11 Prayers for 9/11

911-memorialIn this life, there are villains and there are heroes. In the next life, God will sort them out. Until then, I pray this promise over our towns and cities and farmlands, over our families and neighbors and friends — over this incomparable land of the free and home of the brave:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV).
  1. I pray for FREEDOM, that we might live our lives as unique individuals, free to express our  talents and passions without hindrance from government, that freedom of speech and religion would go unrestrained, and that the liberating gospel of Christ might flow unobstructed to people who walk in darkness all around the world.
  2. I pray for RIGHTEOUSNESS, that a life of wholeness and joy would become the inheritance of my children and my children’s children and their children after them.
  3. I pray for BOLDNESS, that our land would roar like lions for that is true and right and good, and not bleat like sheep for a false and fleeting security.
  4. I pray for PEACE, that we would live quiet lives with mutual respect, neighbor for neighbor and nation for nation.
  5. I pray for WISDOM, that we would quit bashing ourselves against God’s unbreakable truth, and that the Word of God would truly become  a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
  6. I pray for JUSTICE, that the Divine Hand would restrain and strike down evil wherever it is found.
  7. I pray for REPENTANCE, that God would break our hearts over a callous disregard for the sanctity of each human life, and over any willingness to build our lives on the sweat of our neighbor’s brow.
  8. I pray for HONOR, that we would love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and that both would flow from a sense of human dignity as created in the image of God.
  9. I pray for REVIVAL, that the people of God would be so transformed by the grace of God that an onlooking world would be smitten with Calvary’s love and flow into the family of God.
  10. I pray for PROSPERITY, that no one would go to sleep hungry or cold, and that great enterprise of world evangelization will flow from our land like a mighty river, leading millions to faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, and transforming nations into bastions of liberty and wholeness.
  11. I pray for HOPE, that the darkness of this present world would extinguish neither the preciousness of this life nor the incomparable promise of a coming life, in which there are no more sorrows and no more tears.

Lord, comfort this ache in our hearts today, and heal our land. God Bless the USA.

Through Christ, our Lord,

Amen.

Closure from Past Guilt and Shame

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[This is an excerpt from Secrets to a Happy Life, based on the story of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph's brothers at long last bow before him, not realizing his identity...]

When the brothers made the epic trek to Egypt, they stood before the Prime Minister to buy grain. He just happened to be their long-lost, mortally-offended brother. Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn’t recognize him.

This made for all kinds of comical irony.

The Bible describes four cycles in their conversation, and it wasn’t good. Joseph initiated each cycle with an accusation:

  • Genesis 42:7 “he spoke roughly to them.”
  • Genesis 42:9 “he said to them, ‘You are spies!'”
  • Genesis 42:12 “He said to them, ‘No but you have come to spy out the land!'”
  • Genesis 42:14 “And Joseph said to them, ‘It is as I have told you, you are spies…'”

What was going on?

God was slapping them upside the head with a life-defining truth: the greatest disaster that can ever happen to a human being is settling into a lifestyle beneath your true identity.

So, in his mercy, God freezes his children before the mirror of truth and bids us take a long hard look. What might you see?

  • Deception, conniving, a false front
  • Bitterness, resentment, an unforgiving heart
  • Revenge, passive-agressiveness
  • Evil, cruelty, meanness, abuse
  • Selfishness, narcissism, self-justification, self-promotion
  • Broken relationships
  • Theft, greed, coveting, grasping, pleonexia
  • Slander, backbiting, gossip
  • Plotting
  • Rebellion
  • Pride, self-righteousness, religiosity, judgmentalism
  • Exclusivity, racism, sexism
  • Hypocrisy
  • Woundedness, neediness, desperation
  • Temper, rage, seething hostility
  • Self-pity, self-loathing, self-destruction
  • Despair, quitting, giving up

Welcome to the human race: you have baggage.

When you deny it, your baggage defines you.

easter2010baggageWhen you admit it, your identity in God begins to define you.

God has a place for all that baggage: at the foot of the cross where Jesus died. Leave it there. Let it go. Because Jesus will carry it far away over the ocean of God’s forgiveness and drop it into the depths of forgetfulness.

Your past need never haunt you again. It doesn’t define you. It need not dominate you. Yes, there might be consequences – lasting and difficult – but they do not change your identity in Christ. You are who God says you are, no matter what the evils, losses, traumas, and bullies from the past say about you.

