to have the maximum impact is saying that the FORM we use in prayer does something in the Spiritual realm. First of all, that is not Biblical. The Bible teaches the power of prayer is not in US but in Christ who is in us. Our part is to be obedient in praying and trust the results to God. Even though we say believe it is about God’s power we still pray as though we are the ones doing the work and that can get us into real trouble causing unmet expectations in our relationship with God. When we see prayer as a reminder to us, God and even the authority we have over the devil, we use it in a different way.

I am a person that needs reminders for everything. I want to let you in on a secret. Some people who know me say that I have an uncanny knack for remembering names. Although I do think I am natural at remembering people’s names, this doesn’t come without help. In my notes on my phone, I have a note called “names” where I type people’s names I just meet with some interesting piece of information or something that will help me remember them the next time I see them. It has saved me so many times with remembering people’s names that it is not even funny. Prayer is the same way! When I pray I am reminding myself of all the promises that God made to me in scripture and setting my day in a way that says, “God, I want your mind today and let me remember that even though I am trying to become more like you every day, that I ALREADY have all the things I need to be successful today because I follow and trust you.” That takes prayer from a laundry list of “what I need” to “I can do these things” as a reminder of the power of Christ in me.

I am blessed and highly favored in life not because of what I do BUT what I do is a reflection of Christ’s perfection in me. And when that reflection is not as “shinny” as it should be it is probably a reflection of my prayer life and time not spent with God. When I chose to pray I set my mind, heart and gaze for the day on higher things and not just on my earthly situation. Prayers that are REMINDER focused help me put my faith in Christ and his ability to do what he needs to do in me and through me. It also sets precedence with the devil and reminds him of his place in my world and my life. This is also important in when I get in a situation that seems overwhelming I use prayer as a reminder as to how BIG my God is and how little my problem is.

The other important thing to remember with prayer is that we need to not only speak and be obedient but also take time to listen! Prayer needs to be a two way street with God and not us just doing all the talking in the relationship. I truly believe that when we are obedient and spend time in prayer that God will share things with us. For me, as an example, God will just put people on my heart/mind to say a prayer for them. Sometimes I will text them or put it on Facebook to let them know they are getting prayer but sometimes I just pray and don’t say anything. This comes from just taking the time to slow down my day and listen.

When we stop thinking of prayer as a magic incantation and more of an act of obedience that sets our minds on higher things we will be less concerned about the outcome of our prayers and more focused on God’s perfect will in our life. And when we think of prayer as a time to listen as much as we talk then we begin to REALLY build the relationship that God wants us to ultimately have with him.

My Prediction for Virtual Reality…An Even DEEPER Sense of Emptiness

VR image

There was a huge push around Virtual Reality at NAB this year and lots of questions about what the future holds for the technology and its implications in media. It seems like the general consensus is that it will be used in some way to enhance the current viewing audience’s experience with traditional media and not only be a one off experience as it is now. There is no clear path to how those two will work together but people sure are trying hard to make it work. I think more technology is not always a bad thing and can really help people in life on so many levels, but I have something else to consider with VR’s use and our culture.

I believe that the use and implementation of VR in media could possibly lead to an even GREATER sense of emptiness and separation in people’s lives. They will begin to possibly crave the technology more and more to the point of it become their main “fix” for feeling like they are experiencing something that is not actually there. There will be promises of “you don’t need to actually be there to experience ______________________.” Even if people are not willing to admit it, we are a connected people who need interaction with each other and “virtual” reality will never fill that void.

How many times does the devil lie to people and make promises of doing things that will bring happiness and contentment in life only to have it end up being an illusion? The devil will ALWAYS encourage us to be discontent with what we have, who we are or what we do. Discontentment only leads to emptiness because it is focused on what is NOT there instead of what IS there in your life.

This is not only a trap concerning things like cars, houses, technology, etc. It is also a trap in skills, talents and abilities, even in a spiritual sense. We can look at someone else and say, “Man, I wish I could pray like that person. They always know exactly what to say with such meaning. I cant barely put three words together to form a sentence.” The problem with that thinking is that God looks at your HEART and not just the words you share in a prayer. Also, statements like that could possibly have another uncovered hurt associated with it that goes much deeper than just comparing prayers.

