Tag Archive: Prayer


The chaplain turned to his regional director and asked him to pray.  He asked him to pray for Jesus to address his pride.  After all these years it was not so much killing him but ,rather, taking away from the calling to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. 

It started a long time ago.  His dad was a good dad, but he was very close-lipped.  It was hard to get dad’s approval.  It wasn’t like his dad-bad mouthed him.  He simply did not say much.  Only later in life did the hungry chaplain realize it was his dad’s personality.  However, it left its scar on his psyche.  He was going to prove his worth.

Before the gentleman became a minister and eventually a chaplain, he was an educator.  Smart and driven most people would say.  With a Master’s Degree in Educational Management and Supervision, the young man would be on the fast track to an administrative position.  That would prove his worth to the world.  

Only things didn’t pan out that way.  The fast track became the slow track, and, with his second child on the way, he had to make some money.  

Making a long story as short as possible, his dad had a chance to purchase his franchise.  Only he needed someone to make the short-term a long-term opportunity.  So, off to business the educator went.  

He took over the business after a few years and took the company over the 1.2 million mark in gross sales.  With an emphasis on quality in the mechanics shop and expanding the “in-house” accounts, the business took off.  This had to declare his value to the world, especially his family.  That was until the United States decided to invade Iraq, and the downturn in business began a spiral that was hard to come out of.  

When a business goes into a downward trend, it tends to take small problems and turn them into big if not huge problems.  It’s sort of like a football team that is riding the arm of a great quarterback only to have him go down due to injury.  The glaring gaps at defense get wider.  The lack of a running game goes deeper.  Things can come apart.  For the successful young man they did.  His “legacy” was going in the wrong direction. 

There is an amazing element of belief in Jesus Christ.  It’s the truth that the Good Shepherd always looks out for his sheep.  The Bible says that when one of those sheep gets lost, the Good Shepherd will go and find him and bring him home.  Let’s just say the young man, who was now moving into middle age, was lost.  His life, career, and home, were not going well.  Every decision he made seemed to be wrong.  Here he was, trying to please everybody except Jesus.  Oh, he attached him to things to make it look like it, but he knew.  He knew. 

Eventually, after a few years of misery, the educator-turned-businessman left to answer the call to serve the Lord Jesus in ministry.  It started in youth ministry, rebuilding a fractured youth group at his home church.  From there he started a college ministry.  Things seemed to be back on track.  That was until his church began to have it’s own problems.  Churches that wait till there are problems to make tough decisions seldom make good decisions.  Let’s just say it was time to go.

So, off to South Carolina he went.  It didn’t start well at all.  Within 6 months of arriving, the ministry plans were in total chaos.  Sitting in a local restaurant with his wife, he and she tearfully and fearfully considered heading back north to the safety net of family and familiarity.  Only, they never made it back there.  Why?  The Good Shepherd had other plans.

Over the next 15 years, the young man had now entered his senior years.  The ministry in South Carolina had seen it’s ups and downs.  Overall, there were no complaints.  Nobody promised an easy path.  The Scriptures talk about a narrow road being one that leads to life.  Narrow roads can be hard to stay on.  

The minister became a police chaplain.  Then a fire department chaplain.  Here he was now at a training conference as a part-time workplace chaplain.  God works in weird ways and at weird times.  The trainer asked, “Why are you a chaplain?”  Living in the Christian world, we can come up with Christian answers that hide the truth.  We learn the system.  

But this time, the question sank deep.  It touched his soul in ways his soul had not been in a long time.  It went beyond being a chaplain.  He quickly turned the question into “Why are you in ministry at all?”  He knew it at that minute.

There are brief moments when we can see clearly in a fallen world.  Most times we live in a fog hoping it lifts soon.  The moment the question left the speakers lips, he knew the answer.  He was still trying to prove his worth.  It was long overdue to end the charade and get rid of the pride that kept his own heart captive.  

Turning to his director, he asked for prayer about his pride.  The prayer nailed it home.  Somehow, Jesus put on the director’s his lips what the chaplain had a hard time giving up.  His thirst for recognition, mixed with his pride was finally at the foot of the cross.  

