6 Paradoxes of a Leader

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Paradoxes can be funny like when comedian John Stewart said, “Religion. It’s given people hope in a world torn up by religion” or when Yogi Berra said, “Nobody comes here anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Paradoxes can be funny but they can also be very important in framing an effective leadership strategy. Soren Kierkegaard talked about the huge impact paradoxes can have in our thinking when he wrote, “One must not think slightingly of the paradoxical…for the paradox is the source of the thinker’s passion, and the thinker without a paradox is like a lover without feeling: a paltry mediocrity.” 

I love what Danish Physicist and Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr stated about how things begin to move forward when a paradox shows up, “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.” 

Jesus was the ultimate paradoxical leader and turned the religious institutions of his day upside down when he stated “…that a grain of wheat that falls on the ground will never be more than one grain unless it dies. But if it dies, it will produce lots of wheat. If you love your life, you will lose it. If you give it up in this world, you will be given eternal life. If you serve me, you must go with me. My servants will be with me wherever I am. If you serve me, my Father will honor you.” John 12:24-26

Lots of paradoxical statements in those three verses!

To be a paradoxical leader you have to learn to embrace the subordinating conjunction “while”. “While” means 1) at or during same time: at or during the same time that  2) even though: in spite of the fact that.

Here are six paradoxes that every effective leader must face. The question is, how do you live out the “while”?

PARADOX #1 You must be building and recruiting and investing in leaders and getting out of the way, WHILE still being in the trenches.

PARADOX #2 You must be the inspiration, positive, optimistic voice for your team, WHILE making sure you take care of yourself when you are discouraged or drained.

PARADOX #3 You must invest in other people’s gifts and talents, helping to bring out the best in them, WHILE making sure you are growing and stretching and getting better at your gifts and talents.

PARADOX #4 You must do something for a long period of time (consistency) in order to grow an organization that has deep roots, an enduring vision and a sustainable future, WHILE making sure you try new things that allow you to get out of your comfort zone and to experience other passions in your life.

PARADOX #5 You must be a big picture, structure building, org-chart expanding leader, WHILE remembering that the most important part of your life is about close friendships, family and a personal faith.

PARADOX #6 You must never get too high or too low, knowing that leading is a long journey, and that it’s not a sprint but a marathon, WHILE remembering that every moment counts and every encounter is sacred and all you have is the present.

Would love to hear how you live out these paradoxes and what it looks like in your life or organization.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”
― Carl R. Rogers

A Prodigal’s Progress

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“It’s too late for me” is my lifetime cry
“Second tries aren’t possible” screams out the lie
Bitterness feels good, a drug that fills
It’s an unnatural high that quickly kills

I’ve sanctioned my actions, sold out to compromise
Defrauded my mind, it’s made me unwise
I am wonderfully made, it’s called Amazing Grace
My life’s full of fear, it’s such a disgrace

Children should learn, the world needs their illumination
My focus on “I” has muted a powerful generation
More for the rich, more for the strong
Can I keep affording to be wrong?

Prophets redundant in their admonition
Promising pain and affliction
I use up my resources without permission
While missing the point of true religion

Self-indulgence, gluttony, greed, I easily meet
From the inner city down to Wall Street
Covet my neighbor, keeping track of what they own
My happiness is fragile, I don’t even know the Jones

Called to eternal reasons, called to bigger dreams
Called to deeper thinking, it’s harder than it seems
Obsessed with brief amusement, my aim is so small
Bombarded by shallow living, I’ve succumbed to the fall

I’m far more powerful than I believe
Truth is, if I walk in, scarcity must leave
Cynicism rules the day, it has strangled my soul
Stops me from changing, it has taken its toll

Parched soil, empty bellies leads to much heartache
Many won’t eat today, while my plate is too great
I’m not here to manipulate, to throw out guilt or coerce
But I’m missing opportunities that bless and don’t curse

In the words of Paul, “I don’t do what I should”
He goes on to say, “I’m not always good.”
In the words of James, “Your faith might be dead”
He goes on to say, “They’re not works if just said.”

