October 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Mrs. Incredible

Happy Birthday to my wife! She continues to amaze me- how she juggles being a teacher, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend. Not counting all her volunteer hours at school and church. She's incredible!

October 28, 2014

The Purpose of the Local Church

As I mentioned about a week or so ago, I was recently asked to teach at both a Men's Retreat and then a college aged gathering.  There was one other request: to speak at a Sunday Morning worship service. Now, that's not something I do all that often. But I felt compelled, especially when the subject was The Purpose of the Local Church. 

In the city where I live- and actually all through North America it seems- people who choose to identify themselves as Christians, as believers in Jesus Christ, are choosing all to often not to be part of a local church. There are a million and one reasons this happens, but it generally boils down to an issue of not obeying the Bible in this issue. God has an important role for the church to play. Let me elaborate.

If you've been a reader of this blog, you probably remember that my wife and I were blessed to visit Switzerland and France this past summer. (I promise, I really will continue with that series.) We happened to be in Europe during the World Cup. We spent to evenings at a local restaurant/bar on the water in the south of France, eating dinner, enjoying a glass of wine and watching the games. 

I was absolutely mesmerized by the teamwork I saw on the field; the sense of unity, joint purpose, and the joy each player seemed to have getting to participate in this historic event. Later, I started thinking about the role of the church and the commonalities between a church and a soccer (football) team. Indulge me here, will you?

“The Local Church Is God’s Plan to Reach a Dying World”      

 The great Apostle Paul, through the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit, writes a pretty strong argument for our involvement in a community of Christian believers. He writes in the book of Ephesians: 

"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.  Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."
                                                  (Ephesians 3:7-12)

·   The Apostle Paul pretty bold here- and He’s on a mission. “God’s grace was given him through the working of His Power!”

Think about your own life. If you are a follower of Jesus, didn’t God work powerfully in your life in drawing you to Him?  Isn’t He good !?!  Look at how free you are in Christ- especially compared to what you were like before you knew Him.  You have a hope and a future and a purpose.

Paul continues on, reminding us we have an important role to play:

"Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ,  and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.  His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Can you see it here? There's a difference between God's plan for man and man's plan to reach God. In all other faiths, Man must work hard to reach God. In Christianity alone, God, through Jesus Christ, reaches down to man's level. Even to die on a cross to pay the price for our sins. Every other system is based on us working to be good enough.

In His Great Love and Mercy, God decided good works would not be the criteria for Man reaching Him. He determined the Gift of Jesus would be the payment for our sin. It goes against man’s ideas that they have to be good enough and can do it on their own. The only requirement is humbly coming to God through Jesus and accepting that gift, that sacrifice on our behalf.

Now, our good works are the result of us loving God and being loved by Him- two very different things!As His children, we get abundant life in Christ while we are on the Earth- blessings and strength and power in the midst of hardship! It's all part of the mystery, it's all because of the love Jesus has for us.

So what exactly is the role of the local church? Let's begin at the beginning.  Back in the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis, God sets forth some pretty basic and important facts. 
o   We were created for eternal relationship with God
o   We were created for eternal relationship with each other: community

Problems arose when Adam & Eve chose knowledge over relationship with God by eating the forbidden fruit, that rebellion led to a spirit of independence in us. Shame, desire to withdraw from each other; pride and an intentional rejection of God, His heart and His plan was a choice that both Eve and Adam made when they disobeyed. We have to make the same choice... and no choice is a choice. 

Fast forward to the New Testament and Christian church and it's first mention in the Book of Acts, chapter 2. Interestingly, when the Bible wants to address an individual, the word "believer" is used. When its' a gathering of believers, the word "church" is chosen.

We live in a society where we are encouraged to be independent, where will people go when they have a desire to know more about Jesus- especially if they have no contact with believers? They will look for a church!

Let me bring up an interesting thought: If the church isn’t an important tool for God to use, why has the enemy of Jesus worked so hard to destroy it? And in every generation. Hmmm.  (And let me say here, there are false churches all around: all you have to do is watch the Prosperity teachers (like Joel Olsteen) and compare them to what Jesus did and how He lived His life. It was a life of sacrifice and service. He never treated God the Father like the giant Genie in the Sky! But, I got off topic: The church is one of the primary places God has designed for the benefit of His people: for instruction, community, and purpose.

