My missionary friend shared the devotional during our Wednesday night prayer service this week. He spoke about the covenant God made with Abraham and how it was passed on through the generations and is now carried out through the church, in conjunction with the Great Commission, to go into all the world.
As he shared the efforts and the results of the work he and his recently departed wife had accomplished in Africa, you could hear in his voice, the passion for the lost. The mission field certainly demands ones' whole-hearted commitment and conviction.
That said, as he closed the devotional, he named a few specific areas that we can pray for missionaries. They are simple and straightforward, so I'm listing them on their own merit and I thank you in advance for joining me in presenting these specific needs to the Lord on behalf of missionaries around the globe:
...schooling options/completion for children of missionaries
...favor with government entities
...open hearts amongst the unreached peoples, that they would respond positively to the ministry and the message of the Gospel
May God show up and provide miraculously in each of these areas as He equips, empowers and enables His Word to go forth, through the missionaries who have sacrificed their lives for His work.
It's amazing how many people in Scripture had help with their situations, whether just a normal day or a plan bigger than themselves.
Eve, created from Adam, for Adam, to be a help-mate.
Moses helped the seven daughters of his future father-in-law.
Aaron, helped Moses speak to Pharaoh.
David, commanded the princes of Israel to help Solomon.
Hezekiah took counsel with his princes...and they helped him.
Paul had help on his missionary journeys.
And so many more...
It's all a matter of availability. It may be the position you hold, or not, but it starts with an attitude of willingness. Where would churches be if people didn't avail themselves to help around the office? Clean the facility? Lead a ministry? And any number of areas where peoples' skill-set and experience would greatly contribute to church productivity.
Pray for deacons and church admins. May they not grow weary in their willingness to serve. Pray that as the help in church operations, that God would help them and be their portion. May God return to them, their time and investment they have offered to the Kingdom of God. May their work and their counsel serve to advance the Kingdom of a God in a greater dimension than has been recognized to-date. May a fresh anointing and outpouring come over them as the continue in an attitude of willingness unto the work of the Lord.
Kids are an interesting group. One minute laughing. The next crying. Then there's the moment of defiance...which, in order to keep your sanity, requires more laughing.
Such was the case two nights ago. The kids had their moments throughout the day, but just before bedtime, tickle-fest was in order. My youngest has the greatest giggle in the world. Truly, affordable health care that works. And it required no waiting on the doctor or filling out forms.
I always wonder how kids and youth pastors pull it off. Dealing with their own kids one moment, then the churches the next. Laughing. Crying. Defiance. Repeat. Sleep. Day two. I appreciate their investment. I applaud their faithfulness. I admire their patience. Then I wonder where I'm falling short in my own life. I know pastors don't have it together and so do they. Yet, the expectation is that they do or that they should. That's what the enemy will use against them to frustrate their efforts, whether in their own home or in God's house.
Pray for incredible moments of joy and laughter in the lives of kids and youth pastors. Pray for a peace about their lives, in moments of sadness and sorrow, drama as well as defiance. Pray for insight and creativity, to pursue moments the their family as well as their ministry will remember and cherish. Pray that smiles and laughter would greatly outnumber the moments of sadness...that in times of difficulty, may kids and youth have a firm foundation, knowing that laughter does indeed, do good like medicine; that the joy of the Lord is and will remain their strength.
You wake up late Monday morning, not only arriving late, but you slept past when you should have been there in the first place. Shortly after arriving, you find out just how full your day is looking and half we through the day, you realize you are going to be "more than a few" minutes late getting home for the night.
Frustrating for anyone who cares about their job and how their work is perceived. As I thought about how this plays out in the life of a pastor, it dawned on me...depending on their position, particularly with regards to Wednesday night services, their week is half over already. Our week has just started, yet for anything around the church office it seems like the next day or two is a "it has to be done by" day. It's either Friday and Wednesday, which means any reminder of a due date is merely a 48 hour notice, potentially. Talk about praying over effectiveness and efficiency each week.