The point is that God wants us to be satisfied in who we are and whom he created us to be BUT not just be satisfied in the development of our relationship with him. He wants us to be hungry to know him in a deeper way each day of our lives. Don’t settle for discontentment in who you are and what you have and contentment with knowing God “enough.” Let those things be the opposite today! It is EXACTLY what the devil DOES NOT want for you, so it must be a good thing.

True Contentment In Life…Is Not More Things

I am in Las Vegas this week for NAB and learning about media trends from the people who work around the world to create media and connection for the masses. My focus and heart this week is to hear what is being done and what people see on the horizon for media. I then want to combine those principles with prayer and see what God comes up with to help me move Christian Television along and into the future.  
I am struck with the speed of changing technology and the insatiable desire for humankind to want things faster and more customized to their life even when the newest technology is already out. I firmly believe that this is a result of unhappiness in the human condition without God. Let me explain.  

I love and enjoy technology as much as anyone but I know that I can fall into the trap of needing to have the latest or greatest of whatever gadget, game or app that I currently own. Technology in itself is not a bad thing and can make our lives more productive as well as help us stay connected to family and friends. The issue comes when we are consumed in our minds with dissatisfaction and the technology we own and use. It used to be where technology would change about once a year but now there are not really even any estimates as to how fast things change. That means that even if I have the newest technology right now that it could potentially be out of date by the end of the first week or month that I own it! When my mind is not set on the things I own but the people that I can touch with the love of Jesus around me, then those technological pieces of equipment are only a means to an end and not a destination. I cannot talk for others but can only say for myself that I have fallen into the trap of wanting what I don’t have more times that I can count.  

The problem with wanting what you don’t have is that you make your thoughts about YOU and not about reaching others. We were not created to only serve ourselves and it is interesting to hear comments at NAB about companies that are standing out from the crowd because they are helping people feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. For example, a company called Warbly Parker competes with Lens Crafters in the world of eye glasses. An important but overlooked sales technique is that they donate money to developing countries for every pair of glasses purchased.. Because people feel like they are giving to something bigger than themselves they decide to spend their money with that company. What people don’t know is that their giving towards developing countries in that way is only a reflection of their creator.  

Today, take an inventory of what you are pursuing in life. Maybe it is a new car, house or some temporary thing on this earth and in proper perspective, that is fine. But when we desire or value the newest/best and not people we realize there are no amount of “things” that can fill our lives to make us feel content. A life with Jesus is a life looking at how we can be a blessing to others and using the technology/things we have to accomplish that task. 

Aaron Hernandez and Broken Reasoning

tebow-hernandez1
Reading about Aaron Hernandez’s death today made me think of where he had come from, his rise and eventual fall in the sports world and his personal life. I found this picture of Tim Tebow and Aaron Hernandez when they played together at the University of Florida. I am not sure that many people remember the two winning a national championship together for the Gators and the talent that they both showed on the field in front of millions. Two men, who had everything to live for but because of personal decisions, had lives that went in very different directions.

Whether it is said or not, I believe people see the actions of others and label them as “good” or a “trouble maker” immediately which helps to encourage those people to live in that box created by the world around them. I am not saying that good or bad decisions don’t have consequences, but that God sees us ALL as equal. Each of us make mistakes at times in life but the key is what we do to correct patterns that are destructive versus things that lead to a fulfilled life. We all have the ability to reach out to God and seek direction. There is not a SINGLE person on this earth that is predisposed to make decisions like Aaron made in life. People have potential to make a turn around in life from negative decisions keeping in mind that the decisions people make will define the kind of life they make for themselves. That is why we need God’s help making those good decisions that not only benefit us but those around us.

