While channel surfing the radio this morning during the morning hours today, I caught part of a message that I thought was pretty powerful. (Yes... I'm behind on you having the full day to pray. I'm working on it)
I don't know about you, but I've had many a time where I've been frustrated with my life, in some area or another, and it seems as the battles and frustrations are on repeat. Faith seems like a constant battle between what you know in your heart versus what you think with your mind.
The heart may mess with your emotions, but your mind will lie to you regarding the truth.
As a result, we battle in ways that God never intended. But His grace is sufficient. As such, the game-changer of the message is this:
"God never tires of coming to your defense."
Isn't that a great reminder?
For what believer and church leader hasn't reached certain levels of frustration with themselves regarding a particular aspect or arena of their live, that even they can't believe they are still struggling with and bringing before the cross of Christ.
It's like we get tired of confessing, as if it weren't accomplishing anything good at all!
Yet, I think God has the same conversation with us, that I described yesterday having with my daughter.
"I will win this conversation".
As much as we reinforce our love, care and support for those in our lives, so too, is Christ constant in His pursuit of our hearts. His grace unending, His love unfailing, His forgiveness unrelenting, His plan, never undone.
So, no matter how many times it takes, we continually present ourselves before the thrown of grace and acknowledge, we can not life this live according to God's divine plan, without the help of His divine hand.
Let's pray, this #deaconThursday, that God would be those in church leadership who are struggling with seemingly, repeating battles. May God give them strength to overcome and wisdom to know how to overcome. Pray they would not grow discouraged, nor their hearts grow faint; but that they would continually rely on God and the power of the Holy Spirit. May they pursue the victory that God has granted for them with the relentless passion that God demonstrates daily for all humanity.
For we overcome by the blood of the Lamb
And the word of our testimony.
May today be a day of declaration.
Of a victorious life.
For the glory of God.
Been thinking a lot of this whole narrative that has transpired in recent years... "we need to be careful about the messages that we are sending to our kids."
Yet, it seems all too often, we're more concerned about the messages as they relate to society and culture, politics and power, relationships and regulated behavior.
Meanwhile, we've lost the message that matters. The message that I spent considerable time sharing with my oldest daughter this past Saturday, and again just recently and I'm sure many more times, before it clicks.
You are God's.
If you don't think life exists beyond yourself, then you'll have a hard time caring about anything other than yourself.
But if you understand that you belong to God, that you were created in His image, and that He created with a destiny and a purpose; that you are fearfully and wonderfully made... how does that identity transform your life?
If you live your life with that understanding and carry the corresponding perspective that those who walk around in this life have that shared intentionally at the very core of their being as much as it lies at the core of yours, does that change who you are, how you life, what you do and how you relate with the rest of humanity?
Instead we push this "do whatever you want" approach to life only to wonder what went wrong when bad decisions are made and evil atrocities and horrendous tragedies occur? Don't worry about anyone else has swung so far out of bounds, that we miss when the time comes to truly reach out and show concern for those around us. And by the time we figure out that someone is having problems, it's beyond our ability to help.
Sadly, such mentality even runs through Christianity. We get caught up in the craziness of life, that we miss the battles of other Christians as well as those in ministry until trouble has not only knocked at someone's door, but has taken up temporary residency on their couch!
On this #youthPastorWednesday, let's pray that we would communicate not our perspective or agenda, but the truth of God and His Word. Pray that we would speak the love and purpose of God; not only to our youth, but to our leaders that lead and direct them. May this generation know that their is life and meaning beyond our time on earth. Pray that today's youth would come to a place of knowing and understanding God's plan for their life, while those who lead them would live out the fulfillment of God's plan for theirs. Among all the messages being sent forth, may the message of the Gospel of Christ stand front and center; an eternal reckoning which cannot be avoided. Likewise, may the pastors who lead today's young people, continually point them to Christ and remind them as they remind themselves... that God is at work.
Always and forever.
For the glory of God
And the Gospel of Christ.
Pastor Chris Brooks' radio show, Equipped, is a great show, dealing with many subjects as they relate to culture and Christianity; which is pretty much everything, is it not?
While I haven't listened to the program in a few weeks, I caught bits and pieces of the one that aired today and part of the conversation revolved around the rural church and the effectiveness of their ministry.
One perspective that struck me as intriguing, is that community comes naturally to more rural areas. The naturally live as taking care of, looking out for and helping your neighbor. Conversely, suburban churches seemingly have to create a culture of community, despite living in neighborhoods that are barely spaced wide enough for a mower or two.
Brooks also pointed out a perspective that we don't often think about, but perhaps haven't shared outloud. Undoubtedly, however, many a pastor has probably shared the sentiment... that rural ministry feels as though one is receiving God's punishment.
It's easy to get caught up in the "power" of larger churches, with greater resources, greater opportunity for impact in the community, more doors for community partnerships and outreaches and the list goes on.
