Half Full or Half Empty?

half full

Perspective in life is everything.

per•spec•tive /pərˈspektiv/ the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

Have you ever lost perspective?

Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, poet, theologian, social critic and religious author once said, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

In this life, perspective is everything!
We can see a problem as a burden or an opportunity.
We can see the rain as an irritant or a gift that supports life.
We can see the poor as a nuisance or we can see the poor as a chance to meet God.
We can see difficult times as God’s curse or we can see difficult times to grow patience, character and hope.

We see the glass half empty or half full.

When Goliath came against the Israelites, the soldiers all thought, “He’s so big we can never kill him.” David looked at the same giant and though, “He’s so big I can’t miss.”

Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

Jesus taught us to pray a prayer of perspective daily when he said, “May your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I call this “The prayer of the cup that is half full.”

I grew up in church where I was taught that this world was going to hell in a hand-basket and that we were supposed to get saved from our sins and then hide out and hold on until Jesus comes back.

That was very unbiblical.

Jesus came proclaiming that the cup was half full, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors, and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to him.”

Doesn’t sound like hiding out and holding on to me.

Jesus’ prayer was that his kingdom would come, right now, on earth as it is in heaven, then he commissioned and enabled the church to storm the gates of hell and rescue the poor, the blind, the lost, the addicted, the judged, the hungry and the gates would not prevail.

Name some kind of hell someone is living in, and Jesus has demanded and empowered us to go there and rescue them.

In my opinion, Jesus never intended for the church to look like it does today.

There is a lot of resources going to the “already convinced” and most programs are designed to placate the “already converted” and there are a lot of empty buildings and wasted space, except for an hour or two on Sundays.

Jesus always intended the church to be on the leading edge of rescuing people from hopelessness, brokenness, darkness and despair.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice.” Isaiah 58:6

It looks like Harry Rheder and Steve Baker who lead an auto-ministry overseeing dozens of volunteers, fixing cars for single moms so they can get to work and have safe transportation for their children.

It looks like a local auto sales owner, Ron Wells, who regularly gives cars away for single moms and those trying to get back up on their feet and Marty Robinson, who owns a local mechanic shop who donates parts so the auto ministry can continue to flourish, even though they may actually be taking business away from him.

It looks like Marsha Rose meeting weekly with the mentally ill, who have been forgotten and marginalized, to create life-saving support and letting them know the love of God.

It looks like Paul Geddes, who is passionate about farming, who helps plant and maintain a 20,000 square foot volunteer garden to supply fresh fruits and vegetables to the hungry.

It looks like an 82 year old, Berkeley graduate, civil engineer, Art Edwards, spending his twilight years running a non-profit transitional homeless shelter, and against all odds, is helping people move from despair to dignity and hope.

It looks like a 10 year old girl, Claire Cockrell, who after seeing a movie on the true Isaiah 58 fast and how a $10 mosquito net prevents malaria, so she goes to her local public school and raises $1000 to purchase 100 nets and saves hundreds of lives.

It looks like Justin Morsey, in his early twenties, who moved to the Philippines to a very dangerous, religiously militant area where being a Christian puts your life at risk, and became a director of a home where young girls who have been sex trafficked and have been rescued, are rehabilitating and learning about real love, by seeing a young man of integrity who respects women and loves God.

It looks like a retired, firefighter Doug Shelstad, walking the halls of our local hospital, praying for the sick and introducing the dieing to a Savior who offers eternal life.

When people start viewing and expressing the Gospel, “May your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” through their passions and talents and resources, injustice is fought at ever level.

How’s your perspective these days?

My prayers lately have been a Mother Teresa prayer:

MotherTeresaPrayer2

How are your prayers lately?

Are your prayers, “Jesus, there is no hope, I’m digging a bunker, the government is a mess, I’m going to play it safe, I’m going to let fear control me and pessimism be my guide.”

Our can you pray boldly, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Will you live with the perspective that light trumps darkness and love defeats evil and the unseen is more powerful than the seen.

Will you dream big dreams and live with the attitude that in God’s kingdom THE GLASS IS HALF FULL AND IT’S GETTING FULLER!

Will you live with two promises, “That nothing can separate us from the love of God” and “One day, suffering, striving, sickness, injustice will cease and he will wipe every tear from your eyes.”

Letting Go of Old Identities

identity

Life’s too short for drama and negativity,
Pointing out the problem doesn’t take much ability.
Saturate the day with encouragement and optimism,
It’ll take focus and work, the opposite of passivism.