As I said “Amen” after his prayer, I now can say, “I am a minister and a chaplain to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.”  I will be reminded tomorrow morning to leave my thirst and my desires with my Good Shepherd once again.  It is in these moments I am free.  Will you join me? 

Jesus said, “Come unto me all who are burdened and heavy hearted and I will give you rest.”  I was tired as I know so many around me are as well.  There is only one place to find rest.  His name is Jesus.  

I remember when I was knee high to a grasshopper, and the teacher said we were going to have a test the next day.  I’m not sure a 10-year-old has a functional faith, but, that day, prayer was engaged.  It was the typical prayer of a boy who would rather be outside than sitting in the house studying.  It went something like this, “Jesus, help me on my test.  Amen.”  It was more a prayer of protection from my parents’ wrath if I brought home a bad grade. I should note that my parents were not full of wrath.  However, making me stay indoors and do homework was enough wrath to make me tremble. 

When I was a little bit younger, I would argue with my mother during the summer months.  She had a set bedtime for me.  However, during months like June and July, the sun did not go totally down till 8:30ish, and, with the twilight, there was enough light outside till about 9:15.  Bed before then was torture, and I let them know it.  I seldom won.  My prayers followed the same pattern, “Jesus, let mom and dad forget what time it is.”  My prayers were not answered with a “Yes.”  At 10-years-old I was not sure God had ears.  

I have heard a lot of prayers over the years.  Our prayers seem to stay juvenile.  We pray that anyone who is ill gets well.  We pray that anyone on deaths door lives.  We pray for financial prosperity.  We pray for things.  I bet many, if not a few who read this column, have prayed, “Let me win the lottery, and I will give you more than the tithe.  Jesus, I promise to do good things with the money.  Just let me win.”  It doesn’t matter that the overwhelming majority of people who have won the lottery end up worse than before they won.  

Recently, I actually ran into a person who didn’t win the big game but won a substantial amount of mullah playing the lottery.  He told me he would never play again.  With a forlorn look on his face and with a deadpan voice he said, “The winnings ruined my life.”  I was thinking, better watch what you pray for.

As I got a little older, I thought it was good to pray Biblical things.  One day I prayed, “Lord, give us patience.”  An elderly man interrupted the prayer meeting and asked if I knew what I was praying for.  My look must have given away my dismay.  He finished with, “You just prayed for trials and tribulations.”  After a brief moment of silence, he added, “That’s how we get patience.”  I’m not sure I ever prayed for patience again.  

Just like in my preteen years, at the core of our prayers is a selfish desire.  We tend to pray for things to turn out the way we want them to be.  Not that we can’t pray for people.  It’s just we pray asking Jesus to do things our way and give the outcome that will make us happy.  So that we aren’t too selfish we add, “if it be Your will.”  There we go.  Now, we can tell God how we want life to be, and it’s officially religious.  

This morning a dear friend texted me, “I brought nothing to God this morning, and He gave me back everything.”  In his text, we see a reflection of Jesus’ words when he said, “Blessed are those who are poor of spirit.”  Poor of spirit is not taking the #1 position of potter but, instead, remembering we are the clay.  Our prayers should reflect this “beautiful attitude.”  

In the past 6 months, I have had trouble asking God for anything.   Instead, I ask God how he would like to use me today.  I ask him who He wants me to minister to with his word today.  I ask Him how would He like to use me to declare His glory on this earth.  I ask Him to use me to bring peace to the chaos of others’ lives.  Why?  He is the potter and I am the clay.  

Our prayers need to reflect our position.  They also need to reflect His sovereignty (in charge).  A friend with cancer might be a friend who God desires to declare His Word to a doctor or a nurse.  A friend who has lost a loved one may be used by God to declare the gospel to more people at a funeral than at any other time in his life.  A neighbor suffering a car wreck may be used by God to speak of Him to a tow truck driver, a police officer or, better yet, to the one who ran into her.