Thus, pray for Associate Pastors. They may not have the daunting task of preparing a sermon, but nonetheless, their responsibilities vary greatly and are serious and intentional in their own right. Pray for strength to accomplish each and every task that waits to be completed. May they have vision and clarity of though to properly assess and purposely resolve to finish their work for the glory of God. Pray for wisdom, to properly balance pastoral responsibilities along with family, friends and other matters and relationships that take place outside church offices. May the frustration of the days that don't go so well, or as planned, not hinder their spirits nor detour their eyes from what God has ordained in advance for them to do for His glory.
Pastors don't always get things right. While I'm sure it bothers them, like it would the rest of us, I think what might bother them more is when they don't get it right in the eyes of those who look up to them.
There's always those who disagree, but there's a difference between catering to keep the peace amongst people versus keeping peace in one's heart and soul by being true to what God has prompted them to do and the decisions and desires they express.
"The hardest thing a pastor can do is to do what's right.
The second hardest is to live with his conscience when he doesn't - unknown
Pray for pastors, that they would stay focused on what is right, not in the sight of man, but the sight of God. Pray for the courage to stand by the Word of God and their convictions; whether on the church stage or the city sidewalk. Pray for their dreams and desires to continual be aligned with the direction God has ordained for them. Pray their efforts and the results they long for not be hindered, by those with their own agendas which may not be grounded in Scripture, but in selfishness
Pray for the strength to stand for righteousness. Pray for grace and forgiveness when they don't quite stand so tall.
Jeff Foxworthy, in one of his stand-up comedy routines, talked about family and Sunday mornings and shared the sentiment, that by the time they got to church, he needed church, b/c he had yelled at everybody in the car on the way there. I'm sure he's not alone. What I'm not sure of, is whether I want to confess to having shared the same sentiment. If not on Sunday morning, it was probably sometime Saturday afternoon. (insert wink here)
Life calls for our attention. As do schedules. Work is sometimes unavoidable, especially when you're not the boss...or at the least in charge of scheduling. Plus there's always...I don't feel like it or there's uncertainty to the benefit of going. But there is benefit and you should feel like it!
Church is friendship, with God and man. Church is community, with like-minded people. Church is support, to the needy, the struggling and the frustrated. Church is family...the kind you would choose if that were possible. Church is the strengthening of faith and the classroom of God. Church is the primary venue for the presence of God..."where two or three are GATHERED, in MY Name", scripture tells us.
These are the reasons church must be both effective and efficient. Would God want to show up where preparation has not been made for Him? If people were not ready for what He might accomplish in and through them? Church needs to be a place of expectancy.
Pray that churches would be a place filled with open hearts. Pray that there would be expectant mindsets. Pray that church would be ready to serve, whosoever may enter the doors; for one never knows where one is at in life. Our church has done a LIVE, drive-through Christmas story on the life of Christ every year for the past, 16 or 17 yrs now. Our Senior Pastor tells the story of a man who drove through a number of years ago, and as Pastor greeted him at the car with a cup of coffee, he noticed the man had a gun on the front seat...ready to take his own life. Yet for some reason, he found himself on church property, waiting to watch the life story of Christ, acted out in real life.
Imagine that event, NOT covered in prayer. A congregation NOT expecting the miraculous...NOT believing that lives would be changed for eternity. I don't share this, to brag on my church; but to illustrate the power of church that intentionally works to be effective and efficient for the glory of God.
Not only do people have a need for church...the church has a great need for people...to pray up...to show up.
Everyone has those moments in life...wishing something was different; wishing there was more; wishing there was something else. Ultimately, perhaps wishing they, were someone else.
Christians, non-Christians, even those in ministry have times at which we don't recognize the incredible blessing it is, to have the moments we have...to enjoy the moment in which we presently find ourselves.
That said, it's incredible and important to remember, God is control. We are His creation and in His sovereignty, there is a plan and purpose for our lives. And for the lives of those around us, whose lives are full of moments wondering if there is something more and they wish they were someone else...
All is found in Christ. Love and forgiveness. Identity and purpose.
Pray, that as the church engages in community, that conversations would transpire where people would come understand that there truly is something more. There is something else to life. There is someone else, in their identity. Pray for a spiritual awakening. Pray for a real life awakening; where faith is not separate from everyday living, but an integral part of every moment we have on this earth. Pray for strength, that even in the moments where there doesn't seem to be a "happy ending", the ending we should be concerned with is the one to come, not the one for the situation in which we find ourselves, whatever the reason. Meanwhile, pray for grace for the moment. The moments to follow, while there is still air in our lungs.
