FULLY ALIVE!

Your life will be as bright as the noonday sun. Job 11:17


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Television 8; Prayer 1

Yesterday I watched 8 hours of television.  I watched until the cable box automatically shut down to go into power save mode  Even the cable company couldn’t believe someone would be actually watching television that long!

Yesterday I prayed 1 hour.

The Daily News says, “The average American watches more than five hours of live television every day.  More if you’re African American. Quite a bit more. Less if you’re Hispanic or Asian American, but not that much less.  For all ethnic groups, TV viewing time increases steadily as we get older, according to the March 2014 “Cross-Platform Report” released by the Nielsen media ratings company.  Once we pass 65, we watch more than seven hours a day.”

The American Time Use Survey says that Americans spend on average 2 to 17 minutes each day on “religious activity.”  In my home state, North Carolina, the average is 11 minutes per day.

I guess I could tell myself that I am “above average,” for a North Carolinian and for a Southerner.  The Survey notes, “Southerners are more likely to say religion is “very important” in their lives than people from any other region, so it’s no surprise that they report spending more time per day on religious activities.”

But I cannot make peace with these numbers.

Why don’t we pray?

The most popular excuse is time.  We don’t have time.  Well, I watched 8 hours of television.  Trust me, it was not life-altering, mind-enriching, world-changing television.  And I’ll wager that what you watch is not either.  Mine was more of the home decorating, new cooking techniques, travel to an exotic land variety with a sprinkling of good health and diet suggestions.  The truth of the matter, we have time.

The second most popular excuse is that it’s really not necessary.  Really?  Think of the many examples in the Scriptures when victory came through prayer – and when defeat came because of a lack of prayer.  Two contrasting examples – (1) Elijah praying that it would not rain (and it did not for 3 1/2 years) and then his prayer for rain (and the sky poured causing the earth to produce fruit) and (2) the defeat of the Israelite army when they fought against the city of Ai.  Confident in themselves, they did not pray or consult the Lord before going into battle.  They were bold.  They were self-centered.  They were defeated.  (See 1 Kings 17-19 and Joshua 7.)

We know, too,  that while He was on earth, Jesus was faithful in spending vital time in prayer with the Father. Just as He sought time alone to talk with His Father, shouldn’t we?  Hebrews 5:7 reveals the passionate prayer life of our Lord. During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him. The truth of the matter, we need to pray as Jesus prayed.

The third most popular excuse is that prayer does not make a difference.  Sure, if we think prayer is magic, it doesn’t make a difference.  Or if we think prayer is about presenting our shopping list or Christmas list to Santa God, it doesn’t make a difference.  If we think prayer is about us and our sole benefit, it doesn’t make a difference.  Finally, if we think prayer is about showing off – using fancy, 50-cent words and parading our theology before people, it doesn’t make a difference.

When we get that prayer is about a relationship with God, it makes a HUGE difference.  Prayer is talking with, spending time with, loving and worshipping our Holy Father.  Yes, we share our hearts and may make requests, but we also confess our faults, thank God for His love, praise Him for who He is, intercede for others and more.  And prayer is knowing that God hears us, loves us and will answer us.  The truth of the matter, prayer makes a difference. The difference is the relationship.  The difference is the peace.  The difference is the love.

Contrast this with television.

When I think about it, I don’t have time to watch that much television!  There are too many people hurting and too many people lost; I need to intercede.  There are too many shortcomings in my life; I need to confess.  There are too many blessings in my life; I need to worship and adore my God.

When I think about it, television is not that necessary.  Much of what I watch is pure entertainment.  Now, I am all for laughing.  I like learning new recipes and seeing new decorating ideas.  I like escaping to other worlds.  But none of that is essential to my survival, my success or my salvation.

When I think about it, television does not make a difference in my life.  Yes, I learn a little because, more often than not, I choose programs that will teach, but can I compare those to time spent with my Lord?  Think about your much-loved spouse, child or friend – would you rather spend time watching television or with them?  Now, I have some colleagues that regularly toss their spouses aside for episodes of Scandal or Monday Night Football, but I am confident that when the end comes, they will not be wishing for more time with television, that they had not missed that touchdown or that one episode.  They will be wishing they’d spent more time with the ones they loved and the ones that loved them.  And no one loves you more than the Father.