A friend of mine was in a minor car accident.  She was complaining about the other driver, the lack of attention by the police and now the car repair service.  She was going to call her lawyer and try to get thousands from something that wasn’t worth even hundreds.    I asked her if she thought of looking at the situation a bit differently.  “Like how?” she mumbled.  I asked her to consider if she would mind if I prayed for her to be in touch with the voice of Jesus.  Angrily she replied, “What good will that do?”  In all seriousness I responded, “My prayer is not about fixing your issues.  They will never be fixed to your liking.  Prayer is about getting you in the right position to be used by God.”  She turned around and left.  I don’t think she was too happy.  Would you be?

It is hard to believe that I have had the privilege of writing a weekly article for the Bluffton Today for close to 8 years now.  It all started on a kayak trip.  The then editor of the paper was part of our kayak group called Lowcountry Unfiltered.  

One day I told him the spiritually-based articles were so heavily minded I didn’t find them any earthly good.  Little was I prepared for his response.  He said, “I agree; how about you write one weekly?”  Since my mouth often works faster than my brain, I told him I would.  It has been an interesting journey.  From time to time, I look back on some of the early articles and wonder how the Bluffton Today kept me on.  

Over time, I have been honored by various community members mentioning they read these articles every week.   I am often surprised.  I have learned a lot over those years about the readers.  They tend not to be church based.  They tend to have pain and suffering in their past that is hard to get over.  Often that pain and suffering hasve come from their church experience.  

When we are suffering and the wounds are fresh, I have learned that Sunday morning just doesn’t do it.  When I mention this to most weekly church goers, they seemed surprised.  A word that I heard today from a past church-goer is “real.”  Those suffering don’t find church to be “real.”  The issues that cause pain and suffering are minimized, and the idea that Christ followers are to have a happy life is wrong as wrong can be.  So they feel marginalized on any given Sunday morning.  

What happens over time is that nobody in the church reaches back out to them, and they don’t want to go back to the scene of the crime.  That is totally understandable.  The problem is we need the “church.”  We don’t need the expression, but, rather, we need an “authentic” church experience.  It can be hard to find our current expression in the Bible.  The suffering church struggles to find significance and its place.  

Something has to change.  

For the past 8 years, I have avoided using this column for self-promotion of my church or ministry.  There have been a few ministry ventures I have mentioned, such as Family Promise of Beaufort County and ACTion Mentoring at Hardeeville Elementary School,, as well as the Backpack Buddies sponsored by Crossroads Community Support Services.  These programs reach out to those in need and need as much print as possible.  However, today I’m going to talk about a new venture that I would like to invite readers to consider.

On Saturday nights at 6:30 p.m. starting May 4th Grace Coastal Church has supported me in sponsoring a service called “Come as You Are: Healing for the Broken-hearted.”  It is stripped of most elements of Sunday and focuses on an authentic experience based on Acts 2.  In Acts 2, we see the early church devoted to 4 elements.  They are:  the teachings of the Apostles on Jesus, Prayer, Fellowship, and Breaking Bread.  That’s what we are going to do.  

On Saturday nights, we want to BE the church, not just attend church.  We won’t leave Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  We want to be focused on Christ and Christ alone.  Who needs the gospel? I do, and so does everybody else.  There will be a lot of prayer.  Without question, prayer is a game changer.  So, let’s pray and let’s pray a lot.  The church is not about weekly attendance.  It’s about people.  As we gain traction, we anticipate having many participate and share their lives and their Jesus.  That’s fellowship.  After the 45 minute meeting time, our service does not end until we enjoy a simple meal together.  At that time, I will entertain a Q and A time for issues that come up during the service.  No use having a service and sending anyone home confused.  Let’s walk through this journey together.  

I don’t think of how we are going to make this work.  I’m not even sure what it means to have something “work” in ministry.  All I know is it’s Biblical.  It’s real.  I know many people who are hurt, struggling and broken and need a place to heal their broken hearts.  

If you are broken hearted and just can’t seem to find Christ on a typical Sunday morning, I invite you to Grace Coastal Church on Saturday nights at 6:30.  Talk to me when you come.  Wherever Jesus went, he touched and healed people.  Hearts need to be healed.  We don’t know if we are aiding healing unless we talk about it.  That had to be the end result of Acts 2.  Looking for an authentic expression?  So am I.  