Procrastination is bad for your health. I can vouch for its warning labels, the print on which is too small for the brain to process quickly, before it's too late and you've missed out.
Consequences are everywhere, yet it's the unintended ones that you don't see coming that are the most frustrating to deal with.
Waiting on God does not qualify as procrastination. You still actively pray while waiting. You actively trust while waiting. Unless you've been directed to stop, you should continue to be faithful working on whatever is in front of you to do until He directs elsewhere. And if you take the advice offered in the movie, Facing The Giants, you should "grow where you have been planted".
Whatever God has in store next, great; in the meantime take care of what's in front of you and do it. NOW. Start Tonight.
For missionaries, this is a constant battle. Grow where planted, sure...but the obstacles and challenges can at times be too numerous to count. The frustration, overwhelming. The results? Statistically negligible, perhaps. The questions weigh on the forefront of the mind while the heart breaks, longing for...peace, comfort, strength, victory.
Pray for missionaries...that the strength of their spirits be renewed. Their efforts, unhindered and unrestrained. Pray for wisdom, to know when to wait and what they can do while they wait. Pray for vision and clarity of focus for those matters on which they need to take initiative and Start Now! May God be their strength and their portion. Their high tower refuge. Their foundation upon which they build up communities of faith for the glory of God.
On behalf of grateful believers everywhere, thanks for your service to the Kingdom of God. May God bless your efforts and honor your sacrifice.
Have you ever thought just for a moment, how difficult it is to take heart, that all will work out; we just need to keep our heads up and remain focused on God. It's certainly easier said than done, but it's also hard to tell yourself to keep your head up while looking down.
Life is no doubt taking a toll; circumstance not working out how you hoped or planned and the unexpected has you second-guessing decisions and wishing things were just a little...less frustrating at the moment, would be a good start.
Yet, frustration can't stand in the way of what's next. Try as it may, it must not overtake and consume perspective, decisions nor advice.
So, as we pray for deacons, admins and church staff, pray that circumstances and the frustrations that ensue, would not dissuade them from the task at hand. Pray for focus and clarity, to rise up and accomplish the work set before them. Pray for a fresh seeking, of the face of God; that past decisions, advice and counsel that may not have resulted in the desired outcome would not hinder their ability to offer fresh perspective and insight into current situations. Pray for a renewing, that each and every day be committed to God, covered in prayer, that they may walk in the ways ordained for them in advance.
We took the kids to the playground last night for a few moments, and later, as I considered today's post, I recalled an album from the Christian Metal band, Bride, titled "Snakes In The Playground". The album revolved around the subjects of drugs, gangs and the underworld in every day life.
In an interview with the bands' frontman, Dale Thompson, Thompson offers this insight into their song, Rattlesnake:
"“Rattlesnake” the song is about how people turn their kids lose into the world without proper direction and in doing so they might as well have dropped rattlesnakes in a playground full of kids playing. Life can be joyous or it can be venomous." - Dale Thompson, Bride
That album debuted in 1992. Twenty-three years later...many of us still wondering, the how and why it feels kids aren't getting the proper direction in their life. Whatever the reasons, providing "proper direction", as Thompson puts it, is becoming paramount on the long-term list of accomplishments for which parents and pastors hope to be remembered. We need help..from a Father greater than any man has known; as ever been; as ever aspired for their legacy.
Pray for children's and youth pastors, in the role the play to help families and parents in the spiritual aspects of the home. Pray for Godly wisdom as to how best provide direction to the lives of children. Pray for kids and teens to seek advice and look to God before saying yes to whatever the world may use to entice and ensnare. Pray their lives be set-apart for the things of God, not set-up to be left for eternal death. May there be a powerful and effective collaboration between parents and pastors, to provide and establish a firm foundation in the lives of our young people whereby they accomplish great exploits that would reveal Christ to the world rather than self.
These lights always cause concern when they illuminate. At least they should and usually do at first. The danger comes, when we are not concerned; when they fail to make us pause and consider. The danger grows, as we assume that once it does comes on, we know it what it is; meanwhile it turns into a worse problem while we fail to resolve it.