Looking back at verse 11, Paul mentions God's eternal purpose. Eternal Purpose? Yes, more than just knowing Him, God has a plan for everyone who believes in Him. And His eternal purpose is that no one should perish.  (2 Peter 3:9) That's not to guarantee everyone will be saved from Hell.  They won’t- because God honors the choice of each man and woman to accept him and his sacrifice or to reject it. But He does offer way to God. His way, the only Way.
It’s a pretty important message to carry! Honestly, isn't it the most important message we can deliver to people around us? Absolutely! Thankfully, God provides a plan (and gives us the power)!

As believers in Jesus, we have a common purpose, a responsibility, a privilege, as a church to share God's message of love and to bless the people in our community. The beginning of it all comes with delivering the message while we care for those around us. The church must work in unity to pull this task off successfully. 

Paul's humility and his understanding of where he fits is evident all through his writings as he was inspired by God's Holy Spirit, a large portion of the New Testament. Look back at Ephesians 3 again:

"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.  Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence."
                                                  (Ephesians 3:7-12)

He accepts his place in the Kingdom of God. By saying this, he is acknowledging each person has their place and a different – not greater or less- role to play. Because the Scriptures teach us that He has given each of us a field to work.  (2 Corinthians 10:13) That role for us is to be found in two places- one inside the church and one outside the church. In fact, we are strategically placed by God where we are for His purposes.

Just think- God has wasted nothing by giving us the life we have. Be it long or short, healthy or not, God has a plan for each of us. He's placed us where we live, with the families  and friends we have and in the workplaces He has chosen for us. Really incredible when you grasp that truth. It means nothing is wasted, and nothing is a mistake.

Speaking of fields, let's go back to that soccer (football) example. Let's look at what great teams do (and great churches!):

Each team has one purpose: To win! How do they do it?

  •        The team belongs to the owner- they play for him
  •        It’s under the leadership of the coaches
  •        Each has a unique position on the team 
  •        Each player brings strengths and weaknesses, playing to strengths, working on weaknesses- no excuses for them!
  •       Each player is chosen for how they will fit with others
  •       They train hard and give 100%
  •       Team members watch out for each other (I Corinthians 10:24)
  •       They may get hurt, but they always get back in game when needed

Most importantly, They do what’s best for the team vs. What’s best for them personally!

There are two major differences between a soccer game and the church, however. First, believers in Jesus Christ know they are playing with eternal consequences in mind. Secondly, unlike a sports team, in the church everyone plays and everyone is needed to play.
    Back to watching the World Cup during our European vacation for a minute. We were in a restaurant with people from all different countries in Europe. There were French, Swiss, Italians, Germans, etc.  It was fascinating to sit there with everyone- not understand a word of what they were saying, but I learned a lot.

When Switzerland played France, you could tell how the audience was divided. When Italy played Costa Rica, everyone became “European”! They were united by their team spirit!

·    We believers are united by God's Holy Spirit. Each player has a unique gifts. Think I Corinthians 12, and Romans 11. These describe God's gifts to individual believers in the church to be used for the common good. They are given as God determines and for His purposes. The short list:
“Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, Gifts of Healing, Miracles, Prophecy, Spiritual Discernment, Tongues and Interpretation, Serving, Encouraging, Giving, Leadership, Mercy ”

We’re all given gifts- and we are all given time, energy, and money to invest into the work of god’s kingdom! And we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the work he has given us!

We are all given Unique Roles as well! And the roles of the leaders of a church are to prepare God’s people for works of service” (Ephesians 4: 11) as an offering of love to God. What we do is a reflection of our love for God. We no longer earn His love, we express His love in us.

At the World Cup, every team had 11 players working hard
According to the rules, they could have begun the match with seven people on a team- but they would do it at a serious disadvantage.  If you’re a believer and not stepping in and participating in the life of your church, you’re leaving it at a disadvantage! This choice means you are making your brothers and sisters weaker.