I compromise with apathy, bragging I’m doing no harm
I do just enough, showing off my charlatan charm
Justice is calling, it’s a Kingdom mandate
My comfort zone is charity, I’m missing my fate

The message is simple, it’s clear and concrete
My directive is obvious, overt, not discreet
Hand over my life, it’s the power of surrender
It’s about loving the least of these and a heart that is tender

As Mother Teresa said, “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’”

Isaiah 58

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‎”God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.” Bono

Listen to the message this weekend from Ken Burkey about being an Isaiah 58 church.

http://www.gvcconline.com/files/audio/07%20The%20Power%20Of%20Immersion.mp3

Isaiah 58 (NLT)
“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast.
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people Israel[a] of their sins!
2 Yet they act so pious!
They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
3 ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
4 What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
5 You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?
6 “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.
7 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.
8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.

Where there is no vision, people perish

They say that those who can’t, end up teaching
But I say those who won’t, end up critiquing
They say, stay close to those who are for you
I say, those that are for you are sadly few

They say, I’m all about team, but what’s in it for me
But I say, If you have to ask, then it’s more about identity
They say, I am all the way in, you can count on me
I say, in the end, it’s all about their security

They say, things I want to hear, with a face full of fun
But I say, behind closed doors, they wish I were gone
They say, we can do it on our own, we don’t need you
I say, be careful what you wish for, dreams do come true

Miracles don’t happen by dabbling, only by immersion
Miracles happen by many, not just one
Miracles happen by values, by the choices we choose
Miracles happen by vision, not taking others clues

Being popular is dangerous, a worn out treadmill
Consuming your mind, trying to get the lead bill
Fame is cotton candy, sweet at first, then quickly fleeting
It’s the drug of choice, in this celebrity media frenzy

Paul writes that the most important parts are hidden
So why does the man on stage get the recognition
Paul writes my weaknesses are ok because He is strong
So why does the man on stage sing a different song

They say, be sold out, be dedicated, but within reason
I say, I must be fully in, regardless of the season
They say, make sure you get out of the way, let others lead
I say, I don’t think I am done yet, my hurting heart still bleeds

They say, what about local, seems not enough people hired
I say, what about global, to whom much given is required
They say, I can’t afford to live, where is my Iphone 5
I say, they can’t afford to live, many die before age 5

They say, I have to simplify, I’ve lost the American dream
I say, our wants have lost the reality of our true needs
They say, once I get set then I will surely help others
I say, blessings come by first serving sisters and brothers

Spending so much time trying to look important
Dabbling has made the church benign and impotent
Jesus said, If you want to gain your life you must lose it
Not for the faint of heart, they are words of immersion

They say, give people rules, it’s the role of religion
I say, rules kill people, it leads to short term conviction
They say, but without rules, our world is undisciplined
I say, we have more rules, than history ever intended

They say, tell people to stop, tell them be strong enough
I say, I stopped drinking by myself, that’s called a dry drunk
They say, living a righteous life is what you don’t do
I say, righteousness means living justice outside the pew

They say, thy kingdom come, they will be done
They say, but you can’t be both democrat and republican
I say, God is bigger politics, He is bigger than religion
I say, it’s mad Grace and the work He has given

In the words of Mr. Chesterton:
Christianity has not been tried and found wanting
It has been difficult, untried, and daunting

In the words of Jesus of Nazareth:
If you want to gain your life, you must lose it
If you want to be greatest become a servant

If you invite someone to a banquet, invite those who can’t reimburse you…
Forgiving your enemy, feeding the hungry, redeeming rather than condemning is the life you are to pursue…

Our attitude is to be like Christ, it’s a life daily dying
It’s an attitude I’m not close to, if I said so I’d be lying
My titles, posturing and positions are taking a toll
My only peace comes from Grace filling this God-shaped hole

My Life Verse – A Useful Sacrifice

There are a lot of useless sacrifices in our world.

If my wife was to go out of town for a week, I could perform a lot of meaningless sacrifices for her while she was gone.

When my wife comes home if I tell her, “Honey, I sacrificed a lot for you while you were gone. I didn’t watch sports while you were gone, I didn’t eat my favorite foods while you were gone and I didn’t listen to my favorite music while you were gone. I did all of that for you.”

Her response would be, “Who cares! Those sacrifices don’t mean anything to me. Those sacrifices were useless.”

But if while my wife was gone, I deep cleaned the house, mowed the lawn and finished some house projects that needed to be done (This is all theory by the way), then my wife’s response would be, “Wow! You are an amazing husband. Those sacrifices mean everything to me. Those sacrifices were so useful.”

There are a lot of useless sacrifices in our world.

Even more so, there are a lot of useless sacrifices in the religious world.

My life verse is Isaiah 58 because it reminds me of what a useless sacrifice is and what a useful one is.