I know without question a lot of readers are nursing broken hearts.  All I can offer is an opportunity to walk together looking for Jesus to provide his healing touch.  He said he came “to heal the broken-hearted and set the prisoners free.”  It’s time we did so as well. Let’s keep it simple.  Let’s look to Jesus.  He is our only hope for sure.  

I was walking the dog the other day and things got quite crazy.  I’m serious when I tell people I’m learning more about me than anything with this crazy lab/hound mix.  God has a strange way of making the light come on in our lives.  If only we would pay attention.  

I was using a harness that buckled under his chest.  When he expanded his chest in an extreme situation (other dogs, birds, butterflies, etc.) he would from time to time literally pop the buckle.  The first time was over another dog that he wanted to meet.  

The good news is he did not run away from me.  Instead, with the other dog and owner standing idly by, probably quite amused as well, Vader ran circles around us over and over again.  I know not to chase him.  That is a total waste of time.  Instead I waited for him to run out of gas.  Do you know how long it takes an 11-month-old hound to run out of gas?  It took quite a bit.  Eventually, as he lay exhausted on the ground, I was able to grab his leg and gain control.

The second time was over a lady jogging down the street.  He didn’t want to bite her.  He wanted to meet her and make her his friend.  Again, once I got his attention, I sat on the ground trying to convince him to come to me with imaginary treats.  He is smart.  I looked stupid.  After a prolonged time of running like a wild dog in circles in some stranger’s front yard, I was able to get the upper hand on him.  

It was time to retire the harness.  Enough was enough.  He is very strong in the upper body, and it was going to take a much stronger harness to handle this one.  The third time was a totally different situation.  With the new harness firmly around him, I bent over to tie my shoe and, for a moment, let go of the lead.  He figured it out quickly and again ran wild circles around me.  It didn’t take as long this time.  I was able to jump on the lead to corral the wild beast.  

I’m glad the third time was at 5:00 a.m.  There are not too many people awake that time of the morning.  I’m glad also, because it had rained the night before, and, when I jumped on his lead ,I came up completely soaked.  I was wondering what possessed me to get a puppy.  Those thoughts quickly left when he looked up and gave me a big old lick on the cheek.  He knows how to sucker his owner.  

As we finished our walk that morning, I remembered his rampage interrupted my prayer time.  Walking the dog for about 2 miles has given me time to pray, and, boy, do I need it.  It’s actually been great.  Being outside in nature gives me a real sense of presence with my God.  All I have to do is remember to hold on to the leash.  Anyway, I went back to prayer as my heart started to beat at a reasonable rate.

I asked the Lord, “What do you want of me today?”  At that moment, I looked down at the mutt.  The light went on.  I could almost hear God say, “What makes you think you are any different when you walk away from My lead?”  I looked up at the moon and uttered a humble, “Touche.”

I was then contemplating how many times I ran circles around Jesus without following his lead.  I never really run away, but I don’t follow Him.  I want to have my life walk my way.  I don’t really want to be on God’s lead.  Best yet, I want to be close enough to him to enjoy the life he has given me.  Just let me lead!

It doesn’t work that way.  Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd.  The shepherd is out in the lead.  The sheep follow.  Why?  Sheep are no different than my dog.  Let something of interest fly by, walk by, stand by and any other “by” you can find.  Off we go.  It’s our nature.  Every one of us in the human form have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) to some extent.  It really doesn’t take much for us to bust out and run circles around God.

Now, here’s the incredible point.  He doesn’t leave us to our own way.  His love is so great we really can’t fathom it.  Jesus said he was the shepherd who lays his life down for his sheep.  In those days the corrals did not have gates.  The shepherd would lay down and sleep in the entrance way.  The sheep couldn’t get out, and the wild beasts and thieves could not get them.  What a love!  If one happens to slip away, he will go and get the wandering lamb.  It’s His nature.  

Let’s take things a step further.  The love of Jesus is all he needs.  Jesus doesn’t run out and get a better harness.  He doesn’t double down on the leash.  He doesn’t get so mad he is ready to give us away.  Not at all.  His love is what brings the wayward sheep home.  It’s his love that draws us to his caressing hands.  And those hands have the nail marks in them.  