In our Match, the Enemy’s Great Plan is to Divide and Conquer:
If he can separate us out, divide us, he has a greater chance of destroying us and making us ineffective!
·      Not talking about major theological differences
·      We want to be true to the Word- that’s important
·      I’m talking about being divided out by focusing on what’s best for us, focusing on petty differences, refusing to work together because we’re hurt or don’t get what we want

It was years before I realized this truth:  God will judge me by whether or not I was obedient to what He asked me to do. He doesn’t compare me to Billy Graham or anyone else. The issue is obedience.


It's definitely a challenge to be obedient to God. But let me encourage you with these words. They are found in the book of Hebrews 10:23-25:   

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Let's hold in to the hope we have!  God has already won the war. Our eternal destiny is good because of our love relationship with Jesus. We also have hope for tomorrow, not just eternity, because God is for us!

    Let's work together. Think about what the coaches do when the meet with the team half way through the match: Remind players of the Goal. (God desires all would come to know Him). They encourage and challenge the players.  (Speak the Truth in Love in the Right Time). Be each other's cheerleader! And keep on meeting together.

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.  And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.  Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.               1 Thessalonians 5:12-23
Let's end with Jesus’ words:
I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

October 27, 2014

Magic of the Summer Nights

Want a summer evening cruise around the Rivers of America on the Mark Twain Riverboat? You can still do it, but it has to be at Tokyo Disneyland or in Florida's Magic Kingdom. So, according to this attraction poster, Japanese fans head towards Westernland.  There's no rush now that the plan to turn the area in Cars Land seems to have fallen out of favor.

In California, the terrific show Fantasmic! takes over the summer evenings, making such a cruise impossible.  But I remember decades back when it was easy to grab at Mint Julep from New Orleans Square and take a quiet, serenely beautiful journey into the nighttime waters. The faint jazz melodies played on board. The Haunted Mansion was gloomily lit, and a few lanterns of Bear Country shown in the wilderness.  In the middle of crowded Southern California, there were fewer things to do that could be as simply magical. 

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 24, 2014

Hat Trick

If the news over at the always excellent WDWMagic are true, the ugly sorcerer's hat is on its way out in early 2015. This will restore the incredibly beautiful view the Imagineers designed for the Disney-MGM Studios when it debuted in 1989.

If you want to read more about the history of this park and see tons of photos of it at opening, and even more concept art, be sure to go to this piece which celebrates its 25th year. Incredible stuff.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Wrong Move Ms. Mayor of Houston

It's time to get political. Seems Houston Texas Mayor, lesbian Annise Parker, (here with partner Kathy Hubbard), has it out to get Christian pastors in her city. Wanting or should I say, requiring, them to submit sermons that have to deal with her, homosexuality, or potentially, any other topic she may deem harmful.

I don't get it.

The debate about Christianity and the Bible is as old as time. Liberal thinkers say you cannot trust the Old Testament (but also ignore passages in the New Testament). Traditional believers of the Bible as God's inspired word say homosexuality and Christianity are not compatible. 

Yet, that's not the debate, really. Or the bigger problem.

It's First Amendment rights that are at stake. And Christians- and Christian pastors- have very right to express their religious beliefs as much as anyone else. Jew, Muslim, followers of any sect, religion or cult. Even those who choose no belief have a right to practice and speak what they believe. It's the American way.

Shame on her, and shame on those who voted for her. This agenda is hateful, anti-family, and bigoted at its core. Let's see the liberals in our country or the American Civil Liberties Union man up and come to the defense of these pastors. But the truth is, they couldn't care less when it doesn't match with their anti-faith agenda.

October 23, 2014

Totally Hot House Cleaning

The time had come. I had amassed so many CDs, that it was time to be brutal and donate those I really wasn't listening to any longer.   The space for storing discs had run dry, so the pressure I placed on myself was something to act on. 

It was clear that I was storing hundreds of discs but never listening to them. A pattern of not enough time and no longer not enough money either to keep building my collection. The books would be next, but this was a good first step.

In the 80's and 90's, I had become kind of a completest when it came to my favorite artists. Or even one hit wonders- mainly artists discovered on American Idol. (Here's looking at you, Elliott Yamin.)

