Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine. It felt great in the moment.
Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later. At present, I rarely check the platform. Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline. Not much has changed. I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon. Addiction defeated, problem solved right?
Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty. So, I was stuck inside the house. I had some choices to make. I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash. All decent options.
I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem. I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day. No need to do that. Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end. Simple enough. Let’s read! I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.
At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news.
The battle was on!
I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book. Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down. Problem solved!
I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book. Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?” My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call. I’d better keep it with me while I read. I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout. In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again. After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight. A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel. I had been ambushed! It was an inside job!
It’s always an inside job!
My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News. My problem is my heart. If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly. Yes, I have a few Godly desires. But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God. There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news. However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.
Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives. A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.
As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness). I read the passage and something changed. A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.
Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection. We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…” I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises. In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!”
Is that what James 4 is about? We don’t have because we don’t ask?
You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.”
James 4:2b-3 ESV
We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions. Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages. God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.
Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God? Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.
November 11th was National Orphan Sunday. Frankly, every Sunday should be Orphan Sunday.
Our church is advocating for John and other children in foster care. You can help John and other children find a forever family!
“John is a sweet 10 year old boy! He said, “I really, really want to be adopted!” He is described as being all boy. John loves playing outside and catching bugs. He is very sweet and fun to be around. John likes to make jokes, and his infectious laugh will spread to anyone around him! He is competitive, athletic and ambidextrous. John is artistic and loves to draw- especially Minions and Pikachu from Pokémon. He desires a family that will love him unconditionally and be patient as he works through his trauma.”
Nearly 7% of all orphans in the USA are in Texas
17,000 children in Foster Care in Texas
340 kids are currently in Tarrant County foster care waiting to be adopted
20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless when they reach 21.
7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.
25% of children who age out of the foster care system still suffer from PTSD
Not everyone is called to adopt or become a foster parent. However, everyone can advocate for children in the foster care system.
Creative ways to help:
Pray for children in the foster care system and families who choose to step in.
“There are almost 17,000 kids in foster care in Texas. That seems like a crazy number until you hear there are almost 30,000 churches in Texas! There is more to Orphan Care than just fostering or adopting. If one Christian family from every church adopted and that church agreed to support and wrap around that family there would no no more orphans in Texas.“
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Last weekend, I took my 9 year old son (Nelson) for an overnight camping adventure at our ranch.
I had three objectives. First, to invest time into my son’s life. Second, teach him practical outdoor skills while feeding his sense of adventure. Third, each activity was designed to point him toward authentic manhood. All the while, pushing him outside his comfort zone surrounded by God’s amazing creation.
Upon arrival, I gave him a gift. It was a small field med-pack with a headlamp (red light), a striker, one chem-light (aka: glow-stick for all you ravers), a multi-tool, a small LED light to illuminate the inside the bag at night, a zip-lock with several cotton balls soaked in Vasaline petroleum jelly, a small first aid kit, a wrist compass and a two-way radio. I instructed him to keep the pack with him at all times.
Before sunset, our first lesson was to learn how to start a fire without conventional ignition, like matches or lighters. We gathered rocks, tinder and wood. Then I demonstrated how to ignite a tinder ball using a striker and a cotton ball covered in Vasaline. Nelson practiced a few times before dinner.
Night came and temperatures fell. Stars filled the clear sky. Nighttime noises in the country surrounded us – crickets, frogs, locusts, owls and coyotes
We dawned our packs and made our way down to the pasture gate in the darkness. I instructed him to turn on his red-light head-lamp and close the pasture gate behind him. I prayed and read Bible passages about loyalty, leadership and humility over him. We turned on our two-way radios and tested our comms. Loud and clear.
“What are we going to do, dad?” he asked with a great deal of uncertainty.
As I put the compass on his wrist, I said, “Son, I am going to walk 250 yards down the path. You will stay here until I call on the radio. When I call, you will begin walking on a southwest heading, keeping on the path. Do not wonder off the path. As you know, there are cactus, snakes and trip hazards out here.” I continued, “Down the hill, there is a tree with a green chem-light hanging in it. I will meet you there.”