The people of Israel were busy going through the religious motions of the day. They were attending church, fasting from food, giving their alms and wearing clothes that showed everyone how spiritual they really were, yet God was not impressed, in fact He told them that all the religious hoops they were jumping through were useless sacrifices.

They were useless, not because going to church or fasting is wrong. They were useless because while they were doing those things they were oppressing workers, fighting and quarreling, forgetting the hungry and homeless and ignoring their own relatives who were in need.

So God reminded them what useful sacrifices look like:

“No, this is the kind of fasting [useful sacrifice] 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 shows us that useless sacrifices lead to our prayers falling on deaf ears, and God’s blessings seem fleeting.

Isaiah 58 also shows us that useful sacrifices lead to God not only listening to our prayers, but our useful sacrifices lead to healing, protection and answered prayer.

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.”

Ultimately, our useful sacrifices lead to our lives being a light of hope, our lives being guarded and guided, our strength being renewed and we will be known as people who care and help our communities and families become strong.

“Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.”

Mother Teresa’s words challenge us, “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

These are the useful sacrifices that those of us who say we are followers of Christ should be involved in.

When the Church is at its Best

dig•ni•ty/ˈdignitē/ Noun: The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

What do a single senior veteran, a senior widow, a senior widower living alone suffering from Parkinson’s, a seniors mobile home park, another senior widow, a single woman who is trying to care for her quadriplegic father, a disabled senior man, another single senior woman, a transition house for girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking, another single senior woman, and 65 year old woman who is terminally ill with cancer that has metastasized throughout her body have in common?

They were all served by my church on a Saturday morning by about 120 volunteers.

Racking, mowing and weeding of yards and property, painting of homes, repairing of roofs, building of fences, replacing of trim from dry rot, building and staining of decks, the pouring of concrete to fit walkers and wheelchairs, cleaning and repairing inside of homes, repairing of retaining walls, installing of gutters and so much more were involved on this Saturday.

What else do these precious people have in common? Most of them have never attended any of our church services.

They are the forgotten people that our culture so easily throws away.

Jesus told us to take care of the forgotten, seemingly unimportant people in our neighborhoods.

I am thankful that my churches philosophy is to take care of “the least of these.”

I am also thankful that my churches philosophy is that we consider everyone who lives in our community part of our church, whether they attend our services or not.

I am grateful for these days of service, not just because we get to bless someone who needs help.

I am grateful for these days, selfishly, because I think we are the ones most blessed.

When the church is offering DIGNITY, I think it is at its best!

While these service projects were going on all around our community on this beautiful fall Saturday morning, there were some beautiful things happening on our church campus as well, that happen every Saturday morning, 52 weeks a year.

Around three hundred people were fed a warm breakfast, while waiting to pick up a bag of groceries and a bag of vegetables grown from our churches organic garden, to help them get through the week.

Around 1500 articles of clothing were given away from our clothing ministry.

These precious people consist of senior citizens, single parents, families going through difficult financial times and a portion who are homeless.

Every Saturday morning, people come through our doors and experience not only physical food but they also experience spiritual and emotional and relational food as they experience words of encouragement and hope, and are treated with God’s grace.

When the church is offering DIGNITY, I think it is at its best!

While this is happening inside our church, every Saturday our garden team shows up to help produce hundreds of pounds of potatoes, squash, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, pumpkins, radishes, cucumbers and so much more.

While this is happening at our garden, there is another ministry happening not far, cutting and splitting wood so that people will have warm homes during the cold winters.

Over the last few years, we have averaged giving away around 150 truck loads of wood to the elderly, single moms and to those who cannot afford to heat their homes.

A certain word comes to mind…DIGNITY!

On any given Saturday, over 100 volunteers make this happen. They would tell you it’s the best day of their week.

On Monday and Tuesday nights we have an auto ministry where men and women come and fix cars so they can be given to single parents, families and seniors who are in need of reliable transportation to get them to work, to school, to the doctor and even to church.

A certain word comes to mind…DIGNITY!

I love my church.

We are not perfect, but I see so many volunteers using their time, strengths and resources to bring dignity to those that are overlooked and marginalized.

I see how loving people in tangible, practical ways, in Jesus name (dignity) is transforming lives and changing our community.