Starting slowly with one box, I picked out discs no longer listened to by America, Gloria Estefan, George Benson, Any Grant, Michael Buble, Doobie Brothers, the Eagles, Olivia Newton-John, and more. So many more. Sure, I kept many Greatest Hits packages and every disc by Karen and Richard Carpenter, of course. But for every one I kept, I offloaded seldom listened to discs by Sting, Ambrosia, Neil Diamond, Michael Jackson, various soundtracks and compilations...even some Beatles.  I am sure among the 160 or so discs I donated, there are some gems serious collectors will be wanting.

The aftermath was a sense of release, a bit of sadness for letting go some of my history (isn't it amazing that we music fans associate so much of pieces of our life- good and bad- to our favorite songs?) and ultimately, more space in my life. 

October 22, 2014


Yes, it's a compilation, but what a good one it is!

Richard and Karen Carpenter created some of the most beautiful music of the 1970's- and their hits are starting to be played again on the radio. We've Only Just Begun, the wedding anthem of a generation is towards the end, but hits like Superstar, Rainy Days and Mondays, and I Need to Be in Love fill out a single disc collection that is a great primer for discovering the duo. 

This is real music. Karen's vocals are the best her generation ever produced. There's no use of auto tune or anything like it in sight. Richard's arrangements got cluttered toward the end of their career, but on this disc, the listener gets to hear the best of his work. He was also a pretty darned good songwriter! Five of the songs featured are his. 

So, place on those earphones and listen well. You'll fall in love with the girl with the golden voice and join millions of others that already love it. The Carpenters are known for much more than their Christmas classics. For those of us who heard these hits when they first came out, it's Yesterday Once More.

October 21, 2014

Notable and Quotable: K.P. Yohannan

From the great Indian leader:

"The trouble with the social gospel, even when it is clothed in religious garb and operating within Christian institutions, is that it seeks to fight what is basically a spiritual warfare with weapons of the flesh. Our battle is not against flesh and blood or symptoms of sin like poverty and sickness. It is against Lucifer and countless demons who struggle day and night to take human souls into a Christless eternity."

                                        Dr. K.P. Yohannan

October 20, 2014

Riding Out the Storm at Tokyo Disney Sea

Among fans of Tokyo Disney Sea, there seems to be a debate about the attraction that forms the centerpiece of Port Discovery: the flight simulator attraction, StormRider. Some claim a fondness for this new use of flight simulator technology with in cabin special effects. Others believe it to be a second rate version of Disney's popular Star Tours. One thing is certain however. It has an absolutely terrific attraction poster! And here it is in full color and in great scale and size. Click on it to make it even larger.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

October 18, 2014

First Dreamfinder, Now Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Will Big Thunder Mountain Railroad pave the way for a new Journey into Imagination?

Not sure how I feel about Disney attractions being turned into comics. I will say I love that Dreamfinder and Figment are making such a splash. It gives me a bit of hope that a brand new Journey Into Imagination is on the way to Epcot

Regardless of the outcome, the cover of the comic is quite beautiful. And worthy of being saved on your computer.

(Art copyright The Walt Disney Company.)

Puppy Love

How about this bundle of cuteness? These pups belong to my sister and brother-in-law. Each looking for a home. 

October 17, 2014

Rest in Peace, Tim Hauser

With Manhattan Transfer, Tim Hauser created some very memorable pieces of art. I loved Twilight Zone. Enjoy this video- a sheer genius take off on Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

October 15, 2014

The True Purpose of Prayer

 Recently, I was asked to share some insights at a retreat for Men and also later at a study for college aged students. I was surprised that the subject of both gatherings turned to the issue of prayer.

Why do we pray? We want answers from a Living God. We want to pour out of hearts. We want to know someone greater than us cares. Sometimes we just ask for things. But prayer like this is much more than this.

When talking about prayer, we have to start at the beginning…
It all begins with the character of God. In the book of I John, the great disciple of Jesus states, "God is love". (verse 4:16)             

God’s character is the beginning of everything good.              

The problem is with us. If we don't understand who God is and what prayer means to Him, we may be expecting results that God never intended. Then, we can become discouraged, confused, or even embittered.

Of the many characteristics of God, four stand out to me as being worth consideration as we discuss prayer. Let's look at these from a Biblical standpoint.

 1- He is Unchanging.