Only you can go to places that will stretch & grow you,
It will be scary, difficult, but it will reward you.
No one will cheer you, but go there anyway,
Few will understand, it’s the price you must pay.

The sign of maturity is to become less dramatic,
Being the victim has now become anti-climatic.
Energizing those around, you’re no longer a drain,
Hope is your new choice, like the smell of spring rain.

Jesus came to remove the sin of exclusion,
The Pharisees felt threatened like he was an intrusion.
Gandhi was puzzled by the churches prejudice,
He stayed Hindu because there was no difference.

We create our own boxes, it’s time to get rid of them,
We’re far more creative than we can fully comprehend.
So don’t get caught up in main stream philosophies,
The world needs your uniqueness with no apologies.

The only prayer you need is a simple “Thank you”,
Gratitude’s the answer, and miracles are the clue.
Thankfulness leads to joy, it’s the obvious fruit,
Waiting for perfect conditions is a destructive pursuit.

As we grow older we gravitate towards safety,
Talk is cheap, where have you gone lately?
To see justice we must run towards the unknown,
Uncertainty and discomfort, it’s where faith is grown.

His love is unconditional, no grading on a curve,
A stunning faithfulness, it’s not what I deserve.
It’s easy to forget, I strive for perfection,
I’m vulnerable to fail, but grace is my protection.

I have more pants than days in the week,
My 4g is slow, it’s new products I seek.
Lack of sanitation kills, statistics show it,
More people have mobile phones than a simple toilet.

Too many people choosing not to forgive,
It’s become their story, the way that they live.
I must let go of old identities, it’s a matter of will,
I’m canceling the debt, it’s paid in full.

 

The Definition of Success

God’s definition of success is different than mine.

Most of the time, those of us who call ourselves believers, are still trying to live out the world’s definition of success.

We expect that giving our lives to God will save our souls, while our American dream will be enhanced because God is on our side.

Churches proclaim the words of Jesus, “You have to lose your life to gain it”, yet still define success much the way corporations define success.

How many people attend?
How much money is coming in?
How large is the building?
How do we ‘compare’ to other churches?

The apostle Paul reminds us that Jesus showed us what the true definition of success is:
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

The older I get, the more I realize that the “real” successful people in this world will never be recognized this side of heaven.

I think of a man I know, 85 years old, a widower who lost the love of his life years ago, who quietly serves the poor in his local town, serving meals to the hungry, delivering groceries to the elderly, while sponsoring 20 Compassion International children all around the world.

He will never get on CNN, yet he is one of the most successful people I have ever known.

I think of a woman I know, who has suffered much tragedy in her life, her only son murdered, who is helping people who are experiencing severe loss, helping them heal and find hope.

She will not become rich by doing this, though there is a richness she is experiencing that cannot be explained.

She is one of the most successful people I have ever known.

I think of a couple who lost their son to drugs. As they are raising their beautiful granddaughter, they are helping broken young people move away from the destruction of drugs and moving them towards hope and God’s Grace.

They will not get their son back, this side of heaven, but his legacy will now be about the saving of hundreds of lives from the destruction of addiction.

They are two of the most successful people I have ever known.

Life brings pain.

God takes ashes and makes them beautiful.

God takes darkness and tells us to hang on because the morning promises joy.

God says in this life their will be tears, sorrow and loss but one day that will cease.

God redefines success.

Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote, “We fail to see the place of suffering in the broader scheme of things. We fail to see that suffering is an inevitable dimension of life. Because we have lost perspective, we fail to see that unless one is willing to accept suffering properly, he or she is really refusing to continue in the quest for maturity. To refuse suffering is to refuse personal growth.”

To refuse personal growth keeps us from true success.

One of the things that concerns me about the American church is that it is possible to be “popular” without still being “relevant”.

Our definition of success is too often about how many people like us and is what we are doing fashionable.

God’s definition of success states that however unpopular and uncomfortable the cross is, it is possibly the most relevant gift the universe has ever received.

Risking our lives feeding the empty belly, rescuing children out of the dark dungeons of trafficking, inviting people to the kingdom party who have nothing to offer, praying for, forgiving and loving our enemies, giving God our first 10%, putting others before us, investing in the next generation where it is hard to see instant fruit may not be the most popular thing to do in the church world, but I believe it is the most relevant thing.

The true definition of success is far more about relevancy than popularity and comfort.

True success is about trust.

Success is trusting that my life is safe in the arms of my almighty creator.

Brennan Manning wrote in Ruthless Trust, “The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of the pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.”

