Prayer Works

I was only 17 years old, a junior in high school and my youth pastor asked me to help with the middle school youth group during the week. We met on Tuesday nights in a local elementary school gym. I still remember my first night as a leader. 

I was scared. Will they like me? What if I’m not cool enough? What do I have to offer middle schoolers? 
I prayed a lot that day.

It was a rainy September evening, so most of the 80 students were in the gym. Everyone was playing games as the music blared in the background. I had met a group of 6th grade boys and we were playing basketball. For some reason (still to this day I’m not sure why) I thought it would be a good idea to pick the kid up by his ankles and hold him upside down. I grabbed him, lifted him up and flipped the little 6th grader over, attempting to grab his ankles.

But instead of his ankles, I only caught hold of the pant leg of his unusually baggy pants. You guessed it. Next thing I know, I’m holding the pants of a 6th grade boy while he laid on the ground. Despite the shrieks of some 7th grade girls, I’m pretty sure no one else noticed.

Needless to say, it was not one of my proudest moments as a youth leader.

I learned two things that night.

1.       Don’t pick kids up by their ankles.

2.       Prayer works: I could never pray too much.

It turns out that I spent a lot of time hanging out and investing in that little 6th grader. I prayed a lot for him. He is grown up now and thankfully has invested in a good belt. He got married last summer, we still joke about that night, but I spend more time thinking about how God allowed me to be a part of his life. He loves Jesus, serves Jesus and I am confident will continue to do great things for Jesus.

Prayer works. Not just that night when I first stepped into the gym, but every day.

Are you praying? What are you praying for?

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The Guide

My uncle is a white water rafting guide. If you pay him enough, you can get on his raft and he will lead you down white-water rapids in central Oregon. You would have to be crazy to go down the river without the guide, it would most-likely end badly. But the guide knows what he is doing. He knows what is around the bend, he calls out orders for the group to paddle to the left or right, and it’s his job to keep the group safe (and the group’s job to listen to the guide).

Last summer I read this same verse almost every day. It sustained me when I was weak and encouraged me when I was broken. When I was cleaning out my office last week, I came across the words scribbled out on an old sticky note.

Psalm 48:14.

 “For this God is our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end”

 The first 13 verses of chapter 48 describe the greatness of God. It’s like a gigantic crescendo that ends with a heart grabbing statement. This God – who is beautiful, strong, and unfailing in love – is our God. The God that I love is the same God you love. The God I pray to is the same God you pray to and He will be forever and ever.

That means that this Sunday as Stephen Kim leads up in worship with his guitar, we will sing to the same God as the small Navajo church with their out-of-tune piano and we will sing to the same God as the small group of believers in the mountains of Peru with no instruments at all.

Our church is stretched around the world right now. There are students in Thailand, China, Korea, Japan and across America. Where ever you are, we still worship the same God. He is our God.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the first half of that verse. But what breaks me every time I read it is the second half. He will be our guide even to the end. Let me tell you why it breaks me, because lately, I haven’t been very good at letting God be my guide. In fact, there have been times when I was uninterested in letting God lead.

You ever find yourself there? You know those times when you go through the motions of reading the Bible (or maybe not having a quiet time at all). I’ve found myself make decisions with me as the primary consideration, not God – not others. I have felt warn out because I lived “trying” when God wanted me to live “relying”.

Let me tell you what I have learned. Even when I choose not to follow, God still leads. He still longs to be my guide. He knows what is coming up and he has my best interest in mind. He is for me, not against me.  He hasn’t given up on me and he can’t give up on you. He is ready to guide me, I just need to listen.

Life is kind of like the river my uncle rafts down. It can be dangerous and you would be foolish to do it on your own. When I choose to do it on my own I usually fail. But when I listen and respond to God working in my life its always better.

Let’s face it – we need a guide.

Some of us are looking for a job.

Some of us are deciding on a college to attend.

Some of us are dealing with relationships.

Some of us are working in missions.

Some of us are just tired or frustrated.

My prayer for us is that we will be a group of people seeking to let God be our guide. It’s hard sometimes. I’ll be on my knees for you.

Purpose

Purpose.

Everything has a purpose.

A pencil is for writing, an umbrella keeps the rain off you, coffee gives energy (and tastes good), school is for learning and guns are for killing.

Some things have noble purposes, others mundane and some even evil.

Different things, different purposes.

What good is something if it isn’t being used for its purpose. There is a pencil sharpener that sits on the corner of my desk. It has been there for the past two and a half years and I have never used it. Actually, I don’t think I even own a pencil. Basically, that electric pencil sharpener serves only one purpose at the moment: a paper weight. It’s a pretty good paper weight. When I put paper under it, the paper never falls off the desk. In fact, I don’t think I have ever had a better paper weight.

As good of paper weight as it may be…its purpose is to sharpen pencils. And I bet it is a good pencil shapener too.

Isn’t it tradgic when something doesn’t do what it was made to do.

Isn’t it tradgic when someone doesn’t do what it they were made to do?

The natural question is, what was I made to do. I’ll tell you some of the answer. You were made to be in a divine romance with the King of Kings. You were made to honor and glorify him with your life. You were made to worship. You were made to lead others to the Savior. The list could continue.

The second half of the question is for you to answer.

Someone may be called to be a doctor. Great! Now honor and glorify God in that.

Someone may be called to be a student for the time being. Great! Now let your life be a worship service before God.

Someone may be called to be a janitor. Great! Now serve God as you work.

The tragedy is when someone misses one of the two parts. Either they don’t glorify God in what they do…or they are not doing what God created them to do.

So, may our prayer be that we live the life God has called us to live, nothing more….nothing less.
In doing that we will live with purpose.

Everyone has a purpose. Don’t get caught living out the wrong purpose.