Do senior pastors struggle with rural ministry? Absolutely. Going. Engaging. Continuing. The battles may be different to some degree, quite similar in many others.
But on this #associatePastorTuesday, church leadership in rural areas can run a little thin. There's just as much ministry to do. The people are just as important to reach. The Gospel just as relevant and needed to the more spread-out lands as it is for the poplution-dense areas. It's not punishment. It's possibility.
Let's pray, that God would give strength the church leadership of rural churches, both senior pastors and associates. Pray for grace as they minister and may God grant them creativity and opportunity as they reach out to their neighbors and communities. Pray that God would provide all that have need of, especially in those areas that are economically depressed and struggling with daily needs. May the hand of God be their provision and work the miraculous as they are faithful to the calling God has placed upon them.
May their impact be greater than they can imagine,
Even when it feels so seemingly insignificant.
For the glory of God
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
Yesterday's message on the story of blind Bartimaeus was a powerful... to say the least. But one element stood out; as it usually does. The message, by the way, came from a high-energy man who happens to be the Under Sheriff for the county! So, it was a pretty cool service, indeed.
There's much that is amazing about his story, but this was the capturing moment. Christ' own disciples tried to silence him when he called out to Jesus. But Bartimaeus called out louder.
As we've talked many times before, we see just how hard of a time people are having with the truth. Hearing it, receiving it, responding to it. And sharing it.
Bartimaeus calls out, yells out... screams out. Without conviction. Refusing to be silenced. Sure, he needed something from Jesus. But more importantly, something resonated in his spirit, that he knew He needed to respond. And of course, Christ responds to him.
Truth matters. If for no other reason, as once shared in an episode of the West Wing, it's the easiest thing to remember.
But more importantly, we're dealing in spiritual matters. Lives hang in the balance, here on Earth, certainly. Even more so, they hang in the balance for the sake of eternity as well.
My schedule in writing these posts has been thrown off late, and while I knew this was the topic for the day, writing this later in the day has it's advantage... for before doing so, a link appeared in my social media newsfeed.
A megachurch Baptist Pastor in Harlem, whose congregation has grown from 350 to over 10,000 in the past 14 years now speaks that it's "insanity" to believe Jesus is the only way.
What are we doing, if we are not speaking the truth?
With conviction. Beyond the voice of the critics and those who attempt to silence those who speak it... even those within the church. Our pastors need prayer. Our churches need help. And a lost and dying world is crying out... and we if we are not responding with the cries of truth; then why respond at all?
On this #seniorPastorMonday, pray that pastors would speak and declare truth. Pray that they would know, understand and preach the WHOLE counsel of God. Not the part that is loving and accepting, not the emotionally comforting, not the pleasant, politically correct; but the WHOLE TRUTH of God's Word. Pray for a spirit of wisdom and discernment in all circumstances and conversations. May the word be revealed anew and afresh as they study, pray and devote themselves to God.
For His Word is truth.
A lamp to our feet;
A light to our path.
That leads us to the cross of Christ.
For the glory of God.
There's so much that contributes to effectiveness. And sometimes there is very little efficiency involved in the process at all. You can try, but life and timing and other delays just enter in the picture and as such, are beyond your control. It's fine. You can be upset and frustrated, or you can roll with it.
For all the times over the past three years that we've discussed effectiveness, I had a pretty interesting experience last night. Let's just say, the one thing that you don't plan for; that you don't give proper consideration; that you don't think about it being an issue... and not just you, but those with you; those working on the project with you. You get to the end. Everything is complete. Done. Finished. Let's implement it and go.
And... not so much. The one thing became everything and yeah... that's not gonna work.
The next day is a little more comforting, as you hope your time and effort from the first round isn't wasted. Because in the moment, you can't help but feel the frustration and agony of failure. And stupidity for that matter, as you wonder how you missed something so simple! But again, it doesn't take much. It doesn't take much at all, to be exact.
And when things need to be exact, well, the slightest bit counts. There are times where effectiveness and work-ability really is a binary matter. Yes or no. On or off. It works or it doesn't. It fits or it doesn't.
So what's the prayer?
On this #effectiveSunday, pray that such moments would not ruin the moment. Pray for the remembrance that life is a journey, a fun one for as often as it is frustrating. Pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to keep things in proper perspective, not only in light of eternity, but in light of wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Pray that the frustration, even when the moments duplicate and multiply, would not lead to feelings of failure, nor depression or defeat. Pray that those involved would rise again, try again and pursue again; to find answers and solutions to problems and situations they didn't even know existed until they encountered it first hand for themselves.
That as God works all things together for good,
May He work even the most frustrating moments
To bring about good out of our lives to reach those around us;
And the stories that we tell in the days to come.
For the glory of God.