In the New Testament, James writes in Chapter one, verse 17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

In other words, He is the same God for the starving children in Africa as He is for those of wealthy. Even though we do not understand his ways, and they are never subjective to the understanding of man, God is dependable.  In fact,  He is not fickle nor does His personality alter. If our image of God is dependent on our understanding of Him, our understanding becomes our highest authority, our god, not Him.

2- He is All-Knowing   
PSALM 147:5   “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.”

God created Man. Nothing we think, do, or say, past, present or future, surprises Him. He knows all things. There's an inherent comfort in that for those of us that love and know Jesus Christ. 

3- He always cares. Our circumstances don't change His love.

Here's a classic piece of scripture that best describes this point:
Romans 8:35-39    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:  “For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
God's love for a fallen, imperfect man is shown best in the sacrifice of His Son on the Cross for sin. That He understands and has seen all the evil men can do, and yet He loves us, it's amazing. In fact, any man who would come to Him, confessing his sins, believing in his heart that Jesus Christ is the perfect payment for sin, will find an eternity in heaven with Him. Hell is no longer his destination, and Satan no longer has a hold on him.
 4- He is Always Good

PSALM 25:8     “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.”

Let me emphasize here. God is always good- even when we do not agree with Him or get what we want. God's goodness and mercy are found all through the Bible, but all of Psalm 136 resonates:"Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever!"

Stop and think about the times God has answered your prayers. These stories are important because they are your stories of interactions with our Living God. No one can take these from you, no one can tell you they did not happen. This is part of your history. Just think, the most powerful being ever took time to interact with you. Incredible!

Now, remembering what you just did, let’s look at prayer from God's perspective. A Biblical perspective. There's three main aspects of prayer.

1- Relationship with Him
God desires that we  would know Him and love Him. This goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. After the fall of man, when the forbidden fruit was eaten, God searches for them in the garden. It's not that He didn't know where they were. It's that He wanted them to answer as to why they were hiding from Him; why they no longer desired to know Him and talk with Him. 

An Eternal Relationship. He gives us hope for an eternity with Him. An eternal, loving,  relationship. Never broken unity. No pain, no loss, no doubts. Imagine an eternity of peace, deep love, and joy. This is God's heart for us!

As far as prayer goes, He does answer prayer. For those who put their trust in Him, prayer is a two way dialogue, a by-product of relationship. Not the reason for it. Contrary to what the false teachers of the prosperity gospel would teach, God is no cosmic genie, waiting at our beck and call to give us all we ask. Instead, He is a good and perfect Father, allowing only what is best for us.


2- Transformation
The second reason for prayer is transformation. Not the Michael Jackson type of change, but the kind of change for the better. Every recovering alcoholic understands what I mean here. Ever plead with God to change you? To heal you? To make you different than what you currently are? Well, God has a plan for that kind of transformation. The plan is to make those who believe to look more like Jesus Christ. He desires to clean us up, heal our souls, and to change the course of our lives. It gives us hope and purpose, but it also means God has a plan for us...

 3-   Instruction
He wants to lead us. Our beautiful, living, powerful, good God has a plan for us. He created us and made each of us unique. Because we are made by Him to be unique, He alone knows what will most fulfill us and give us meaningful purpose. The truth is, we only think we do. Yet, until we love and trust in God, we will never discover the truth and instead, be left to search endlessly on our own.

We all want to know if we make a difference. We all want to know we will make an impression in this world before our life is over. (Go see The Fault in Our Stars, by the way.) God's plan is that all people would know and love Him. (Just read the book of Second Peter in the New Testament.) And He desires to uniquely use us for this plan. 

There’s a progression here.  In other words, if we love Him and walk closely with Him, we will: 

·      Encounter the Living God,
·      Be Changed by the Living God,
·      Be Used by the Living God.

And God desires to keep this cycle going! So, from a Biblical perspective, these are the three real purposes of prayer. As you think more deeply about each, you'll realize prayer doesn't always involve getting what we want, what we think is best. Sometimes, oftentimes, it's a very different story. 

To make sense of this fact, it helps to look at the life of Jesus as our model.

This Jesus, the one I love and follow, took on the pain and sins of Man. Once for all time. Even though His life was sinless and ours is not, there's a lot to learn by examining his life. He was, after all, a man of prayer. And what better place to look at his prayer than right before His Crucifixion.