Such goes the lives of many among us. Furthermore, so goes their home life and ministry. The sign that something might be wrong, when overlooked for one reason or another, can have devastating effects. This can happen at any level, but in particular, I felt led we should pray regarding the warning lights in the ministry efforts of Associate Pastors.
Pray that structure and organization would increase in the ministries of Associate Pastors. Pray for the right people to come along side and assist them in carrying out their duties. Pray for an awareness of the warning signs that indicate something bight be amiss. May they not be cause for panic, but simple and careful consideration to ensure things are operating as they should. And most importantly, pray for wisdom, as they work to build ministries that continually align themselves with the love and the truth of the Word of God.
My Senior Pastors' Mother has been in intensive care for a couple weeks now. During Sunday mornings' service, he shared how his banker expressed that she had been going through similar circumstances with her father. So last Sunday, as Pastor was being driven to the airport, he said, "I think we have time...let's stop at the hospital and visit the banker's dad."
The man, who had been in a coma, opened his eyes, as Pastor simply stated he needed to get right with God. The next day, the father passed into eternity. It's hard to imagine, that in that moment, the father did anything other than give his life to Christ.
Furthermore, it's harder to comprehend the wrought, of Pastor not following the prompting the Holy Spirit and missing His leading. It was anything special on behalf of the Pastor...nothing that any "everyday" Christian couldn't experience on any given day. It was simply a heart, sensitive for the things of God, a desire to be used by Him and having a strong enough relationship to know when God is prompting, leading and moving you in a particular direction.
As pray for Senior Pastors, may the strength of their faith arise, in believing for the miraculous in the simplest moments. Pray for new levels of growth, maturity and understanding of the things of God regarding their ministry; for none of us have arrived, no matter what letters come behind one's name or the title that introduces them. Pray their minds not get caught up in overthinking the ministry or the gospel; nor their hearts persuaded to other things. Pray for a "myopic focus" as Pastor stated this morning...to the extent Paul writes "to know Christ and Him crucified".
PS: Please keep the family in prayer regarding the loss of this father. Apparently, many of them do not Chr
Sometimes, in our quest to be efficient, we end up being anything but what we desire. Likewise, in our quest to be effective...sometimes no where near close.
Words I wrote for yesterday's post on distractions, thinking I was writing Sundays post, not Saturdays regarding church and community.
While writing a post on distractions, I almost wrote the wrong subject matter for the wrong day. The prophetic irony I would take credit for, if it weren't an honest mistake.
Thus, like any time, you realize you've erred, you re-evaluate to help ensure you fail to err next time.
Church is hard work. As you step in to services around the nation and the globe, consider the prep work and prayer that went into that service.The sermon, the worship, the lessons, the classes and more. All having their "to-do" lists to complete, all figuring out what is most productive in a timely format and schedule. Yes, the power of God and the moving of the Holy Spirit need to do their work in the service, but there's something to be said for having something to work. It's not about our works, but even Isaiah talks about preparing the way of the Lord.
Pray that preparations have indeed made a way for God to come and move in the lives of churches across this land, on this and every Sunday. May we work to make church efficient. May we cover the work in prayer, that it would be effective. Pray that the labor of the church would not be in vain. Pray that distractions would fail in their attempts prompt inattention, frustration, carelessness and apathy. These are the times the church needs to put its best foot forward in presenting Christ to a world seeking in all the wrong places, while ignoring the obvious. May the efficient work of the church be found effective, having "redeemed the time, for the days are evil".
It happened again. I dropped the ball, more than once, sadly. Nothing that ruined the day or anyone, but that didn't keep it from bothering me all day. Sometimes, in our quest to be efficient, we end up being anything but what we desire. Likewise, in our quest to be effective...sometimes no where near close. Meanwhile, those outside often look at the church, thinking we should have it together and look at our failures as reason not to be engaged in the faith.
Sadly, mine could have been prevented. More sad...so can much of the situations the church finds themselves in. Granted, in a day and age where it's getting harder to tell who might get offended and why, this may be easier said then done, but that shouldn't negate the importance of communicating that while we are not perfect, we should not be content where we are. There is nothing in God's plan or purpose, that He desires to accomplish in and through the lives of His creation that is "status quo". Seek and save the lost, it says. Not "find, then leave alone."
