“The Empty Chair”

   An elderly man’s daughter once asked the local minister to come and have prayer with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows. An empty chair was sitting beside the bed. The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit.
   “I guess you were expecting me,” he said. “No” said the father. The minister then remarked, “I saw the empty chair, and I figured you knew I was going to show up.” “Oh yes, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”
   Puzzled, the minister shut the door. “I have never told anyone this – not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. I had abandoned any attempts at prayer, until one day about four years ago, my best friend told me, “Prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with your Heavenly Father.” He continued, “Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see God sitting on the chair. It’s not spooky because He promised, “I’ll be with you always.” Then just speak to Him the way you are speaking with me right now.”
   So I tried it, and I liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I’m careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to a chair, she’d have a nervous breakdown, or send me off to the ‘Funny Farm’.
   The minister was deeply moved by this simple story and encouraged the old man to continue ‘on the journey’. Two nights later the daughter called the minister to tell him, “Daddy has just passed away”. “Did he die in peace?” he asked.
   “Yes, when I left the house about two o’clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me, kissed me on the cheek. When I returned from the store an hour later, I found him. But there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside his bed.” “What do you make of that?” she asked.
   The minister wiped a tear from his eye and told her about what her dad had told him. Finally the minister said, “I wish we could all go like that.”
   There are many ‘reasons’ why we don’t pray as we should. Perhaps we are so busy with handling our own problems, we don’t think about it. Perhaps we just don’t think God will answer our prayers.
   Jesus and His Father were very close, and so as you read Luke, you find him often in prayer for various reasons…
   Luke 6:12 Jesus prays all night. Luke 9:16, Jesus gives thanks for the food (five loaves and two fish). Luke 18:1 Jesus teaches the value of prayer. Luke 21:36 Jesus combines prayer with being alert. Luke 22:19-20 Jesus gave thanks for the bread and similarly, the ‘cup’ at the last supper. Luke 22:39-46, Jesus prays in Gethsemane. Luke 23:34 and 46 Jesus prays on the cross.
   Praying is personal, helpful, and needed, private, and powerful… Why not have an “empty chair” of your own?


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Would You Please Pray For Me?

   Weakened by illness, discouraged by the time it was taking to feel better, ‘John’ turned and asked, the minister to pray for him. The minister held his hand, they bowed and prayed together. Prayer seemed to help as a smile came to ‘John’s’ face, and he thanked the servant of God for coming by and helping.
   Serving as minister, one of dad’s regular stops each week was in the local hospital. Looking back I remember times when dad and I went together to visit the sick and ‘shut ins’. I remember times when I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say to someone dying of cancer, or someone who had just lost a loved one, but dad always knew what to do and what to say.
   Strange how just taking the time to go and sit with someone or offering to pray with them about their situation helps. Some feel prayer is a waste of time, but when dad and later when I offered to pray with and for someone, they never refused and always appreciated it.
   Does prayer help? Yes! Are people healed as a result of God answering prayers? Yes! I know this from what the Bible says, and from experience as well. Look at some Bible examples. In Joshua 10, where Israel, in the process of conquering the land of Canaan, which God had commanded and promised to them. The battle was taking longer than expected, and Joshua prays for the sun to stand still. It was an audacious prayer for sure, but God answered, and the sun ‘stood still’ for a day. Moses prayed for the defeat of Amalek, Exodus 17:8-13, Gideon prayed for reassurance from God, Judges 6:36-40, Samson prayed for strength, Judges 16:25-30, Elijah prayed for a boy to come back to life,  I Kings 17:19-23, Elijah prays for rain, I Kings 18:41-45; James 5:17-18, Hezekiah prayed for healing and more time to live, 2 Kings 20:1-7, Daniel prayed for safety while in the lions den, Daniel 6:10,16-22. There are so many instances in both the Old and New Testaments where prayers are made, and God responds. I have also ‘seen’ God work in my life in answer to prayer as well as in the lives of other Christians who are strong in prayer.
   Do you believe in miracles? Sure! If not, then why pray? If you are asking God to heal someone, of course He has ways this can be done, but I find no scriptures which say He no longer heals, quite to the contrary. The fact is that God works. We go to doctors, and they give us medicine or perform surgeries as needed and many times these things work, and God can and does work in this as well. There are also many cases where the best of doctors admit… they can only do so much, and they often encourage people to pray. Christian physicians often pray before they go into surgery. Why do all this if God is impotent?  Do I understand how prayer works? No! I just know God answers prayer.
   James says, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.” “Is any sick among you? Let him call the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he have committed any sins, they shall be forgiven him” James 5:13-15.
   Would you please pray for me? I need it.

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Dear Father, Can We Talk?