I see homeless people getting back on their feet and finding jobs and being able to afford shelter. (Dignity)

I see addicted people being set free from the burden of addictions. (Dignity)

I see lonely, forgotten senior citizens finding new hope and new friendships. (Dignity)

I see single moms, overwhelmed by the pace of life, being offered resources to keep them going, allowing them to not give up, but to finish their race. (Dignity)

I see people who were far from God, entering into a new eternal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. (Dignity)

I see people who came to our church to get help, resources and hope (Dignity), now offering that same help, resources and hope (Dignity) to others.

I see the impact my church has in our community through the selfless acts of hundreds of volunteers and I often ask this one question.

With around 450,000 churches in the United States, I wonder what our country would look like if every church would get involved in a volunteer revolution offering in Jesus name, dignity.

In the words of Bill Wilson, “We want God to touch our country, but God is asking us to touch our country.”

When the church is offering DIGNITY, I think it is at its best!

And I think our country and world is at its best when the church is at its best.

Just a few thoughts, let me know what you think?

Let’s Do It Again, Daddy!

The Apostle Paul wrote that when we stand before God, with our unshakable, irremovable foundation being Grace, everything we built on that foundation that was not used to advance the kingdom of God will be burned down.

Wasted time, neglected talents, selfish use of resources will go down in flames like kindling that helps start a camp fire.

Paul’s instruction is a warning but it is also a gift, reminding us that God has made us to live a high adrenaline, purpose filled, legacy leaving life.

When my son was 7 years old, we went to Six Flags, and there was a roller coaster that went upside down.

Your feet would hang free, you would free fall, and it was quite a rush, scary but fun.

At a young age, he was intimidated by the whole thing, so when I tried to get him to ride it, he told me he was happy not to.

He was happy just walking around eating churros, drinking slurpies and hanging around the “throw a ring around a bottle” game that nobody ever wins and if you do win, you have to lug a 30 pound Scooby Doo all around the park for the rest of the day.

Churros and slurpies and stuffed animals are nice, but it’s not why you go to Six flags.

There is no adventure in them.

Eventually, you get full, bloated and you run out of money.

The reason you go to Six Flags is for the thrill of the rides that put your stomach in your throat, speeds that knock your toupee off, and loops that sends blood rushing to your head.

You scream, you laugh, you might even wet your pants, but at the end of the ride you know that you are fully alive!!

I talked my son onto the ride even though he was still content hanging out with the churros, slurpies and stuffed animals.

When he got on the ride, you could see fear in his face, and during the ride, he screamed a little, he laughed a lot, and I think he even wet his pants a little.

But when the ride came to an end, the thought of the mundane life of churros, slurpies and stuffed animals had left his head, and all he could say was, “Daddy, let’s do it again!”

Jesus said in Luke 19:26, “Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag.”

God has an amazing adventure for all of us when we enter into his kingdom.

He has adventures that will send our stomachs to our throats, our toupees flying off, and blood rushing to our heads.

Adventures that will make us scream in terror, laugh with joy and maybe even wet our pants a little.

But they are the adventures and life God created us for.

It is easy, when we get into the park (Grace), to settle for safe, instant satisfying things…I mean, who doesn’t like a hot churro and a cherry coke slurpy.

But you have to eventually get on the scary rides, or you will miss out on the purpose of the kingdom.

Nobody gets home from Six Flags and brags about how many churros and slurpies they ate and how much money they lost trying to win Scooby Doo.

No, when you get home, you tell people all the scary rides you rode and how many times you rode them and how you can’t wait to go back again and ride them some more!

As followers of Jesus, his Grace gives us free access to the park, but once we are in, he asks us to get on the scary rides.

He asks us to not sit idly watching others ride, while you finish your fourth churro.

He asks us to get on the ride and use our time, talents and treasures to feed the poor, shelter the homeless, relieve the oppressed, rescue the orphan, create spaces of sanctuary and safety, protect the widow, heal the sick, educate the next generation and do it all in the name of Jesus who came to heal the broken hearted and set the captives free.

And it is true that on this ride, you will scream a little, you will laugh a lot and you might even wet your pants, but I will guarantee you that when you get done with the ride your first words out will be, “Daddy, let’s do it again!”

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 1)

The first thing every church should and must do is work with Compassion International.

I am coming off a weekend where Compassion International, once again, has impacted our church in such a way as to make us more compassionate, more generous, more unified and much closer to the heart of God.

What church leaders wouldn’t want that to happen to their church?

When we pray the prayer Jesus taught us, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, Compassion assists in helping that prayer come true.

