A Prayer Request

The story is told of a man who found an old bottle, and when he opened it, out popped a genie. (I didn’t say it was a true story.)  The genie told the man he would grant him three wishes, with one condition. Whatever he asked for, his mother-in-law would receive twice as much.
The man thought for a while, then gave the genie his requests. “For my first wish, I want ten million dollars. For my second wish, I want a large, furnished luxury home. And finally…I want you to beat me half to death!”
A bad joke, I know. But it does bring to mind our fascination with tales like Aladdin,  the old sitcom “I Dream of Jeanie” and even Shaquille O’Neal’s noteworthy acting debut as an oversized genie from a boom box in the critically acclaimed 1996 classic film Kazaam. (Okay, it really wasn’t that good).
Why do these mythical genies get our attention?  Because we love to dream of having our wishes granted, of having access to someone who can give us anything we want. All we have to do is ask.
I guess you know where this is heading, so let’s go there. I was reading the story of Jesus’ healing of blind Bartimaeus again this week, from Mark 10, about how Jesus responded to that needy man. “What do you want me to do for you?” He asked. When Bartimaeus told Jesus he wanted to see, Jesus told him, “Go, your faith has healed you.”
Did you notice who made the “prayer request” on this miraculous occasion? It was Jesus. He was the initiator. He asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want?” And Bartimaeus needed only to answer to give his “prayer request” to Jesus.
Have you ever considered that’s how prayer is even now. No, the Lord is not a genie from a bottle, but He has extended an invitation for us to bring our needs to Him (Phil. 4:6). He asks, “What do you want?” and our prayer to Him is not really a request, but an answer to His request. He really wants to bless us, but most often we “have not, because we ask not” (James 4:2)
So, what DO you want? And what do you need? Ask Him. You just might be surprised how He works in your life.

Thank You…Veterans

Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. It’s been nearly a hundred years since President Woodrow Wilson first declared November 11 to be Armistice Day to celebrate the conclusion of “the war to end all wars,” World War I.

Obviously, it wasn’t, and several generations have come and gone since, with our nation’s finest and bravest continuing to lay their lives on the line each day in service of our country. Literally hundreds of thousands have paid the supreme price defending of our nation, and as we commemorate Veteran’s Day this Nov. 11, we must never forget their sacrifice.
I have been sitting here trying to think of something creative to write that might express my heart’s gratitude for those men and women who have served in our military, both at home and abroad, in peace time and in war, to preserve our freedom and protect our lives.
But all I could come up with was…thank you.
I have a profound respect for those who have served and try to take every opportunity I get to tell them so, whether it be at a funeral, at the annual Memorial Day event at the Alabama Veteran’s Memorial in Irondale (I would highly recommend this), at veterans events at American Village in Montevallo, or just out in public.

 

I can think of a couple of dozen personal encounters I have had with American military servicemen and veterans over the past few years. It may have been standing on opposite sides of a gas pump; waiting in line at a fast food restaurant; talking to a World War II veteran at the public library; seeing someone in an airport dressed in their military uniform; or recognizing veterans like we have done sometimes at Shelby Crossings. Over and over, with genuine heart-felt gratitude, I’ve felt compelled to simply say, “Thank you.”
And so, today, lest I cloud these sentiments with many words, I will say it once again. To all of you who have served, and are serving–and also to those who have sent your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, or fathers and mothers off to serve in defense of our nation–please know how grateful we are for your sacrifice.
Thank you.
May I suggest that each of us find someone to thank, today, for standing in the gap for us. And don’t forget to be in prayer for those serving in harm’s way around our world even this day.  May our Lord protect them, and may He be honored by their service.

Church: It Does the Body Good

“One of the most striking scientific discoveries about religion in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you.” So wrote Stanford University professor of anthropology T.M. Luhrmann in an op-ed piece in the New York Times a few years ago.
We didn’t discuss any scientific research this week in our small group on Wednesday night, but we did talk about the importance of being actively connected to “church.” That includes both the large group congregational worship gathering on a Sunday morning, and also the vitally important small group where we know and are known, and where we have the privilege of bearing one another’s burdens. In a roundabout way, we came to our own scientific conclusions that church is good for all of us.
In the Times column, Luhrmann mentioned several studies that show that religious attendance boosts the immune system, decreases blood pressure, and may add as much as two to three years to your life. The reason for those findings was not entirely clear.
But three things in the article were clear. First, the social support regular church-goers find in their communities of faith is a key indicator of good health. At the evangelical churches she studied as an anthropologist, Luhrmann was surprised how much people really did seem to look out for one another. She also cited a study conducted in North Carolina that found that those who were regularly connected to their churches had larger social networks, with more contact with, more affection for, and more kinds of social support from those people than their unchurched counterparts. And sociological research consistently has shown that social support is directly tied to better health.
Another obvious benefit of regular church involvement is that the moral choices associated with religious observance lead to healthy behavior, which leads to healthier lives. Certainly many churchgoers struggle with behaviors they would like to change, but on average, regular church attendees drink less, smoke less, use fewer recreational drugs and are less sexually promiscuous than others. Actuary tables for insurance companies figured that out a long time ago. It’s no secret that certain habits are more expensive to insure, because those choices have consequences for our health.
A third aspect of Luhrmann’s research was what we as believers have known all along: knowing and loving God tends to have a direct positive effect on our psychological and emotional health, and make us better able to cope with the pressures of life. In other words, you can’t measure “God” scientifically, but you sure can see the effects in the lives of those who know Him and are regularly involved with His family.
So, what’s the point? Well, I am tempted to reference the old I-65 sign in Prattville that most of us are familiar with: “Go to church, or the devil will get you.” But I will phrase it another way: “When you are in a vibrant relationship with God, and regularly connected in interdependent relationships with His people, life is better.” Or maybe this:  “Church: It does a body good.”
Of course, we didn’t need an anthropologist or the New York Times to tell us that. Scripture has been reminding us that for centuries.
I hope you make the healthy choice and join us for worship this Sunday at Shelby Crossings.