I don't know how many of you listen to talk radio, but on occasion, I catch The Savage Nation, with nationally syndicated radio host, Michael Savage. It's an interesting show, because he covers a broad range of topics and perspectives, with a foundation of "borders, language and culture", but it's not all politics, either. Having said that, Michael DelGiorno, a host out of Nashville filled in for him on Friday. And if you can find it, it was a great three hours of radio.
It's a touchy subject, but he got to talking about identity. And in particular, the whole guilt movement that is going on about the color of peoples skin. Not racism, but white guilt. Like the restaurant that is charging a premium for their meals to those of Caucasian descent. Yes, you read that right... 12 or 18 bucks for dinner, becomes 30 bucks if you are white.
I only mention this, though, because of DelGiorno's response.
I'm a husband, a father, a Christian, a radio host... he rattled off a couple of others, but those were at the top of list. He follows up the point by saying, "I don't know how far down the list I get until I come to "I'm a republican and even farther to "I'm white".
And as we discuss community, isn't it amazing what and how we identify and how quickly we are to share such identity. In the status of our relationships, the state of our gender or sexuality, or position of influence or prominence in society, our associations, our employers, the loyalty to our favorite consumer brand of whatever it is that is of great importance to you... even our church affiliation, and heaven forbid, political bent!
In eternity, there will be but two.
One identity. Two states of existence.
In the words of Gene Hackman's character in the movie Runaway Jury, "everything is colored bubbles."
On this #communitySaturday, pray that we not get hung up and caught up in the colored bubbles of life. Pray an awareness of our human condition before God. Pray that people would be prompted to act upon the knowledge of broken and fallen state. May God heal our people and our land, as we come before Him with a broken and contrite heart; in repentance of our sin and in need of the saving and redeeming grace of the cross of Christ.
Are you the Lord God Almighty?
Worthy is the Lamb,
For you are Holy.
You know what really burns people out?
The list is long, I know. Your list is long. My list is long. We could poll the list from pastors and missionaries and church leaders and gain a whole other perspective. If we were really honest and dug deep, we could have an intense conversation.
My thoughts on the matter? Repetition.
Repetition is often a good thing. For learning. For discipline. For stability and familiarity. It has it's place and importance. So perhaps I should be more specific.
Repetition... of problems.
The same issues.
The same battles.
The same analysis of the issue
The same conversations.
The same proposed solutions.
When do we get to deal with something else?
As I'm thinking about what comes next, people are coming to mind that I know that have transitioned from pastoring a church to going to the mission field to stepping into other areas of leadership within their church's denomination or fellowship. I know there's a calling and moving in the plans that God has for them that is involved in this process, but again, if we dug deep enough, I can't imagine there not being a conversation where there's not some sort of element of being ready or desiring a change in ministry... and praying for and pursuing a change in ministry was preferable to perhaps exiting ministry altogether.
Life will always have problems and challenges.
Circumstances will always overlap.
And people will navigate and endure the same circumstances, many times over at some point.
It's frustrating to have it be in your life.
It's frustrating to be the one helping someone through it.
Yes, there's a joy. A calling. A purpose. But it's work. A lot of work.
And as much as people need to know that there is a plan and purpose whereby God is a work in their lives, so to, those that are helping need to know that God is doing a great work as they come along side and minister and continue point people back to Christ and closer to God... no matter the problem or the frequency of it.
On this #missionsFriday, pray that God would strength and encourage those missionaries that have reached the end or are nearing the end of wanting to deal with repetitious problems. Not that they ever end, but they realize they are getting worn thin. May God give them direction if a change of scenery or ministry needs to be made. Pray God would give them perspective and understanding and wisdom as to how to best approach their days and their time. Pray that God would help to enjoy the journey, the process and the learning. May the knowledge that God is at work, continually with never-ending love and an eternal purpose spur them in advancing the Gospel of Christ.
For God does not give us more than we can handle,
No matter how close we may feel we are to breaking.
Pressing on towards the prize of the high calling of God.
For His glory.
As I reflected on Wednesday's post regarding today's youth, I got to thinking about how we are called to prayer for our leaders. Not only within the space of the church and ministry, but also in the arena of civics and government.
How quickly, do we seemingly forgot, that we are called to be people of prayer?
Not only to those that are nice to us, but our enemies as well.
Not only for our friends, but for the strangers.
Not for the leadership we appreciate, but for those who we, maybe don't appreciate so much.
Not for those with whom we are in complete agreement, but with those whom we vehemently disagree!
To say nothing of those who despise and revile us and speak all manner of evil against us...
One generation leads the next and the both of the power to influence each other. They have both of lesson to learn from each other and the both bring a perspective that the other side may not understand.
Within the church and the culture alike, the difficulties that exist as leaders try to lead exists for many reasons, but largely in part because we don't approach each other having spent sufficient time in prayer over them before hand.