The definition of “compassion” is “to feel deeply about something that needs to get fixed, and then being willing to do something about it.”

Many times we feel deeply about something in our world, but that is not compassion. It is only when we are willing to do something to change it, do our lives begin to define compassion.

Compassion International not only brings to us the awareness of the difficulties children experience living in extreme poverty, but they provide practical, effective avenues in participating in taking away those difficulties.

Child sponsorship connects a child to a sponsor who will write letters and pray for him or her, but more importantly it will connect the child to a local church that assists the child in a holistic way.

From making sure they get and stay and thrive in school, to food and nutritional needs, to helping with medical issues, to providing life-saving antiviral drugs that fight the HIV virus, to insecticide treated mosquito nets that prevent malaria, to safe water filters, to building a safe community full of healthy relationships.

On top of all of those amazing things, the child is introduced to a relationship with Jesus and a local church who oversees the local compassion program, who offers them salvation, eternal life and a relationship that will shape how they view the world for the rest of their lives.

Families at the church I go to have sponsored over 1200 children from all over the world. It has affected us deeply. Think about it. We are one church. And as I always say, “We are not a rich church, but we are a generous church.”

One church has impacted the lives of 1200 children, plus their families.

We have sponsored a Child Survival Program in Haiti where pregnant mothers get medical attention and new born children are given the medical care they need to develop into young healthy children who can be sponsored.

The Child Survival Program is run through the local Compassion sponsor church.

Just this last weekend, the families at my church purchased nearly 900 safe water filters at $55 a filter. That’s about $50 thousand in one weekend! They will give 900 families safe water for life.

Once again, these water filters will be distributed through the local Compassion church where pastors and church leaders will give the filters to families and begin to build on-going relationships with them.

What is great is that the local church in that country, not my church, but the local church will get all the credit for helping children, mothers and families, and ultimately when the local church serves its community, God gets the credit and that is the whole point.

And that is the genius and gift of Compassion International.

It has helped my church live out the true definition of “compassion”, it has made us more generous with our time, talents and treasures, it has unified us and better aligned our hearts towards God’s heart whose passion and deep love for the poor we are called to emulate.

My family sponsors 6 children, 3 from Africa, 2 from Mexico and 1 from Haiti. It is the best investment we have ever made!

They say there are 138 million Americans who call themselves followers of Jesus.

Compassion has a little over 1 million children sponsored.

Imagine how the world would change if every American who calls themselves a follower of Jesus sponsored just 1 child.

That would mean 138 million children around the world getting medical, educational, social, relational and spiritual care!

Those 138 million children will grow up and change our world!

Imagine every church in America growing in compassion, generosity, their lives uniting and their hearts beating in closer sync with God’s.

That, my friends, sounds like Jesus’ prayer coming true, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven!”

Every church should and must work with Compassion International.

If you want to know how you can work with Compassion you can email me, burkeyk@gvcconline.net or go to their web page http://www.compassion.com

You might want to forward this to your pastor and church leaders.

Check out tomorrow as I will write about the second thing every church should do.
It’s a pretty big challenge, but it leads to even bigger blessings.

A poem and challenge to the local church

Distractions everywhere, doubters abound
Change the world? That reasoning is not sound
My face slaps reality, visions take back seat
My watch ticks fast, challenging great feats

I’m told be practical, I’m told to chill
I’m talked off my soapbox, told to stand still
Busy with mundane, busy with tasks
Children are dieing, our backs to the facts

Conversing about the day, waiting for weekend
2 days to do nothing, yet many die before weeks end
It seems strange to talk about my shallow fun
While food’s missing in ground scorched by sun

Religion in the big lights, inaugurating the next star
How do we entertain them, we have to raise the bar
While churches woo the converted, the all-ready convinced
There is a world giving up, believing God is “past tense”

We will win with arguments, we will win with laws
We will win with theology, we will win pointing flaws
Debating with bumper stickers, politicians bold and cunning
The TV preacher says we’ll get rich if we give him money

We proclaim salvation, we say we believe
Then why do we pick sides, asking others to leave
Good overcomes evil, love wins over creeds
Our hearts need transforming, touching those who bleed

Grace is messy, we all need the same
Cathedrals too clean, finding others to blame
It’s time to get dirty, it’s time for heart break
No more empty words, and a faith that’s fake

Time to serve the poor, it’s God’s investment plan
Time to open our doors to the homeless man
Time to live with less, so that children are blessed
Time to give our all, so that the world will know the rest

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