When you think about it, our lives are just a series of decisions each moment we are alive. The question is not if we are going to make poor decisions in this life but what will we do the moment after that poor decision is made. Or, when something bad happens to us what do we do with that opportunity? Will we continue down a path of bad decisions as Aaron did, or will we reach out to God and begin to make investments in our relationship with Jesus? I can remember all the times of despair when I was sick and the mind games the devil would play with me causing me to sometimes give in and get discouraged and hate God because of my situation. I created a pattern of losses in my life because I reasoned that God was not honoring my holy and righteous actions in life and that I didn’t deserve the pain I was in. The fact is, pain in life is a fact whether it is something that happens to us or something we bring on ourselves.

Poor decisions in life are a result of broken reasoning. This is not something religious or non-religious but from a place of what makes sense to us personally. Aaron Hernandez being accused of shooting someone because he spilled a drink on him at a nightclub was a poor decision but that decision was based on broken reasoning. So his reasoning was that if someone does something to make him angry that they need to be shot. This is a textbook example of broken reasoning leading to poor decisions and his eventual hopelessness that lead to suicide. Asking God to take control of our lives is an exercise is asking God to help us make good decisions. That is why the Bible is such an instrumental tool of wise decision-making. Forgive your neighbor. Turn the other cheek. Love one another even as you are loved. Basically, to love and know God with all your heart and love the people put in your path.

Consider the love of God today. Think about the power you have to turn your life over to him and ask him to help you start to make good decisions instead of bad ones. It is NEVER too late to start making good decisions. Such an amazing thought that God doesn’t label us based on what we do. God has NEVER been mad at us a day in our lives. He is certainly disappointed when we make poor decisions but not mad at what we do.

I pray for Aaron Hernandez’s family and his young daughter. I pray for the family who was affected by Aaron’s actions and maybe feel like Aaron killing himself robbed them of justice. I pray for those people who will post things on social media and make light of or think it is a joke that he killed himself. I pray for those people who have developed a reputation that they want to change but feel like they can’t. We have time on this earth to make good decisions and that includes maybe giving Jesus a chance to help guide and direct us from a place of victory and not defeat. It is time to allow God to fix your reasoning so you can begin to make good decisions in life.

The Devil’s Greatest and Worst Moment…All in 72 Hours

Crying Satan 2
All the assumed wins that ended in failures through the years setting him up for the “big one”. All the times in the Old Testament where he had been on the path to victory but God stepped in and took control. He started in the garden tempting Eve and continued through the Old Testament time after time. There was the time on Mt. Carmel where Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal and had a showdown that ended in a loss. There was the time the Philistines had captured the Ark and thought they were going to start a winning streak against God’s people. Only to have it cause terror and tumors with the Philistines who came in contact with it only to be returned WITH OFFERINGS. So many apparent victories that ended up in utter defeat from Moses, to David to Saul. The list goes on and on.

Then Jesus came on the scene. The stage was set for the “biggie” of failures for the Devil and a crippling loss of power he had in the lives of humans. Jesus was on the earth for thirty years before his official ministry began but he was already known as a young man who spoke with authority in the synagogue. When John the Baptist baptized Jesus and he was sent in to the desert to be tempted that was where it all started to unravel for the devil. Temptations of hunger, protection and fame were all thwarted and so began the frustration. This weekend is Easter, which formally started with Good Friday, the best night of the devil’s existence. He was finally going to get his revenge. For being kicked out of heaven, the humiliations through the years of God coming through for his people and it was all coming down to this one moment. Jesus’ final breath on the cross and the words “It is finished” brought a sigh of relief to the devil. I am sure the smile that came over his face could not be contained and the celebration ringing through hell was boisterous and arrogant.

Then came Sunday. I can only imagine how defeated the devil felt when his master plan of trying to eliminate Jesus on earth ultimately and completely failed. When the stone was rolled away and Jesus was resurrected back to life like after what was like a three-day nap. And to add insult to injury, it says in 1 Corinthians 15 that over 500 people saw Jesus before his return to heaven! Not only did Jesus overcome death but he took a victory lap to encourage those people who were going to stay on earth to carry the message of not only his power but his love and compassion for people that needed to know him.

I share all of these words to help you understand the authority you have when you accept Jesus into your heart and make him the leader of your life. You have that same power over death and hell and access to God to share your heart and take authority over any earthly situation. This is not a guarantee of everything happening in life the way you want it to but when you understand that God has it all under control then your worry can subside and you can rest in his power and ability. It is also a reminder of how brief our life on this earth is and that we can have a hope of heaven when we die in addition to guidance, direction and purpose for life now.