Until you shed the false identity crusting over your true self, your glorious true identity stays mired in the dirt.

Because of Christ’s Cross, closure for past guilt is your birthright in the family of God.

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[as always, sharing is appreciated, thanks]

Secrets to a Happy Life: website

Secrets to a Happy Life: Grab a Copy

Dear Miley,

young miley

We don’t know each other, but I have a daughter, and, though I can’t imagine your life as a kid on TV, I can imagine you being a little girl, growing toward womanhood. I’ve seen your dad on TV, and I hope he cares deeply for you. He seems to, in public, at least. And you may have had this conversation with him — I pray you did — but in case you didn’t, here’s a message to you from one dad’s heart.

You are too precious to sacrifice your dignity on the altar of media, money, or MTV.

Miley, you are sacred in God’s sight. He knows the deepest, truest you. Your heart. Your passions. Your dreams. Your needs. Your gifts. Your secrets. God knows, and God loves you deeply. It will be his delight to bring you to the life of your dreams.

As powerful a young woman as you are, you are still vulnerable. Massive forces jockey to exploit you for money. Dark forces of evil wish to devour you — consuming your life bit by bit till nothing’s left. Everybody wants a piece of you. The Bible speaks of those who “bite and devour one another” (Galatians 5:15). Don’t think you’re immune.

You need boundaries. Emotional boundaries. Spiritual boundaries. Physical boundaries. Relational boundaries. Financial boundaries. Sexual boundaries. Even clothing is a kind of boundary… there are aspects of who you are that should be reserved for yourself and your future husband. Keep yourself special. I hope and pray you can value yourself enough to push back against forces that will use you, demean you, exploit you, and embarrass you.

I know your grandpa was a preacher and a gospel singer, and your dad has spoken openly of his Christianity.

In an interview with Beliefnet, your dad said these [prophetic] words:

You just gotta know that what the dark side wouldn’t give to put out that light and that positive hope and love and bring down anyone. Miley gets up and wins an award and thanks Jesus, because it’s who she is and what she believes. She’s been reprimanded a few times for that from people in the business, saying, “What are you doing?” Can you imagine how much joy it would bring to the devil to see Miley just do something really stupid and all these kids around the world that she’s represented such a positive force to just taint it with something stupid and ruin it? There’s a lot of forces that would like to see that happen.

Sorry — and I say this with compassion — but I think that you just crossed that line on MTV.

I also think this: YOU CAN CROSS IT BACK.

God welcomes do-overs. Come back to him. He’s ready for you. You once said, “I will learn from my mistakes and trust my support team. My family and my faith will guide me through my life’s journey.” You were right.

Search your heart. Get away from the exploiters who are advising you. Spend some time with God and a Bible. Recalibrate your heart with your first love, Jesus. Humble yourself before God. He’s ready and eager to forgive. I think most of your fans are too.

Be the person God designed you to be — the person you want to be when you’re really honest with yourself. Don’t let people who don’t treasure you squeeze you into their self-destructive mold. Be you, not some imitation of you.

Millions of people care about you and love you.

But nobody loves you as much as God. Jesus proved that on the cross.

I hope you can embrace your own sacredness and treasure your immense worth in Him. My daughter is one of my great treasures. I would do anything to be her first line of defense, her shield, her boundary, and her guide. I pray that your dad, or someone else, can do that for you. You are a sacred person and you belong to God.

A lot of people are praying for you. I’m one of them.

Sincerely,
Bill

6 Weirdly Meaningful Words Christians Have Forgotten

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Sometimes I feel like the Professor on Gilligan’s Island, alone in random thoughts that probably matter only to me. Today, I ache a little over the lost of a common Christian vocabulary — the great words of theology, like justification, and propitiation. In addition to those theologically dense words, many of us grew up with other words, transliterations from Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic. Yesterday, I had to spell the word Maranatha for a young Christian gentleman who had grown up in church. He had never heard the word and had no idea of its connotation. No, the world hasn’t stopped spinning, and the message of Christ advances undeterred. However, I can’t shake the feeling that something’s been lost. A measure of understanding, maybe. Or a depth of insight. Or maybe it’s just a common experience of learning the vocabulary of the faith from the King James Bible.

Or maybe my Inner Curmudgeon is just feeling feisty. So, I offer you 6 weirdly meaningful words of a bygone era — words that many Christians have forgotten.

1. EBENEZER

Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us. (1 Samuel 7:12, KJV).