   Have you ever had to try and change something on your phone service? You call, and the first thing you get is a recording of a man or a woman stating that “this is a new voice system and so they can direct your call to the right person please state why you called.” They give you several options. They ask for the number you are calling about. They repeat the number and ask is this the correct number, or they state, “oops, I didn’t understand that, can you repeat it?”Then you find out that the “lady” has transferred you to the wrong department, and you have to go through the whole thing over again, giving out your name, address and last four of your social security number. After going through that two or three times, your Christian virtue of patience is out the window.

   Well, what happens when we call on God in prayer? Happily, gratefully, David says in Psalms 86:7 ”In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.” It doesn’t matter about the time, Morning (Psa. 5:1-3; Mk. 1:35), Evening (Gen. 24:63), Always (Lk. 18:1; Rom. 1:10; I Thess. 5:17). Doesn’t matter where you are!!! In secret (Mt. 6:6), in bed (Psa. 63:6) , out in the open (Gen. 24:11-12), on the battlefield (Joshua 10:12-13), anywhere (I Tim. 2:8).

   We go through one man, who doesn’t ask questions, JESUS,

   ( I Tim. 2:5).  Through Jesus, direct to the Father…. and because of the Spirit who indwells us, He knows exactly what we need. WOW!


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I Want To Speak With A Real Person

   How many times have you called and after the ring, ring is done, you get a welcome message, and “Please press one for English”, Press 9 for Spanish”, Press 2 for Chinese”, “Press 4 for Indonesian” etc… Then, “Please listen to our list of options carefully, because they have been changed.” Then you get six or seven choices. Then after choosing one of these choices, “Please listen carefully to these options… ” Then you get another four or five options. You choose one. “PLEASE WAIT, YOUR CALL WILL BE ANSWERED IN THE ORDER IN WHICH IT CAME.” Then you get this mechanical lady on line asking for your account number or SS number or something. You you ready to be tied by now, and you give the number. The mechanical lady cannot understand, so you GIVE IT AGAIN!!! You finally just say, “Representative please!” Then this ‘lady’ says, “I understand you want to speak to a representative. Please tell me what your problem is so I can direct you to the right department.” By this time your Christianity is really being tested, and you are ready to just give up to say the least.

   If you cannot tell by now, I hate speaking to these mechanical answer services. Come on… give me someone that is REAL!

   A little girl was having some nightmares one night. Her dad came in and sat beside her to comfort her. “Don’t worry”, he said. “God is here and is watching after you.” She looked up at her dad and said, “I know dad, but I need someone with flesh on him.”

   John records, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him.” John 1:18. “The next day John sees Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” John 1:29

   Thank the Lord, we have a God who has flesh and blood. What would you expect of the Man/God? Well, something out of the ordinary for sure. We would expect to see someone who lived right, stood up for the weak, gave teachings and principles on living right. We would expect someone who could heal the sick and raise the dead. Someone who was unafraid of facing those people and situations that scare us. We would expect someone who loved people. We would expect someone who understood the problems and feelings we go through every day.

   Well, Jesus did all this and MORE. Paul says, ” Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; BUT MADE HIMSELF OF NO REPUTATION, AND TOOK ON THE FORM OF A SERVANT, AND WAS MADE IN THE LIKENESS OF MEN; AND BEING FOUND IN FASHION AS A MAN, HE HUMBLED HIMSELF AND BECAME OBEDIENT UNTO DEATH, EVEN THE DEATH OF THE CROSS.” Phil. 2:5-8.

   The Hebrew writer says, “Seeing then that we have a GREAT high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. FOR WE HAVE NOT AN HIGH PRIEST WHICH CANNOT BE TOUCHED WITH THE FEELING OF OUR INFIRMITIES; BUT WAS IN ALL POINTS TEMPTED LIKE AS WE ARE, YET WITHOUT SIN.” Hebrews 4:14-15

   Over all, the prophet Zechariah says, speaking of Jesus the Messiah, “FEAR NOT, daughter of Zion; Behold your king is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” Zech. 9:9; John 12:15.

   Don’t be afraid, we have “a God who has flesh on him”. He is always ready, willing, able to hear when we call. Always there when we need Him.


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“I Quit” – (Part Five)

This article is part 5 of 7 in the series I Quit

The temptation to just throw up your hands and quit, is common to everyone trying to do something.

Obstacles can either make or break a persons deliberation to “go the distance”.

When I was a teenager, in Northern Ireland, going to the equivalent of our high school, (Methodist College Belfast)… I joined the track and field team. Our training in everything from high jump, to javelin throwing, was easy for me. The hardest was the running… Now I could run! Endurance was the problem. Run a short distance… no problem. Run a mile or two… now that was another question. The first quarter mile was no problem, only I had not learned the idea of pacing myself. I was ‘all out’ in the first quarter mile. Then something happened. The lead I had developed, slowly began to diminish. Not because the other kids we faster, but because they knew something about ‘pacing’ themselves. Soon the rest of the ‘field’ caught up with me, and passed me. I was ‘winded’ and had to slow down more. I was in trouble. Well, I ended up walking or slow jogging the rest of the way… but I finished.