On this #deaconThursday, by all means, pray for the leadership of the church. Indeed, pray that they would have wisdom and discernment; understanding and compassion. Pray that they would speak the truth as well as be seekers of the truth. But most important, pray that they would men and women of prayer, themselves. May they lead with conviction and love, having spent time in the presence of God and allowing Him to direct how they lead; their lives, their homes, their career, their ministry, their church and the world.
For the glory of God
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
I know this is a late in the day post. And to be honest, I just haven't had a peace regarding it... a sense of direction. From yesterday, throughout this morning...even at this moment. I think I know what's coming, but I don't. So hang on... how this ends is just as much your guess as mine.
All I know, is that today's events on a national level were interesting. Ideas and opinions, arguments on both sides of the issue regarding what is going on in our culture and society and how it is impacting our youth and our schools. And long before we were faced with such challenges, we've been changing how we educate our kids, what's allowed and not allowed in our schools to say nothing of our approach to parenting. Of course, all of this has come to a head, to the point that it affects how we respond to ministry, to the Judeo-Christian perspective and most importantly, to the Word of God.
I'm certainly not going to sit in judgement, nor high moral ground, nor clueless and apathetic sideline. I don't know, nor do I pretend to know all.
At best, I'm inadequate... on many fronts.
That said, certain things remain very clear.
The truth is difficult to hear.
We are all candidates to be better people.
Knowledge is only power to those wise in handling it; otherwise it is destructive.
History repeats itself... and often, to those who ignore it's lessons.
Evil exists and it does have an agenda. A spiritual one at its core and a master of disguise on its' surface.
I know you're older than me, but that shouldn't diminish the fact that there are a collection of years between me and today's youth, the years having reached "decade" status, so as I reflect, I can say this.
I don't know which of today's youth I would be. All the events of my educational years being the same, I don't know which kid I would be as I look at today's generation. But I know this...
I wouldn't be where I am without a stable, 2-parent, single-marriage home... without Christian parents who told me that God loved me and had a plan for my life. The same parents, who along with my brother, told me they would always love me. I wouldn't be here without pastors and youth pastors who spoke into my life. Nor do I know what this conversation looks like without the help of teachers who helped me deal with the bullies.
So, whatever your response to today's generation and societies struggle, I can tell you this.
On a very simple, #youthPastorWednesday, this world DOES need our prayer. For obvious reasons, and you can add your specifics, we need to pray for our youth pastors. We need to pray for our teachers and school administrators. We need to pray for our kids, all of them... from those who are the bully, to those who are the victim, from the most popular, to the most ignored, the best-dressed and least attractive, from the most likely to succeed to the goofiest runner... to the punk that whips oranges across the room aiming at a kid's head. Even you. I pray for you.
Pray kids would be friends on purpose, rather than jerks on purpose.
Speak life. Speak truth.
They are both found in the person of Jesus Christ.
He is found on the Word of God, aka. The Bible.
May God change lives, first and foremost.
Do you remember a few years ago, the billboards that were put up along the highways, that were simple statements and they were signed "- God"? Here's the one I would advertise.
"Please say 'Yes'!" - God
Charles Stanley has a sermon series, that, while I don't know it my it's topical name, one of the sermons involves the discussion of the event that changes Peter's life. There's a book written recently on the subject of "immediate obedience" regarding the Christian faith. We could have a discussion on complete obedience.
But Pastor Stanley poses an interesting question about Peter's life.
What happens if Peter says 'no'?
This is the power of simple obedience.
The crowds keep pressing in on Jesus, until he runs out of land. He asks Peter if he can use his boat, to speak to the crowds. While on the boat, Christ commands him to put out his nets. Peter obeys with the caveat, that they've been out all night and caught nothing, but he gives his obedience as if to say, "if you say so." You could call a reluctant obedience.
It's not really a hesitant obedience, nor really a delayed obedience.
Of course, the miracle happens and the boats nearly sink from all the fish!!
Stanley's question? What happens, if when Christ asks Peter to use his boat, that Peter says, nope. I'm exhausted and look at this shore. There's lots of other boats. I'd love to help, but it's been a long night; so if you don't mind, please ask one of my neighbors.
How does one say No, to Jesus Christ? Clearly, many do... and did, even when He walked the Earth.
I've missed times of immediate obedience. And simple obedience. Reluctant. Yes, even delayed.
I probably don't want to think about what I've missed in my own life, as a result. Imagine how much more, I'd rather not consider what has been missed when pastors and church leadership miss those moments regarding ministry and the advancement of the Gospel?
So, now that I've bummed you out, let's join our hearts in prayer, that we would be as obedience to Christ as we pray and desire our pastors and church leaders to be. Pray that we would neither be reluctant or hesitant, but instead simple and immediate. Pray that the proneness to make excuses and rationalize circumstances would be avoided. May past experiences and mistakes not hold us back from stepping out and forward in what God would have for us to do today.
That our lives would be transformed by our obedience
Rather than left behind in darkness by our disobedience
For the glory of God
And the advancement of the Gospel of Christ.