We are the laborers. He brings the increase. Thankfully His grace is sufficient for our short-comings, of which I was reminded, mine are many. But that doesn't mean we aren't called out and set-apart for what He has for us, not what the world desires with us.
"There are two kinds of people: those who say 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, 'All right, then, have it your way'." - C.S. Lewis
Pray, that as the church engages the community, that God's standard would be properly communicated. Pray the Holy Spirit direct conversations and prepare hearts for those who need to the life-changing truth, not religious rhetoric. Pray for barriers of offense be broken; that people would understand the difference between standing their ground and standing on Holy Ground. May the community see Christ in the lives of the church, rather than people trying to do it on their own and falling short. We all fall short and must come to accept there is only One who is reliable and reaches the standard we clearly miss.
Humility seems to live in obscurity of late. We are quickly becoming a culture wrapped up in identity and the emotion and conviction that drives our proclamations of who and what we are and how we desire to be known.
What gets tricky...as revision and redefinition takes precedent, knowing what the truth is and what it looks like is becoming a glaring mark against us.
Scripture talks significantly about both the issue of pride and identity. Conversely, some incredible passages revolve around humility...which is hard to fake long-term. Eventually pride takes over and speaks up, as a matter its character and nature.
Enter the missionary, willing to sacrifice personal gain, motives, dreams and identity...for the advancement of the Gospel. Their work is nothing short of miraculous and is near impossible to take human credit. That doesn't mean some have tried...they have, again as pride works its agenda, even to the best of intentioned group. But for those that remain, their work remains the cause and will of God, that none should perish. The work can not be done without humility, taking into consider all that is set aside, in order to set themselves apart to go...even to the utmost parts of the earth.
Pray, God's speed, as they set out to reach the lost and the dying. In tumultuous times, pray for their safety and protection, for families and loved ones. They know what they face and their trust is in God, but that doesn't diminish their human emotion and reaction to life. Pray for successful impact as they work their programs and methods in order to share the Message, of the only true hope that is able to save one's soul. Pray for wisdom as they navigate a fast-changing cultural shift in society-at-large. Pray that they would experience favor, with God and with man, in ways not yet seen or heard. Fresh revelation. Renewed strength. Clear focus. Diligent work. For the glory of God, may they be found faithful servants.
Thank you for your service, Missionaries.God's speed be with you as you go.
There's two kinds of church fatigue. And wouldn't it be awesome if recognizing the signs were as brilliant and straightforward as this?
One kind is experienced by the congregation. Dangerous, as parishioners start checking out; tired of volunteering or the politics or other Christians, of personality differences...if you've been in church for anything extended length of time, you could probably add to the list.
The other is experienced by pastors and administrators. Equally dangerous, if not to greater effects. Pastors might start "winging" sermons; not doing due diligence to the study and preparation of God's Word. Deacons get caught up in other business matters in the community or outside of the church, so they might not be offering their best counsel to the Pastor or full devotion to their ministry. Staff feels overworked and underpaid (don't think that only happens in corporate America). While we're at it, don't forget maintenance is tired of picking up bulletins left in the sanctuary and whatever messes remain after VBS!
Major crash zone for the church, where both groups experience this with any significant overlap in their timing, or God forbid, at the same time.
Pray this will be averted. Too many Pastors are already exiting the ministry. Who knows how many churches are hemorrhaging deacons and staff positions...and countless churches are losing congregations, as culture become more...(cynical feels like an understatement) towards the things of God and the church. Pray for such trends to be reversed. Pray, in particular, for deacons and staff to be renewed and energized in their commitment to their church and ministry. May encouragement to Pastors and parishioners start with them and as people who enter church see strong support systems and people in place within the church, it will speak clearly that the church is healthy and functioning properly. Pray for an increased awareness for signs of fatigue, that appropriate steps will be taken to resolve situations before crashes start causing long delays and backups within the church, and the body of Christ at-large.
I tried having a teachable moment with my oldest last night. Turns out it was the younger one, who needed it. However, I'm not sure she would have understood it, so it probably wouldn't have done much good.
That said, I learned something. Different strategies for different people at different times are required in order for teachable moments to be effective. Nowhere is the more quickly learned, than with children. And teens. And adult kids still very loved by their parents who continue to wonder what we are up to some times.