As we draw closer and closer to celebrating the resurrection, consider his love.  After we have run circles around the idols of our hearts, he simply says, “Come unto me you who are tired, and I will give you rest.”  No beatings.  No displays of dismay.  Nothing but the caress of his great love.  Let’s walk again.  And again.  And again.  The soothing message of the cross.  

Got to go…it’s time for Vader’s evening walk.  It should be interesting.  I wonder what God has in store tonight.  

Last week I introduced the concept of being a healing Christian, ministry and church. Since my buddy Dwayne informed me he wanted to “heal” in 2019, “healing” has been coming up over and over again.

Remember, I’m not talking about physical healing.  It is more of a healing that comes from the inside out.  With that in mind, Jesus didn’t separate the body, mind and soul.  He actually kept the three together since they are so vitally linked together.  Let’s face it.  If the body hurts, our mind and soul will hurt.   If our mind is constantly depressed or preoccupied, our body and soul will suffer.  If our soul is sour what makes us think the other two won’t be?  Jesus kept the three together since we are such a delicate creation.  

We do not believe in Jesus to get an easy life.  If that were sound theology, then the poor apostles were given a bum deal.  They all died a horrible death except for John.  Even with John, it is believed he was placed in boiling water and later exiled to the island of Patmos.  At that time there were no resorts on the island.  It was a hard life.  

Paul, the apostle, in Second Corinthians says we suffer so we can minister to fellow sufferers.  Our world says we should not have to suffer.  They are wrong.  This world is suffering.  I have yet to meet anyone who has not had to suffer real pain in this life.  There is the pain of broken bones and surgery.  The pain that sears the soul is broken relationships, betrayal, abandonment and lies.  Best friends can be the worst friends.  Family pain is brutal.  Our bones will heal.  Our bodies will mend.  But our minds and souls hurt for a lifetime.

Recently, I came across a lady who though no fault of her own experienced the death of a child.  While functional, she could not get the feelings of guilt and failure out of her heart.  She will probably die a broken person.  Now here is where we have to take a hard look.  What is faith in Christ at this point?

Some will say the broken lady does not have enough faith.  Some might say she has a false impression of who Jesus really is.  Others might say she never had faith.  I talked to her.  Without question she believed and believes in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So, what is the problem?  Does she not pray enough?  No, she prays daily.  Does she not read the Bible?  Nope, she does.  Did she quit on the church?  Every Sunday she is there.  So, what’s the problem?  She is a human being, just like you and me.

Sunday is not a day to put on a front like we have it all together.  Quite the opposite.  It should be a place where broken people can come and find their hope and healing in Jesus.  It is a healing that takes a lifetime.  

This gets us down to what it means to be a soul healer.  First and foremost we must embrace the human condition.  It has been a long time since I have come across anyone that doesn’t have a sense that we are broken.  I once had an on going conversation with a psychology teacher.  In the middle, he asked if I was a Christian.  Of course I responded in the affirmative.  I asked him how he figured it out.  He replied, “You know something is broken, and we have not come up with the solution.”  I asked him if he could give an answer to the human sin issue.  He replied, “No, and all our science fails to answer it as well.”  Of course it does.  What’s broke is broke.  

I don’t have to point out brokenness when someone comes for counsel as a believer or a non-believer.  Moral goodness is relative.  When brought under the microscope of God’s holiness, we are in big trouble.  We know it.  Our own arrogance doesn’t want to acknowledge it especially in this critical culture.  

While it seems like a hopeless condition there is healing.  It isn’t healing that takes away the pain or the memory.  Not at all.  Actually pain is a great reminder of the need.  That’s the problem with great prosperity.  We can insulate ourselves from brokenness to some extent.  It causes us to avoid the truth.  Once realized, the healing is the ability to get up the next day and find a new normal.  

Jesus never promised the same old, same old.  No, the gospel says there is a new beginning.  We take with us the scars and yet-to-be-fixed brokenness and find a new normal based on the hope and the truth that God allowed us to suffer to bring healing to someone else.  In the meantime, we can get out of bed the next morning since we are in the hands of the Lord Jesus who gave us the example of suffering to bring healing.