We weren't in Sunday morning's service more than 5 minutes into praise and worship when I started thinking about isolation. I'm not exactly sure why... perhaps because it's seemingly been a "buzzword" of late, in society's conversation of recent tragic events.
But this one thing stood out, regarding this topic.
There's a big difference between God placing a person in a season of isolation and one isolating themselves.
Do people have legitimate times where they feel a sense in their spirit, that it is there decision to "isolate" themselves to some degree, yes. There's fasting. There's an emphasis on the Word or other spiritual matters to connect with God.
However, I think all too often, it's easier when things go wrong or relationships get tense and tenuous, that we would rather check out and disengage. Maybe not entirely... we'll still scroll social media for hours on end. But making physical connections with people in real time while actively participating in spoke word conversation rather than the "texted" word (sorry, hard to use the phrase "written" word when my pen is in the other room) seemingly takes too much time, energy, focus and thought.
Conversely, though, I think there is a very distinct and intense purpose when God calls us out and sets us apart.
Often called "wilderness" experiences, we see these many times throughout Scripture. Times of preparation and development, of learning and understanding who God is and what He desires to accomplish through our lives. A time of trial and testing. A time of purifying and refining. A time of purging and rebuilding.
Not on our time.
Not on our terms.
This is God's deal.
Making an investment in His creation.
A scary time from our perspective. A frustrating one. A challenging one. A difficult one.
But from God's vantage point... a time of genius at work. A Master's plan. A Master's touch. A Divine design.
God is willing.
We, are often not ready.
And I'm not sure we can be. But we can be open. And with God, that's a great place to start.
On this #seniorPastorMonday, pray that pastors would have and retain an openness to the hand of God and the moving of the Spirit in their heart and mind. Pray that they would not place themselves in times of isolation that would be detrimental and destructive to their purpose, but that the isolation they experience would be of God doing a great and mighty work, the likes of which they've yet to witness thus far. Pray God's sovereign plan would run deep and wide through their life and ministry. May their be a greater revelation and understanding of God and His plan and purpose as they go through this time. Pray they would be encouraged; that the Master is at work.
His thoughts towards us are good.
Of a hope and future.
And He is able to do,
Greater than we can ask or imagine.
For His glory alone.
"The future of the church depends on discerning leadership." - John McArthur
Listening to John expound on the concept of discernment and how churches of late have compromised between the direction of society and culture versus the truth and understanding of God's Word and one thing is clear...
You can not serve two masters.
You can't serve God and money.
You can't serve God and society.
In recent decades, society has made one thing very clear. They don't want God in the public square. In doing so, the floodgates have been opened for pretty much anything and everything to be aired and displayed in said square. Such decisions and activities have led many to ask;
Is nothing sacred? Is there no shame?
The methods of ministry may change, the message, however, should not.
As such, it should be noticeable as well as disconcerting, when the distinction between the word of God and the communication of man is negligible to non-existent. Some churches may thrive and those that attend may find comfort, while others that attend leave unsettled; recognizing that the message of Christ has been compromised. It may be obvious, it may be subtle; but if anything that places emphasis on us as the believer to know the Word (again, I'm standing at the front of the line)
How will the church be effective for God if we are diluting the power of His Word in our communicating the message of Christ and the Cross? Is it possible we've become more concerned about offending man rather than offending God? This is how the church gets distracted, derailed and ultimately, desensitized to the power and moving of the Holy Spirit's leading.
And on that note, let's pray this #effectiveSunday, that indeed, nothing would distract, derail nor desensitize the church and the ministry of the body of Christ from the power and moving of the Holy Spirit. May we be ever aware of the hand of God upon our lives, the calling and directive that He has imparted to us and the leading of His Spirit as we walk in these present times. Pray for wisdom and discernment; that while the church maintains a spirit of unity, may we not rely in our own understanding and agreement while misunderstanding and being misaligned with God. Pray a spirit of distinction, for indeed God's people, though in the world, have been set apart, for His Divine calling and purposes.
May we be about being who He created us to be.
In fellowship with Him
And engaged in impacting our world.
Effective to the end,
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
Isn't interesting that people and society for that matter, always seem to express what they think they need when it comes to solving problems and perhaps even preventing them in the first place, yet they pick and choose whose solutions and ideas are acceptable.
We've talked about solutions and the problems that require them in recent weeks and even as it relates to impacting community. And I hope you've have noticed the care that I have attempted to walk in terms of not stepping into politics while calling for prayer.
That said, society seems overtly concerned with fixing real problems with false solutions. Granted, they aren't entirely false. There are elements of truth in them and perhaps elements and conditions that will actually work.
However, if we are not truthful regarding the condition of the problem, then it's impossible to be find a truly effective solution. Furthermore, it hinders the conversation of what can be done in terms of prevention.