PRAYER reminds me…

“I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming
conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom,
and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.”
Abraham Lincoln

PRAYER reminds me I am not alone.
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.” Psalm 23:4

PRAYER reminds me there is Someone more powerful on my side.
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.” Isaiah 43:1-2

PRAYER reminds me of the goodness and promises of God.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house
of the LORD Forever.” Psalm 23:6

PRAYER reminds me of God’s faithfulness in the past.
“He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemies,
from those who hated me and were too strong for me.
He led me to a place of safety;
he rescued me because he delights in me.” Psalm 18:16-19

PRAYER reminds me that I can overcome temptation.
“The temptations in your life are no different
from what others experience. And God is faithful.
He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.
When you are tempted, he will show you a way out
so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

PRAYER reminds me of God’s forgiveness.
“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12

PRAYER reminds me of the part I play in my requests.
“Show me the right path, O LORD;
point out the road for me to follow.” Psalm 25:4

PRAYER reminds me of whom I should serve.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40

PRAYER reminds me that God’s ways are not my ways.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8

PRAYER reminds me that God is more concerned about my character than my comfort.
“I will take action against you. I will purify you
the way metal is refined, and will remove all your impurity.” Isaiah 1:25

PRAYER reminds me of how I am supposed to fast.
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” Isaiah 58:6-7

PRAYER reminds me of my priorities.
But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants.
Then the other things will be yours as well.” Matthew 6:33

PRAYER reminds me that God finishes what he starts.
“And I am certain that God,
who began the good work within you,
will continue his work until it is finally finished
on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

PRAYER reminds me how much God loves this tired, old world.
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world,
but to save the world through him.” John 3:16-17

ultimately…
PRAYER reminds me how I should pray.
“Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:9-13

What Does God Think About Prayer?

One of the most counter-intuitive moments in scripture is when the children of Israel are trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea.

The people are panicked, angry at Moses for getting them in this mess, yelling at him, asking why he had them escape just to die, telling him they would rather be slaves in Egypt than slaughtered in the desert.

It wasn’t a great “leadership moment” for Moses.

On top of them being angry, Moses gives some advice and guidance that seems right initially, but he gets it totally wrong.

He tells them, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today.”

Sounds like good advice and great faith, doesn’t it?

We hear this advice all the time.

“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will rescue us from this sad world.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will take care of the poor.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will bless us and give us the desires of our heart.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will take care of our needs.”

This was God’s response to Moses’ advice to, “Not be afraid. Stand still and watch the Lord rescue.”

He said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Quit praying and tell the people to get moving!”

Now I grew up in church and I never heard one sermon where the pastor told us to quit praying.

In fact it seemed like all we did was pray.
We prayed for Jesus to come back.
We prayed that evil people would get their due.
We prayed that we would  not get stained by an immoral world.
We prayed for who would become president.
We prayed that God would bless us financially.
We prayed that other denominations would become holy like we were.
We even prayed for people less fortunate than us.
We prayed, went home for a week, and then came back and prayed again.
We prayed often, with eloquence.
Our church would have won a prayer contest.
We even had a chapel called the “House of Prayer.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for prayer.

Prayer is where I gain my intimacy with God.
Prayer is where I get the power to live.
Prayer is where I gain wisdom.
Prayer is where I find peace.
Prayer is where I experience rest.
Prayer is the foundation to my life in faith.

So why did God tell Moses to quit praying and get moving?

Well, here is my theory. And I think it is a pretty good one.

Many times prayer is an excuse to not do something that we know God has already told us to do.

There are many things we don’t have to pray about.

Serving the poor.
Caring for orphans.
Taking care of widows.
Being a father to the fatherless.
Feeding the hungry.
Sheltering the homeless.
Clothing the naked.
Forgiving our enemy.
Rescuing young women and children who have been sex trafficked.
Fighting injustice.

These are things we don’t have to pray and ask whether it is God’s will or not.

In fact, it is possible to actually pray more while moving farther and farther away from God.

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah once and said, “When you lift your hands in prayer, I will not look at you. No matter how much you pray, I will not listen…See that justice is done—help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows.”

This may be blasphemy, but I would like to challenge the American church to pray less and do more.

Get out of your prayer meetings and go help someone.

Leave your worship services and feed someone.

Stop talking about the poor and invite the homeless into your services.

Stop building bigger buildings and spend more money on local and global missions.

Stop looking the other way and sponsor children in poverty stricken countries. (www.compassion.com)

Cancel your women’s teas and your men’s breakfasts and rebuild a widow’s home or mentor a child who has no father.

Stop praying for blessings and help those who God has asked us very clearly to help, because that is where the blessings are!