How do we get out of bed?  Dependent upon grace that God has already granted us and the grace we turn around and give to fellow sufferers.  A healing church allows God to do what God does instead of rescuing the hurting and becoming their little “s” savior.  To do that involves truly walking in the Spirit.  Love the unlovable.  Have joy in the rain and the sun.  Be peace among the chaos.   Exercise patience. Practice meekness to conquer the self-serving pride.  Be kind.  A gentle touch heals a bitter wound.  Encourage self-control for the hurting,  as they tend to hurt others in their suffering.    

To heal we rest on God’s path and timing.  In the meantime, let’s walk together.  My name’s John.  What’s yours?  I have a story and I would love to hear yours. 

When I was a kid I used to watch Lost in Space. The marooned explorers had a robot that would call out “Danger, Will Robinson” when the young member of the party was venturing into places engaging dangerous elements. For today’s article, I’m going to issue a warning, “Danger, Willing Readers.” The thoughts and expressions in today’s article may be offensive to some. If you choose to read further I can at least say, “I warned you.”
Thursday, May 3rd was the National Day of Prayer. Many churches, organizations and groups held prayer vigils. Usually I don’t attend these types of meetings. Maybe I’m a curmudgeon or overly critical. Prayer shouldn’t need a meeting or a day to itself. Prayer should be the staple of our Christian lives. Anyway, it is what it is. I decided this year to attend two prayer opportunities on this one day.
As I listened to the prayers, I became concerned. I heard prayers of what we wanted God to do. We want God to do all sorts of things from healing our nation, having the non-believers live like believers, to desiring great prosperity (even though we already have had that one for quite a while). God has a really big list after Thursday. It’s not to say we can’t ask God for these things. In actuality, by grace, we can make our petitions to God in any way and for anything we so desire. It’s in God’s hands anyway.
But prayers tend to show the heart more than we realize. What I didn’t hear in our prayers were requests to transform our hearts. I didn’t hear prayers that called those in attendance to be active for the cause of Christ. I didn’t hear anyone pray, “Lord, we are your children, direct us to gospel ministry.” I didn’t hear anyone pray, “Lord, what would you have for us to do?” I didn’t hear anyone pray, “Lord, send me!” Nope, the National Day of Prayer was the day we asked often in an attitude of expectation for the nation, state and county to cater to our desires and keep us all prospering. I thank the Lord, honestly, that he is interceding for us to the Father. We need it!
At the end of one of the meetings an individual prayed, “Thank you, this has not cost us that much.” I wanted to stand up and thank them and end the meeting right there. That is one of the issues that has Christianity in America reeling.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, modern day martyr, wrote a book titled The Cost of Discipleship. The entire first chapter is the difference between “cheap” grace and “costly” grace. He writes, “Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods…It is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple will leave his nets and follow him.”
Jesus said in Luke 14, “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” It’s interesting; Jesus proceeds in the next sentence to talk about salt that has lost it’s saltiness. Is there a correlation? You bet there is.
Our current expression of a comfortable faith has cost us. It has cost us the next two generations. It is our children and grandchildren. Youth workers across the nation know we are having major issues keeping our own children in the faith. The Word of God they hear is not the Word of God they see. We talk about the armor of God in Ephesians only to stand in a museum for show instead of engaging in the gospel war.
The Bible talks about repentance. It is a constant call not so much to the non-believers but to the believers. I don’t hear prayers of confession and repentance. Instead I hear prayers asking God to continue our comfortable faith. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die,” wrote Bonhoeffer. Die to the elements of this world.
My generation has built great buildings, written wonderful books and created numerous programs. Only we failed to build our vital relationships that take the most valuable asset we own today…time. It takes time to walk with a child. It takes time to love well. It takes time of which we spent building a kingdom on this earth instead of the kingdom of God. We left that to the paid staff. Epic fail.
Hope is not lost. Repent and ask forgiveness of our God and the generations we have failed. Instead of a National Day of Prayer, let’s have a National Day of Repentance. We will see how many will show up for that one.