Coyotes were howling all around and the moon was not quite high enough to give much light. The red headlamp only emits enough light to illuminate the ground a few feet in front of you.
With his voice a little shaky, he uttered the words I expected, “Dad, I’m a little scared.”
I replied, “Son, there is nothing to be afraid of – this is just a new environment for you.”
I continued, “You have your radio and red light. You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you. Stay on the path, use your radio and your compass. I’ll meet you in a few minutes at the tree. I love you.” I shut off my headlamp and made my way into the darkness.
You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you.
When I arrived at the tree, I made the radio call to Nelson. I could see his red light up the hill begin to move toward my position. He radioed that he was still afraid. I encouraged him to keep walking down the hill. “I can see you. You are doing a great job son. Keep going!”
As he approached our meeting point under the tree, he couldn’t see me in the darkness. So, I called out to him without the radio. Nelson trotted over to me. He was so excited, I was too. Hive-fives and hugs around the board. I congratulated him and read Bible passages on purity, honesty and self-discipline to him.
After a drink of water and another radio check, I told him we had a second objective – further into the pasture. The terrain is rocky with a little creek running through it. There would be another tree with a chem-light hanging in it. I walked ahead into the dark to the meeting place and called him over the radio to begin walking. He could hear my voice but couldn’t see me. But, I could see him.
He arrived at the tree excited and confident. I instructed him to take off his pack, get out his striker and fuel. “Are we going to start a fire here?” he asked. I replied laughing, “YOU are going to start a fire!” We cleared a small space and he gathered tinder. With minimal guidance from me, he assembled a small bundle and put the petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball in the center. After several minutes of failed attempts, he produced a giant spark that landed in the center of the bundle. We had fire! The boy had built his first fire. I could see his self-confidence and satisfaction on his face.
As we hovered over the tiny flames, I read scripture about excellence, integrity and perseverance over him and I prayed. He was so excited. We put out the tiny fire, put on our packs and headed back to the pasture gate where we had begun.
This time Nelson would lead the way and I would follow. We talked and laughed as we walked in the darkness. Looking forward to building a camp fire and roasting some marshmallows. We would sleep beneath a blanked of stars. Nelson had conquered fear, learned something about listening to the father’s voice in the darkness and learned perseverance through fear and adversity.
Maybe you are in the darkness right now. The darkness can be a dreadful place. However, our heavenly father can see us and we can hear his voice in darkest night. You can call out to him. He will answer.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Before our Savior marched to the cross, He prayed. He cast the seeds of His Gospel into the eternal hearts of future generations – the Martin Luthers, the William Wilburforces, the Charles Spurgeons, the Jim Elliots, the Billy Grahams and so on. This includes you and me. One of the Savior’s seeds landed perfectly in the soils of your heart and mine.
“in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
The seeds of our salvation were cast on the bed of eternity as yet the foundations of the earth were laid. Try to imagine it with our finite minds as we plunge into the depths of God’s unending, all encompassing grace – it is incomprehensible.
Will you join me in preparing the soils of future generations with prayer?
Father, THIS EASTER, may seeds of the Gospel be cast into the eternal hearts of men and women here today and generations yet born. May the seeds sown THIS Easter reap a harvest of righteousness, prayer and revival in generations to come. We pray in one accord for our children’s children’s children and so on that they may believe that you sent Jesus Christ… for “those who will believe in Jesus through [our] word.”
“The shower of answers to prayer will continue to your dying hour. Nor will it cease then. And when you pass out from beneath the shower, your dear ones will step into it. EVERY prayer and every sigh which you have uttered for them and their future welfare will, in God’s time, descend upon them as a gentle rain of answers to prayer.
Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
We pray for a mighty harvest in generations to come. May our present prayers shower down like sweet rain from heaven on generations yet born for the Father’s Glory. In Jesus’ name.
Blessings and Happy Easter!
[This post is an excerpt from an email I sent to my fellow church staff members. I thought it may encourage my readers to experience Easter and Prayer in a deeper way. I hope it blesses you … and you children’s children for generations to come.]
“In the game of baseball, three strikes and you’re out. Not so in the game of life. Three strikes and you’re NOT out.”