Have a great Easter weekend and always remember; the devil lost, Jesus won and you have access to that very same power. I have mentioned this before, but it says in Matthew 7:7 that if you seek God you will find him. It can start with a simple prayer that says, “Jesus, I need you “ and maybe a trip to your local Bible-based church to see what this Jesus thing is all about. Or maybe it is time for you to come home, and even when you read this you know exactly what I mean. Have a great weekend and Happy Easter!! JESUS IS ALIVE!!

Pastors & Ministry Leaders: A Few Keys To Help Guard Your Heart and Life

Pastor Caution Sign
I just read an article about the pastor of a large church here in Denver and the apparent revelation of an affair. News like this always rocks me and makes me very sad for the body of Christ. Below are some of my thoughts for people in full time ministry or who consider themselves a ministry leader, especially those who are married. My wife and I have been in ministry over twenty years and feel like I have a few observations that could help a pastor/leader who will be tempted by the devil on a regular basis.

You are not above a moral failure
First and foremost, when a person in leadership hears about another leader who has had some kind of moral failing, the first thing to do is pray for them and realize that NO ONE is above falling to temptation. When you realize that you are as vulnerable as anyone else in the world then you begin to put the elements below in place to keep your eyes focused on Jesus.

Firewalls
My dad is a mechanic so I have been around cars my whole life. If you didn’t know, there is a very important part of every car that could save your life if your engine ever caught fire. It is called the “firewall” and separates the engine compartment from the rest of the vehicle. It is made of reinforced metal and fire retardant material to help shield passengers from fire and is an INTENTIONAL element of every vehicle. I have multiple firewalls in my life including my best friend and my wife who are allowed to randomly ask me how I am doing in my mind and actions. Not just sexually, but in financial dealings and just to help me stay on track in life, especially being in television ministry. Now, I can always lie and tell them everything is fine when it may not be, but if I do that I am endangering myself with relationships in my life. That would basically be the equivalent of taking a hacksaw to the protective element of a car and opening myself up to danger. Something important to realize is that accountability is only as good as the desire to WANT to be held accountable. That “want” comes from value we put on our marriages, our ministry and ourselves.

If you are married, wear your wedding ring
One of the easiest ways to help deter advances from anyone, if you are married, is to wear your dang wedding ring. This is not a hard and fast rule, because people can be so unhappy or broken in life that they wouldn’t care if you were wearing your wedding tux or dress and carrying around a crystal framed picture of your spouse, they would still make a pass at you. Wearing your ring shows intentionality in your relationship to your spouse. If for nothing else, it can be a reminder to the vow you made when you are being tempted in some way. If you don’t like wearing rings then get a tattoo of one on your ring finger or get a gel ring or use a twisty tie. Now there are times where you will not have a ring on. For me it is when I go shooting, hiking or running. The point is that when you make an effort to wear your ring, you don’t know how that can help deter someone from making advances. Again, it is not fool proof but everything helps.

If you are married, have a great, honest sex life
I truly believe that one of the main issues that trip up married people in ministry is their sex life. You also notice that I didn’t just say “great” sex life but added the word “honest” as far as communication with your spouse. Men, you need to let your wife know that sex is important (if it is) and come up with an agreement on how much sex you will have. Women, you need to be honest with your husbands about your sexual needs as well and if either of you feel like you have a low sex drive or are losing the desire for sex. When you are honest about things like this, you are making sure that your sexual needs are met in the context of marriage and not leaving a door open for someone else to fulfill that need that was only and always meant to be enjoyed in the context of marriage. I know that for Yolanda and me, just being busy in life can be a main factor in disrupting a healthy sex life. The key is COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION!