Equally hindering the overall conversation is the power of offense. People shut down when they are offended. They walk away. They dismiss the perspective and insight of the other party; rather than working to find solid, common ground and a premise that both sides can work from.
If such an understanding isn't created and established, then we have a never-ending tug-o-war of words. Politically. Spiritually. And any other arena of life, for that matter. Communication is meaningless if it is full of feelings and half-truths, rather than facts and full truth.
And that is the problem. The truth offends. Thus, in a society that places great emphasis on trying not to offend, we increase the odds of our avoiding the truth... both in speaking it and responding accordingly to it.
So... on this #communitySaturday, let's pray the people of God would continue to be people that would speak the truth, and yes, in a spirit of love. May God help us to not remain silent, but to be bold. May the fear of people's being offended not prevent us from showing them God's and speaking His Word. In a world seeking answers to the most pressing issues of our life and times, may our lives reflect the love and character of Christ.
For our faith doesn't absolve us from problems
But focuses our attention to Him who can handle all our cares.
That we cast them at His feet
And worship at His throne of grace.
For we all need to hear the truth
That our sin has offended Him.
May God heal our land as we turn in repentance.
Every day seems to be another revelation that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but with powers and principalities of this dark age. The explanation for the dichotomy between good and evil eludes us; if for no other reason than our society's failure to acknowledge the reality of spiritual warfare.
Yet, one doesn't have to look very far to witness and read the hostility that exists against Christianity.
Many deny the reality the perspectives and desires that are being stated against Christians; but around the world, the challenges are great, the struggles are real and the stories are chilling. The news headline that I heard earlier today had me shaking my head in disbelief.
There's really no easy answer, either. For the believer, we know how the story ends. We know who wins. We understand what we will endure. But just because we stand on the promises of God does not mean that the daily struggle to remain standing against the blowing winds of fear cease.
Indeed, the threats of evil are both disheartening and unsettling. And while we can only hope and pray that we would stand the test of faith where we facing such hostile ideals on a daily basis, we can certainly pray and continually present before the throne room of God, the lives of those whose daily reality is the battle against the evil that is prominent and pervasive in their attempts to snuff them out... both figuratively and literally.
For even Christ warned us... the world hated Me. Don't be surprised, that they will hate you too.
Pray this #missionsFriday, for missionaries and church leadership around the globe that are facing pure evil. Pray that God would hold them steadfast in His hand. Pray that God would give them wisdom, daily, in the handling and navigating of circumstances and situations that are truly hostile, complex and down-right unconscionable. May God guard their hearts and minds and may the angels of heaven come quickly to their aid. Pray they would not be detoured, nor faint or weary from the battle. May God help them overcome.
For His plans are good,
His purposes perfectly timed,
And His will sovereign.
Though we don't understand,
We trust... for He is a good God.
And we overcome, by the blood of the Lamb
And the word of our testimony.
The sermon that aired yesterday from Grace To You ministries was pretty powerful, as usual. In the message, John McArthur retells the story of a university that was interested in him taking the helm. In discussing the future, the school shared with him how they wanted to integrate and synchronize Scripture with the wisdom of man.
Anyone see what John saw?
John shares his response, that on this matter he was a separatist. There is not nor can there be an integration between the truth of God and the understanding of man. The signs are obvious... at least the words are.
My ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts, declares the Lord.
What authority does the Word of God hold if it is polluted with the words of man? What good is a foundation built on relativity? Is that not the same as building on shifting sand?
Humanity is overrun with opinions which are quickly discounted and dismissed so we all search for truth. Meanwhile, no one of late seems to be able to handle the truth, and so we dilute it. But it's in the dilution that it loses both it's power and it's effectiveness.
As a result, we wonder why the issues and struggles of our life and times remain the same! Do we not notice the broken pattern of our culture and society? We believe in God, but deny His existence. We want answers, but deny any absolutes. We believe we are good, but rate evil on the sliding scale of comparison with our neighbor.
This is the day of decline. McArthur says the day the church fails to be antithetical, is the day it dies.
Our lives are in contrast and contradiction against the purity and sovereignty of God. There will be conflict and disagreement between the carnal and spiritual. This is the working out of our salvation. Man cannot be changed by human effort, understanding or wisdom. It must be transformed and renewed by the Word of God and the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. What need for the church exists in this world, if the church elevates the perspective of man in coordination with the declaration of God? Welcome to spiritual warfare.
Not only can there be "only one", but there is only One!
The gravity of eternity lies in the finality of God's Word. If that were not so because of the influence of our finite understanding, then eternity is compromised and the church is useless.
So... on that heavy note; let's pray this #deaconThurday, that church leadership would stand and remain firmly planted in the Word of God. May they keep the doctrine of Scripture clean and pure. Pray that as church leadership makes decisions regarding ministry, may the keep the perspective that humanity is to be made like Christ, rather than Christ to "fit" in with the culture. Pray the focus of ministry would remain grounded in the finality of eternity. May the decisions of the church be made as a result of prayer and the sovereign direction of God's Hand, rather than the conventional wisdom of people's flawed and finite perspective.