I remember what dad said so often, “Finish what you start.” This is so important in the work of the family of God.
There was a congregation in the South where I was minister for a short time. Next to their building was a foundation, with some plumbing sticking up. It was for a new auditorium. Problem… THEY HAD NOT FINISHED IT. They started, but something happened, and they quit and left the project just like that. Problem… it was on a main road in town, and everyone drove by and saw this embarrassment.
Nothing wrong with planning, having a big challenging vision… just FINISH IT. GO THE DISTANCE.

Some things to help along the way:

  1. Prayer: Have time to get before God and pour out your hearts. When you have the ‘foundation’ laid, get together ‘on the foundation’, and pour out your hearts to God and pray some more. Pray for help, vision, strength to finish the journey.
  2. Commitment: I’m sorry, but many times commitments are short lived. We are committed till we have a problem, or obstacle. When we back out of a commitment, it shows something is mission. Perhaps we have been short sighted. Perhaps the planning has been weak. But when you commit yourself… finish the job.
  3. Patience: This is invaluable. The ability to go through the tough times, the times when things don’t go as smoothly as you would like. The ability to wait, and have a half way decent attitude about it. Read James letter chapter one. Patience. Whatever it is, you commit yourself to, understand and try and see and plan for obstacles that are coming up. But there is no crystal ball, or magic to let you know all the bends and turns in the road… Do the best you can… and finish.
  4. Forgiveness: The ability to forgive is so important when it comes to this subject. We have been forgiven. There is no way we can afford to allow someone to drag us back into the past, and once again feel unforgiven. But we have to be able to forgive ourselves and others along the way as well.

In order to ‘go the distance’ and not walk out, not quit… takes a determination that is solidly founded in the belief that the journey you are on, is worth it… Carrying the ‘baggage’ of the past will only weigh you down.

Don’t quit!!!


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“I Quit” – (Part Four) (Solutions)

This article is part 4 of 7 in the series I Quit

   Obviously, as long as a husband or wife or church member has in their minds, a ‘way of escape’ when the ‘hard times’ come… the probability of taking that way out is great. The ‘bigger’ Jesus is in your life, the less likely you are to ‘bail out’! We have to get this settled. We just don’t quit! Well, saying it, ‘don’t make it so!’ So how can we ‘make it so’?

In this and the next few articles we will be looking at: Prayer (Help me Lord!!), Commitment (we are ‘glued’ to each other), Patience (endurance / giving each other ‘elbow room’), Forgiveness (‘first stone’), Love (agape style), The Holy Spirit (Our Helper), Disagree if you must, BUT…, Practical suggestions like: “Things change”. Why? well, hopefully, these will give us at least some ideas on how to be stronger, “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding” in living the Christian life.

When dealing with each other, with all our differences and ‘baggage’, weakness, and weird ways, we need help. Sometimes we just can’t figure someone out.

Starting place should be prayer. Why?
1. Because of the example of Jesus, (Lk. 6:12; 11:1; 18:1; 22:32)
2. Because of the example of the Pentecost disciples, (Acts 1:14)
3. Because of the example of the early church, (Acts 4:23-31)
4. Because of the example of Paul, Col. 1:9-11

Prayer, has been and still is the great privilege and pathway to the Throne of God, through our Master, Jesus Christ. Does it work?! Absolutely! Can we pray enough? Well, what is enough?
Paul says, “Pray without ceasing.” Why? Because WE NEED TO. Come on, we are human, with failures, weakness, imperfection, needs, and not only us, but we also pray for others. James says, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray…. Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him…
And the prayer of faith shall save the sick… and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him … pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah… prayed earnestly, that it might not rain: and it rained not by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heavens gave rain… ” James 5:13-18
How can prayer help us not quit? Well, when you think of what goes on when you pray there are some things to keep in mind.
Prayer time is a time for you and God. A time when humility is a must. A time when you need not hide anything from Him. (He knows your hurts and secrets anyway.) Usually it is most helpful when you are alone and can simply pour out your heart to Him. If you are struggling with bitterness, and hate, or jealousy, or perhaps just upset over brother or sister ______, or the leadership… Pray for them. This is much better than gossiping about them. Ask God to bless them because they are your brother and sister. Ask God to help you to understand their situation or problem. Ask God to guard your own heart from bitterness and hate. ASK HIM ANYTHING… BUT ASK!
Prayer is a positive move, a cry in faith. Somehow, when you are genuine and real in your prayers, it helps you. It lightens the ‘load’ you have been carrying. However, you have to trust Him. Know for sure, He will do something. It may not be in your time frame (like NOW), BUT He will act. He is just waiting for you to ask. To trust. To lean on him. To humble yourself.
Prayer can help you not quit. But you have to trust Him, and try not to rush into something you may regret. Prayer slows down reactions, and helps us wait on the Lord, and He will show you the right time, and give you the right words. A quick explosive temper, NEVER… NEVER… has good results.

It usually results in hurt feelings… and regrets….


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