I can tell you from personal experience that “failure” properly understood is a set up for a comeback. When we fail, we tend to give up. But, is “giving up” the right thing to do when we strike out?
You only strike out when you decide to give up on yourself.
15 years ago, I gave up on myself. I was at the end of my rope after living a selfish and self-destructive life. I had decided that I had struck out, my life was over. Years prior to meeting my wife, I had been a willing participant in the abortion of my own child. I was a liar, used people and I turned to drugs and alcohol to sandbag the shame and pain. I was one step away from quitting. I believed the only way out of my despicable life – was death.
I believed that everyone had given up on me, I was living a lie, I had nothing good to offer and I had given up on myself. It was over – I could hear the umpire shouting, “Strike three, you’re out!”
Early one morning in 2003, I had descended into the darkest moment in my life. I saw death as the only way out. However, in a blink of an eye, I was reminded that someone very important had not given up on me.
God – He hadn’t given up on me. In fact, he loved me and could transform the destruction and chaos of my life for good. In the midst of darkness there was a point of pure light – that light was hope. And like a lifeline from heaven, I held fast to that tiny glimmer of hope and God pulled me out of the dark tempest and set my feet on solid ground.
God reminded me that I was far from being out of the game. He gave me more hope. I could be forgiven. I could be used by God. A murderer could be transformed into a missionary.
“Three strikes and you are NOT out!”
15 years later, I have learned to boldly step up to the plate and swing for the fences because I am a redeemed and restored child of God. He loves me and wants me in the game. Why else would he send his only son to die for a wretch like me?
John 21 is my favorite chapter in the entire Bible. Previously, Peter had denied Christ three times before his crucifixion. Peter believed he had struck out as a failure. This wasn’t true. The risen Christ called Peter to himself and restored him and affirmed him. He put him on mission. “Three strikes and you’re NOT out Peter … Follow me.” And Peter did and we can too. Peter’s failure was a set up for a historical comeback!
What does this mean?
It means It’s not too late. Jesus Christ invites us into a personal relationship with him that has NOTHING to do with our past, present or future performance. In the final analysis, It has everything to do with accepting his grace gift, trusting him and following him. When you blow it in life, remember three strikes and you’re NOT out.
How do you feel about people who have failed, including yourself?
How do you think God feels about people who fail? The Bible is full of human heroes who failed.
Do you desire to get up to bat and take a few swings?
In closing, I want you to take some swings and so does God. He is the God of second, third and forth chances.
Forget what the world and culture say about failure. God will not be mocked. Ask Jesus into your life. Trust what he did for you on the cross. Believe that he can transform and renew you. He will enable you to swing for the fences in his game for his glory.
God has a plan and a purpose for your life no matter how you have failed. Get off the bench and get into the batter’s box and take a swing for God’s sake!
Want to watch a message by one of our team on this subject?
When the storms come, we often ask “Where is God?”
“Save by the Storm” is a short documentary about one man’s redemption in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that devastated the Texas Coast in August 2017.
I serve as the Local Outreach Pastor at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth. When Hurricane Harvey hit the coast, I activated our Disaster Relief Ministry and we deployed within days of landfall. God connected us to a small church in Aransas Pass. Our philosophy of ministry was to serve and support local churches in the disaster zone. We landed at the doorstep of First Christian Church of Aransas Pass. Little did we know God was forging a bond between two church communities hundreds of miles apart. We got to take part in God’s work in Aransas Pass.
On September 9th 2017, we met Tony. This is his story …
Filmed and Directed by Lance Cashion
Creative Director – Lilly Cashion
Music: “You Hold All Things Together” courtesy of Christ Chapel Music
Special Thanks to:
Shawn and Sarah McCormick
Dr. Bill Runyon
Pastor David Dear
Ron and Julie Watson
First Christian Church Aransas Pass
Volunteers, donors and prayer warriors from Christ Chapel Bible Church – Fort Worth, TX
Global Missions Ministry for allowing us to include this film in M28 Film Festival
Local Outreach Team – Wes Toland and Kyle Yarborough
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.