May we hear from Heaven
To know what He has in store.
That we would call on His name alone,
Rather than our own opinion and intuition.
Useful for the Kingdom.
Uncompromised on the Earth.
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
Isn't it amazing, and humbling, quite frankly; as to the moments, circumstances and situations that God will place you that remind just how much room their remains for growth and maturity in your life, whether it be spiritual or otherwise.
Monday night, the man who spoke to the men's ministry group dug deeper into the conversation of the current sermon series on prayer, by discussing specifically, what it means to be a man of prayer. Yeah.
Nothing like a man who manages a website revolving around praying for those in ministry to be hit with a serious reality check of not praying with nearly as much quality and quantity as I should, while calling you to partner with me in this cause.
Thanks for the one, two punch God...
... the second hit, in case you are wondering, arrived yesterday morning. My work day started 30 minutes later than normal, which created the opportunity to hear the entire half-hour broadcast of one of Charles Stanley's sermons. I don't remember all of it, but I remember this.
Partial disobedience is still disobedient.
Partial obedience is also... disobedient.
Kids really do push the buttons of their parents, don't they? Doing one thing out of the two or three that were asked of them, is still missing the mark. It's still falling short rather than following through to completion. And in the midst, things get done in a manner entirely different from what was directed or commanded.
It drives us nuts when kids are out of line. And yet, we discussed the other day on the subject of being "in alignment" with the plan, will and way of God. How He must be frustrated!
It's one thing for me to write it.
It's another thing, sadly, for me to live it.
It's worse, that I simultaneously call you to the process.
Once again, Scripture is replete with great men of God, who knew God, witnessed the miraculous, took incredible steps of faith and even greater steps of obedience. Yet they too, had moments where their obedience was neither immediate, nor complete. And somewhere along they way, they paid. Dearly. Sometimes, directly. Other times, indirectly.
More often than not, partial obedience costs more than complete obedience. Simply because of the element of disobedience that remains in existence in the decision. A very, wrong decision.
If you'll join me on this #youthPastorWednesday, I'm praying for God's help. As much as pastors and church leaders need it; as much as our kids need it, I recognize I need his help. That we may not only be about the plans and purposes that He has for our lives, but that we would act and step out in obedience. Not partially, but completely. Not hesitantly, but immediately. Pray for a grace for when the mark is missed. Pray a spirit of repentance and contriteness regarding the consequences of our disobedience towards God; in whatever form and how great a degree it may exist. Pray that God would help us to be people of greater prayer and greater faith; that we would be ever closer to Him and that in His presence, we would have a greater ability to hear what He would desire to say to the church, to His people and to us, individually.
Imperfect though we are
Refined by the fire of the Holy Spirit
Rather than consumed by the fire of damnation.
May we walk with God, ever closer.
Closer than ever before.
For His glory and honor alone.
Yesterday, I posed the question, of what it takes that one considers the possibility of fulfilling the role and responsibility of pastor. And while we prayed specifically for senior pastors relying on God as they choose their leadership team, my mind continues to track on this subject... if you'll permit a follow-up post.
Not many a pastor has stepped in to an established church or congregation their first time out. Much like most people don't wake up and find themselves CEO or owner of the company.
There is, and should be, a track record of service; in ministry and leadership and responsibility within the body of Christ.
And while there are any number of places to start, I think one of the most crucial, is an attitude of willingness.
All throughout Scripture, when God literally "called" to someone, there was then, just as there is now, two responses. Ignoring the call. Or responding with "here am I"
It's a scary and vulnerable posture to take with God, I confess. It's why I think God doesn't give us the big picture and vision of His plans. If we could fathom the vision and undertaking of it all, we would never get near it. But He extends an invitation to those who are willing.
Is there an ability factor? Yes, but that's often our requirement, more that God's.
Is there a readiness factor? Yes, but again, who's really ready for God to change their life in ways we can't describe?
Whatever you think God would desire to do in our lives, whether it be for the pastorate, any other role of ministry or any eternal impact in your community, it all hinges on our willingness.
On this #associatePastorTuesday, let us obviously, continue to pray for existing pastors as they fulfill their roles and responsibilities. Pray that God would continue to work in and through their lives as they continue to seek His face and rely on Him through the challenges they face. But let us pray also, for those whom God is working out. For those not yet pastors, but God is preparing and calling. Pray for a spirit of willingness on their part, to answer in affirmation and openness. Pray that they would not be overwhelmed, nor succumb to fear over the prospect of what lies ahead, but trust in God that He has good things in store. May there be an obedient response, not only out of response to God's sovereign authority, but to His divine love and perfect will. Indeed, may God change the lives of those whose hearts are set on Him and ready for His plans to go out.