Am I planning to give up television?  That would be a, “No!”  But I am rethinking what I watch and how much time I spend watching.  I am also rethinking my prayer time.  My focus won’t be how many minutes and hours I can spend praying so that I can hold them up before the Lord and say, “See, Lord, television 2 hours; prayer 3.”  My focus will be about spending quality time engaged in necessary prayer talking to the One who loves me and who makes all the difference in my life!

THIS WEEK, evaluate how you are spending your time.  You may want to look at the American Time Use Survey Maps found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/06/20/ten-maps-that-show-how-much-time-americans-spend-grooming-eating-thinking-and-praying/.  Do you need to revisit your prayer time?  Craft a plan.  Understand that plans are as unique as the individuals that create them.  You may find one example at http://thecripplegate.com/a-sample-prayer-plan/.


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Too Much or Not Enough

I was reading the notes captured from an interview between Dolly Parton and Allison Glock (for Southern Living Magazine).  Dolly was summarizing 10 lessons she had learned while filming Steel Magnolias.  Lesson #7 was “There is No Such Thing as Too Much.”  Specifically Dolly was quoted as saying that this applied to “hair, jewelry, laughter, heel height, cake, cleavage, pulled pork, emotion, faith, persistence and revelation. Contrary to the old adage, less is actually less and more is divine.”

Well, there are a few of these that I might agree with.  You know I really like jewelry – and the bigger, bolder, quirkier and unique, the better.  And in the words of Emeril, “Pork fat rules!” But, it seems that we have become a society where “too much” is the norm.

Too much TV.  Remember when it used to sign off at midnight?  Now there’s programming for every hour of the day.  Nielsen says the average American watches about 33 hours of television each week.  Doesn’t sound like much to you?  Well, that’s about 71.5 days/year just watching television.  And remember, this is average.  Some people watch much more.  Too much?

Too much food. (Am I really typing this?)  The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says we suffer from “portion distortion.”  In the same report, the NHLBI says that 20 years ago the average fast food cheeseburger contained 333 calories; today it offers a whopping 590 calories.  Sodas came in cute 6.5 ounce bottles (remember those cute little green Coke bottles).  Today single-serve sodas commonly offer 20 ounces and 250 calories.  Too much?

Too much cell phone.  I am amazed every day.  By who has a cell phone.  Like Kindergarteners.  Really?  By how often people talk on their cell phones. (Nielsen says 34 hours each week – that’s a week more than we watch television!)  By where people talk on their cell phones.  My doctor’s office has a sign that reads:  You may be denied service if you are talking on your cell phone.  Really?  There has to be a reason why he posted that sign.  Too much!

Too much shopping.  Based on an analysis of Federal Reserve statistics and other government data, the average household owes $7,281 on their cards; looking only at indebted households, the average outstanding balance rises to $15,607. Too much!

Too much stuff.  A UCLA study says, “The rise of Costco and similar stores has prompted so much stockpiling — you never know when you’ll need 600 Dixie cups or a 50-pound bag of sugar — that three out of four garages are too full to hold cars.” (While watching those 33 hours of television did you by any chance watch the popular show, Hoarders?)  Too much!

I could continue, but it would probably be too much for you to really take in, so I will offer just one more.

The American Bible Society reports that 88% of American households own a Bible, 80% think the Bible is sacred, 61% wish they read the Bible more and 37% of those households actually read the Bible. Not enough.

So how much of what should you be doing?  I cannot say for you, but I will suggest you assess your own habits and make adjustments asking yourself just two questions – Too much?  Not enough?

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (1 Corinthians 9:25 ESV)

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity… (Titus 2:7 ESV)

Let your moderation be known unto all men. (Philippians 4:5 KJV)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:8 ESV)

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:10-11 ESV)

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. (Matthew 22:29 ESV)