If its difficult to handle as parents, then imagine the perspective of the Pastors who work with them. And the perspective they have, as they deal with their own children. I can't imagine the process they must go through.
Pray for Children & Youth Pastors, for the difficulties and challenges they face in their own families and kids. Pray for wisdom and strength to endure. Pray for understanding and discernment, in how they present info to their kids at home, and under their ministry. Pray that teachable moments would be often, and effective, for the glory of God. Pray they would neither be missed or wasted; that the next generation would know God, trust in Him, and understand His plan for their lives. Pray that truth would be imparted to them, despite the appearance of the circumstance.
I watched a movie on Netflix over the weekend, titled Encounter, starring Jaci Velasquez. In the movie, Christ orders a scenario, in which strangers find themselves together in a storm. During this time, He makes His direct appeal that they may come to know Him
He explains how He has intervened in small ways to prevent worse outcomes from happening, even death, in order that He might display His plan and purpose for their lives. In reflection, I couldn't help but think how this applies to Associate Pastors.
To all of us really, but Associates in particular, carry a great responsibility. Jesus explains how it's His grace, in these circumstances that help bring us through. Considering the alternatives of how situations could be worse, some call it the "lesser of two evils". Jesus calls it "grace." In fact, one could go as far as to call it the "greater of two graces". Seemingly minor frustrations could be major fiascoes, were it not for grace...the opportunity for God to work His plan for our lives.
Pray for Associate Pastors, struggling to remember that Gods' grace is sufficient, regardless of the circumstance. Pray for reminders to come their way, that He remains in control and that frustrations are only for a moment. Pray that in those moments, His plans and purposes will come to fruition. Pray for endurance as His plan is carried out. Life may not be going well, ministry not working as hope, family may be in trouble or finances falling...whatever it is, its Christ' preventive measure to avoid a fate, where His glory misses the opportunity to be displayed.
Ministry moves forward...even when life calls for attention to other matters.
Like many Senior Pastors, mine has had a rough two weeks, as the health of a parent has declined. The outlook less than promising. Yet, for the power of prayer, trust in God remains in place.
As the family has attended to this matter, he reminded us during service, that thanks to great pastors and staff, "ministry moves forward".
This can be troublesome for churches where such "systems, process and people", are not in place to continue the work, when life unexpected occurs.
If only more churches were prepared. I don't know how many are not, but it can't be a good scenario for the congregation and community where people are not in place to keep ministry in motion.
Pray for Senior Pastors, such as mine, where life is calling for his attention in this matter outside of the church. It is important, but it can certainly feel as though you should be in two places at once, and I know for me, that's disconcerting. Pray for processes and people to be in place; ready to go without missing a beat, during times of transition regardless of whatever may be the cause. Pray for churches that might not be so prepared, that resources and people would be available to enable them to move towards a level of preparedness. Pray for strength and wisdom on all levels, that Senior Pastors would seek for effective, Godly ministry and seek to know and solve where they may be room for improvements, such as how their ministry would operate if it did not rely on them...for when life unexpected happens.
"FUGIT INREPARABILE TEMPUS". - Virgils Georgics
"It escapes. Irretrievable time"
The birthday has come and gone. And as I looked in the mirror last night, I'm certain there was an exponential increase in the number of gray hairs in my goatee compared to the one year increase in my kids age.
Not to mention, what in the world is it doing, the middle of July already? The Christian rock band from Canada back in the 70's known as The Daniel Band, produced an incredibly anointed discography of five albums, one of which is titled, Running Out Of Time. As I was browsing through my iTunes listening to clips of the albums, I realized...we are indeed running out of time.
As we pray for church effectiveness and efficiency, pray that God would help the efforts of churches, to redeem the time. For not only are the days evil, but people are experiencing life and death moments; many that may not even be recognized as such, for they may not happen to the physical body. Emotional health, mental health....spiritual health, who knows when someone will break and when they will need to experience God's grace and forgiveness. Pray the church would not only be aware, but ready. Time is indeed irretrievable. It escapes, like everything else, when one fails to pay attention.
Just a man, attempting to fulfill God's plan. Husband, Dad, Dreamer. Blogger.