Into the world.
That all may hear and know
The goodness and the grace
Of Almighty God
And the love of Jesus Christ.
By the power of the Holy Spirit.
What a day, yesterday was. Church was powerful. The minutes leading up to walking out the door... yeah, let's not go there. The afternoon... for the most part, not that much better. By evening, I think we were just emotionally out.
All that to say, it remains a mystery how God works.
What appeared to be a random meeting late in the afternoon and God orchestra's and displays His arranging of the puzzle pieces known as our life.
A transaction that was to take only a few minutes took closer to 15. Why is that?
In the course of conversation, it turns out he is an associate pastor. Not only did I not see that coming, I had nothing to go on that such information would exist, let alone come up as a topic of brief discussion in the course of a completely unrelated matter.
I left floored in wonder.
In the drive home, which had its' own round of frustration, I got to thinking of just what prompts people to go into ministry and in particular, the pastorate.
Obviously, "the call" if you will, plays a great role. Certainly, ministry leaders and the church-at-large place a great emphasis on the matter. But what makes potential pastors think they can do the job? To fill the pulpit? To lead a community, both of believers and the physical surrounding area in faith, spiritual matters and all around life issues?
Surely, there's a learning curve and an educational process like there is any other formal training. Likewise, there's a series of positions of increasing responsibility like any other field of work. Then again, the early church didn't have such advantages. It was pretty much the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the law and the prophets and the words of Christ. The church existed long before any "school of ministry".
All of this is simply perspective and "food for thought", if you will, but it does bring us to a specific area of prayer.
On this #seniorPastorMonday, let's pray for wisdom and guidance; that senior pastors would know who to choose in adding to their church leadership team. May God give them discernment in the decision process; that the Holy Spirit would reveal to them through prayer and Godly counsel who the person is, that God has set-apart for their church, ministry and community. Pray again, for a spirit of synergy. May God accomplish the miraculous through the power of agreement. For those that are waiting and perhaps have been waiting for a while to fill open positions, may God give them strength to endure and the patience to see through the process.
For God has great plans in store in the final days.
May He raise up great leaders and even greater partners
To fulfill His calling.
And carry out His plans and purposes.
For the kingdom of God
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
I woke up this morning thinking about prayer. Perhaps because pastor started a new sermon series last week on the subject (which we missed, meaning I'll have to listen to it this week). Or perhaps... I don't know. My train of thought just got derailed and destroyed.
We know the power of prayer. Perhaps some level of the importance of prayer. We've even been witness to the answering of prayer.
What's amazing about it, though is what is accomplished.
Systems work better when the are in sync and collaboration towards a common purpose.
Processes work more efficiently when tasks are done in order and the various parts are in alignment and in place with where they were intended to be. There is a synergy, to borrow one of my pastor friends' favorite word.
Without prayer, where would you be? Where would I be? The family? Our lives? The church and its' ministries?
On the surface, in our minds, we know the answer.
But, deep down in our heart of hearts with a solid foundation of faith, do we fully comprehend and fulfill our understanding that prayer works as we position ourselves in alignment with heaven.
How cool is what? What a privilege. What a responsibility. What an honor. What a humbling experience.
On this first #effectiveSunday, I have but one purpose... that as I pray and as the church prays, may we find ourselves aligned with the plans and purposes of Heaven. From His throne, may God hear our prayers, heal our land and move mightily among us.
God, do a great work in us
As we work to great exploits
For the cause of Jesus Christ
And the kingdom of heaven.
The family and I went out to breakfast on this #communitySaturday. Not unusual, except this was a "new to us" community.
And the food was really good. Small and it was packed upon our arrival, but we waited. And it got me thinking... in particular about how businesses position themselves as "feeling like home". Having recently moved, this is a phenomenon that I'm sensitive to of late.
What is interesting though, is that we step into the public square wanting to feel as though we are home. And I ask, why not experience community at home? Who doesn't love to gather with family and friends from the comfort of their own kitchen and couch?
The early church did. And today's churches are increasingly building relationships within their church by the congregation meeting in homes as a way to build deeper connections among the people of God. It also gives opportunity to truly invite community to hang out and do life with the community of believers without walking into the doors of the sanctuary.
So, one simple question... is your home a place for community to exist beyond the people you call family? It can be. It should be. It's what I hope our place will be.
Pray this #communitySaturday that the church would greatly impact their community through their involvement in every day life. May open our hearts and our homes, to be the hands and feet of those in need, whether of great and obvious needs or simply building friendship by being friendly. Pray God would grant us favor with our neighbors, to reflect the character of Christ, never knowing what, when and how God might be working in their lives. May God use His church to change the world as they are open to living a real faith in a real God while experiencing real life.
For the glory of God
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
Just a man, attempting to fulfill God's plan. Husband, Dad, Dreamer. Blogger.