Be Careful about Movies/Entertainment you Watch
I am always astounded at the number of church/ministry leaders who go to movies (that can be easily checked online for content) that have nudity in them. You need to evaluate the desire for entertainment in your life and at what cost. Everything you watch, even on television, needs to be evaluated and screened as far as where it encourages your mind to go. I am not saying that watching a movie with nudity will keep you out of heaven but actually something just as bad. It can cause your mind to wander and be tempted to do something with someone that will tear down what you are called to do on this earth to help people see Jesus in and through you. Essentially, becoming a stumbling block to someone else and standing in the way of them developing a relationship with Jesus. We need to do everything we can to mitigate entertainment that causes us to have a wandering mind sexually. The world we live in is not getting better with sexual content in movies and television and actually getting worse. The choices we make about entertainment is not trying to prove that we are more spiritual than anyone else, but protecting the things we see and hear that fully shape who we are and how we act.

Again, none of these are magical rules for life but just common sense suggestions to help secure a healthy and happy marriage in ministry. Because ministry is about people and dealing with vulnerable moments for them, it is important that we live an INTENTIONAL life in the area or moral purity. Temptation will ALWAYS be around us as long as we walk this earth, but we always have a choice to prioritize our lives and decide what we are willing to protect on a daily basis.

I had some GREAT advice today from a friend about diffusing gossip with someone. When people bring you some juicy morsel of information you can stop that person and say, “Wow. You really care a lot about that person. Have you tried to call them yet and pray with them?” I thought that was a great way to keep in context why people are sharing information that can only be construed as destructive and not constructive.

Praying for you all and the great work you do to help people walk this life to reflect Jesus. Keep fighting the good fight and make sure that you value the right things in life and guard them with all your heart.

Why Birding is Just Like Listening To God

Bee Eater
(This pic is of a Bee Eater…eating a Bee that Yolanda took on our trip to Nepal last year)

Yolanda and I went “birding” over the weekend. If you don’t know what “birding” is, it’s finding a place that birds hang out, getting a decent camera and/or binoculars, and walking around trying to see or take pictures of the rarest ones you can find. The key is to go out looking with the realization that you may not see anything or you may hit the jackpot and see a ton of them. Yolanda has gotten some amazing (and I mean AMAZING) pictures from all the places we have been. It is like every bird is just waiting for our car to pull up and then they have a little bird fight to see who gets to fly in front of her camera and get shot (in a good way).

When I go, I am mainly going to support her but I also feel like it is an intentional time of not talking about work (because you are supposed to be quiet and not talk) and for some exercise. I have to admit, I get just about as excited as she does to see an owl or another rare breed. But for me, it is more about just getting out and getting away from the grind of life.

When you are birding it is very important that you remember a simple recipe for success. No matter how far you walk or where you go looking for birds, you need to occasionally stop, look up and listen. You can be out walking around and a great bird can be in the tree next to you but if you don’t stop, look up and listen then you will probably miss a great opportunity.

It is the same with listening to God. I can get so busy in life with my “walk” with Jesus that I can forget sometimes in life to just “stop, look up and listen” for things that God may want to share with me. I am a firm believer that God is always speaking to us and willing to be found but we are the ones who need to learn to slow down in life sometimes and be willing to wait on God and his voice.

Sometimes I can intentionally “stop, look up and listen” with God and I don’t hear a peep (get it? Haha) If I am consistently stopping, looking, and listening for Him I raise my chances of hearing something from God AND I train myself to learn that it is not even always about the grand revelation that God would share with me. I think the peaceable life that God teaches about in the Bible is 20% Spiritual and 80% just learning to shut up and listen. Listening to others. Listening to those who love us and want to bring Godly correction or even God speaking himself to us.

I know that going birding has taught me more than just the importance of not talking, which I still fail at regularly. It has taught me that the world around me will let me “run” in life as fast as I want, even to the point of burnout. If I am not taking time out of life to just BE and not try and DO, I will allow the world to dictate the pace of my life and not God. When I intentionally put the brakes on and take time to enjoy nature AND use that time to listen to what God has to say, I take back control of my life and essentially put myself on God’s time.

I use birding to slow down my life and shut up. What do you use? When trouble hits in life the peace we find in those times of quietness and listening to God will be a foundation to help get you through. Think today about what you do to change pace and “stop, look up and listen.”