What old-timer doesn’t remember singing, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer / Hither by Thy help I’m come…” (Come Thou Font)? Samuel erected a monument to the faithfulness of God — something of a place marker. He did it to commemorate a mighty victory over the pesky Philistines. Look how far God has brought us! Let us never forget! God hasn’t brought us this far to let us down now. He has helped us to this point, and he will help us still. Continue reading

It’s Okay to be Free

dreamsI’m haunted by the tears of a missionary who couldn’t say what he wanted. This young man had served God for eight years as a missionary in South America. He was frustrated and felt God might be leading him to another place. He didn’t know what to do.

I asked him, “What do YOU want?”

“Well, I just want to do what God wants me to do… and it’s so hard to figure out God’s will.”

“But what do YOU want to do?” I asked again.

“Well, wherever God wants me to…”

This time I interrupted him. He needed a shock. “Forget about what God wants you to do. What do YOU want? What does YOUR HEART want?”

He looked at me like I was an alien from Jupiter’s moons. Then he burst into tears. He covered his face with his hands, and couldn’t speak. Continue reading

Happy Father’s Day

brenda2Again, I’m happy to present guest blogger Brenda Aman. I’m honored to work along side her at Neighborhood Church. She possesses rare combinations of wisdom, maturity, compassion, and no-nonsense work ethic. She shared this Father’s Day devotional with our staff, and with her permission, I share it with you. 

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I’m grateful to announce that Secrets to a Happy Life has just broken into the top 100 bestsellers on Amazon’s Inspirational list. It’s at #96, but that’s something! Thank you for your help in spreading the word!

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Father’s Day 2013

This weekend the world celebrates Father’s Day. In our busy lives, it is good that we are forced to take a moment and recognize our dads, grandfathers and spiritual dads. I have been blessed by four incredible men who have poured into my life. I had a wonderful father who unfortunately passed away a few years ago, and he taught me about unconditional love and nurturing that I carry with me.  My grandfather modeled and taught me work ethic. Mr. French, my Sunday school and spiritual teacher, taught me about Jesus. Dan Kruse, my spiritual mentor, taught me the wisdom to listen quickly and speak slowly. It has been their love and nurturing in my life that helped build the woman I am today. Continue reading

You Can Help Your Author-Friend

dreamsSending a book into the world is like playing the lottery: the odds of becoming a best-seller are about 10 in 250 million. As authors, we’re writing into a ridiculously crowded field, and odds are itty-bitty a book ever catches fire. But if it does, it will be by a combination of God and faithful fans. Compounding the difficulty is the fact that most authors are reluctant to market. We’re not natural sales-people; we’re authors who hunker down in the corner at Starbucks. And many of us are introverts.

For me, it’s especially complicated as a pastor. The thought that anyone would feel I’m more interested in sales than in helping people grow gnaws at me.

Even so, it’s part of the commitment. When a publisher contracts with an author, they expect the author to use every reasonable means to spread the word. Continue reading

Blessing Your Introverted Child

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In my continuing quest to make the world safe for Introverts, I’d like to turn the spotlight on our kids. Introverted kids are virtually a persecuted minority. Extrovert bullies sniff them out and unleash their torpedoes of nastiness, leaving the young introvert tongue-tied and humiliated. Unless an introverted child has exceptionally understanding and observant parents, that kids is doomed to grow up feeling like a freak. The fact that most parents, statistically, are extroverts, only compounds the problem. If your child seems “different,” before you pack him/her off to the therapist, please consider the possibility that you have been blessed with a wonderfully creative, smart, funny introverted kid.

Here are some pointers to create an environment of blessing in which they can flourish.

1. Never label your kid as SHY.

I’ve seen it happen so many times, it breaks my heart. “This is my little girl, Aquanetta.” [Girl hides behind mom.] “Yeah, she’s SHY shy shy shy shy shy shy shy.”

Continue reading

Why I Write

I am an author. This is usually not a curable condition. Like preaching, writing is a call I can’t shake. In my eighth grade school newspaper, I listed “journalist” as my future profession. Close enough. There’s a fire in my belly, a burden from the Lord, and I can’t get away from it. I can’t do anything else and see myself happy.

Why write?

I write because ideas come packed in words, and ideas change the world. With words, God spoke the starry cosmos into existence. With words, he created the magic that is life. And with words, his story is kept alive in this crazy, morally broken cosmos diabolicus. Words in harmony with divine truth are packages for the power of God. Continue reading