I believe that God is saying today, “Stop asking me for more things, stop asking me about my will, I have made it very plain what I want you to be doing.” (Read Isaiah 58, Matthew 25, James 1:27, Psalms 82)

I think He would go on to say, “And while you are doing those things, pray! Pray hard, pray often, and I will give you the strength and the wisdom and courage to shine your light and “storm the gates” of poverty and hopelessness and loneliness and the world will be drawn to Me and the world will know that I am love.”

What happened when God told Moses, to quit praying and get moving?

They experienced a miracle.

May the church do the same!

Share with me what you think about this topic after reading some great quotes about prayer and action:

Action without prayer is arrogance, prayer without action is hypocrisy. – Jose Zayas

Action is the normal completion of the act of will which begins as prayer. That action is not always external, but it is always some kind of effective energy. – Dean Inge

Witness the fact that in the Lord’s Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach. – Woodrow Wilson

About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation. – Will Rogers

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. – Søren Kierkegaard

Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish. -Author Unknown

I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs. – Frederick Douglass, escaped slave

Practical prayer is harder on the soles of your shoes than on the knees of your trousers. – Austin O’Malley

Before we can pray, “Lord, Thy Kingdom come,” we must be willing to pray, “My Kingdom go.” – Alan Redpath

Call on God, but row away from the rocks. – Indian Proverb

Prayer begets faith, faith begets love, and love begets service on behalf of the poor. – Mother Teresa

4 Things You Should Do Every Day

These 4 things, if you do them every day, will raise your level of joy, lower your level of stress and frustration and raise your level of purpose and significance.

First, learn to GIVE THANKS every day.

We think that once we experience joy, then we will be thankful, but the truth is, when we are thankful, joy is the byproduct.

Being thankful does not necessarily change our outside circumstances, but it does change our attitude and our perspective at how we look at things.

Experts say that practicing regular gratitude can change the way our brain neurons fire into more positive automatic patterns.

Henry Ward Beecher once said, “The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.”

Show me a person who practices gratitude, and I will show you a hopeful and joyful person.

Show me an ungrateful person, and I will show you someone you want to avoid.

William Arthur Ward wrote, “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you?”

The psalmist wrote, “Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”

Make a list of all the things you are thankful for. Read them every day. Thank God for them every day. Tell the ones who are on your list how thankful you are for them. Read Psalm 100 every day.

Second, learn to practice CONFESSING YOUR SINS to God daily.

We were not made to carry the weight of our mistakes.

It robs us of energy, it leads to depression and it can beat down our souls.

David wrote in the Psalms, “When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. …My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

Our bodies were not designed to hold on to sin.

Confession is God’s gift to us.

David goes on to say, “Finally I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. … And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone”

Another part of confession is having someone in your life who you can share your sins with. This person is someone who is safe, confidential and wants what is best for you.

In the New Testament James wrote, “When we confess our sins to another human being, it brings healing to our minds, hearts and bodies.”

Practice this confessional prayer from Psalm 51 each day:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Third, learn to CRY OUT TO GOD every day.

We all have fears, dreams, frustrations, questions and hurts that are swimming around in our soul.

Holding on to them can lead to all types of strange emotions and dysfunctions.

It is cathartic to tell God every day how you are feeling and what you are thinking about.

And you don’t need a filter with God.

You can tell God everything! The good, bad and the ugly.

It is interesting to me that David who was known as a “man after God’s own heart” wrote a lot of the psalms which I consider the original blues.

David in one moment was telling God how great He was, and the next moment was yelling at God for abandoning him.

One moment he was thanking God for his faithfulness, the next moment doubting if God would come through during difficult times.

I encourage you to read the psalms and learn from David.

I encourage you to talk to God more honestly throughout the day.

Tell Him your fears, frustrations and dreams.

Find a secluded, safe place to be unfiltered with Him.

Watch your energy and clarity increase.

C. John Miller says, “Honest prayer unmasks your real need and puts you in the presence of a rich Christ who wants to meet you as you really are.”

Fourth, I would encourage you to be a DEFENDER OF THE POOR every day.

Psalm 82 instructs us to, “Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.”

You can do this in large and small ways.

The key is to look for opportunities.

Jesus said that offering food, clothing, shelter, water, fighting for justice and visiting the sick and imprisoned is where you meet Jesus.

Imagine what your life would look and feel like if you met Jesus every day.

No wonder Jesus said that we are happier and more blessed when we are giving rather than receiving.

He also said that what we have been freely given(Grace), we should in return freely give away(Grace).

I encourage you to try these 4 things every day for a few weeks and see how your life changes.

I would love to here your responses!
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