Let's look at the Book of John, chapter 17 verses 1-4, right before Jesus is sent to be crucified.  

"After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do."
·   This was the most crucial time in Jesus’ ministry. Would He finish well? No one would dare complete this task of crucifixion unless God Himself spoke it and they loved God enough to obey. Jesus’ prayer reveals THE most important aspect of why we pray:

I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”

But back to us. What about the things we pray about?
What happens when we pray and God answers? What happens when our life is impacted by what happens around us and to us?     It usually falls into these categories. 

·      Good things we like 
·      When Bad Things Happen
·      The consequences of our sin
·      The consequences of other’s sin
·       The results of Other people’s sin against us

What happens when we get what we asked for? When there's no answer? When the answer brings us pain? Keep reading!

When We Get What We Ask For
Rejoice and be thankful! God wants us to come to Him when things are good and not just come to Him when things are hard or when we need something. Remember how good He is! Celebrate that- and remember that.

Sometimes getting what we pray for comes with an unexpected side! There can be challenges that come with it. Opportunities to grow, change, and become more like Jesus. 

It's time for us, for me, to move away from an American mindset of Christianity. What I mean is, following Jesus does not mean we will experience success as our culture defines it. We will, however, experience success as how God defines it. And He defines it as obedience. Jesus himself says if we love Him, we will obey what He commands. Doesn't mean we'll get what the world says is a reward.

In the world's eyes, Jesus was a crucified failure. In God's eyes, Jesus completed his mission- to die for the sins of the world, to save all the people that would choose to love Him, serve, Him, and follow Him. The world would say he was a victim of a hate crime. The truth is He was no victim. Jesus was a strong, brave and obedient servant of the God Most High who completed the task set before Him- even if it looked like failure and shame.

What about When We Get No Answer?
Let’s look again at Jesus in the Garden. He knows what’s coming. He is in emotional distress, lonely, troubled. He’s in physical distress as well. His friends are too tired and worried and sad to stay awake and pray with Him. He is ultimately alone. He cries out:

 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  (Luke 22:42 )

The Father doesn’t change the situation, but He was strengthened. In this case, an angel appeared to Him. We may not get an angel, but we may not be asked to die on a cross either! Jesus continues on… to fulfill the Father’s plan.

Practically, when we get no answer, we can follow Jesus' model.
1-Keep Praying,  2- Wait and Watch for God, 3- Do the Last Thing He Told You

When the Answer Brings Pain

Our life's circumstances can come because of our sin, the sin of other people, or other’s sin against us. But, as we have just seen in the example of Jesus at the cross, it can also come because we are obedient to what God has asked. God works in ways and in time that we may never understand. Or it may take years before we can look at our life, look backwards, and then say to ourselves, "Now I understand."
What about the times we pray and do not get what we feel we have been promised?

Interestingly, the Bible does not ignore the fact that sometimes we do not get what God has promised. The book of Hebrews in the New Testament speaks of all the great "heroes of the faith". You know, the guys like King David, etc. The guys of Sunday School Bible stories.

Hebrews 11:39: "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised."

All the great heroes of the faith didn’t get what was promised!
We are in good company! Of course, this also brings a challenge to our minds when we do not receive our promised from God. What do we do when we think the promises of God don’t come- when it seems God is contradicting Himself?

Will we rely on our own understanding to bring us peace?
Will we trust Him, knowing His character and love for us?
Will we wait on Him even if it’s hard?

Again, will we trust in God even when it looks as if He is certainly contradicting Himself?

Looking at the topic of prayer from God's perspective always helps us. We can either choose to believe things about God that are not true, or we can believe He is unchanging, all-knowing, that He always cares and that He is always good.

The Complete and Biblical Purpose of Prayer is for Relationship with God, Transformation into the image of Jesus, and for Instruction from Him.

He wants Relationship with Us, Wants to Make us More like Jesus, Wants to Give Us Hope, and Wants to Use Us for His Purposes

· God allows the seasons so he can show his power to us, his wisdom, his goodness. Whether or not we get the answer we want or ever understand, He is still God! This we know: He does love and care for us.

I'll end here with a piece of truth from the book of Romans. (Romans 8:28-30) Through the inspiration of God's Spirit, the Apostle Paul writes:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”