Well, it's New Year's Eve!
And if you are reading this, you've successfully made it through 2016 and everything moment of excitement, frustration, worry, joy and laughter that has accompanied the days. Pending the time that remains when this post comes across your radar, let me say this first.
I command the blessing and favor of God over your lives and your family in 2017.
Whatever 2016 has brought to you, I pray it has been a year of no, if not very few, regrets.
If it has or you know those, for whom are leaving this year behind in frustration, may I offer some words of encouragement as the church engages community:
Regrets will be few....
When you seek to give glory to God in all circumstances.
When you take the time to express love of Christ to those around.
When you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
When you allow the Word of God to direct your steps
When you place Christ at the center of your life.
On this New's Year Eve, what better a time than to have the conversation that 2017 has the potential to be the best year ever... not because of the stuff, but because of people. Not because of our own agendas, hopes and dreams, but because of the miraculous change in one's life through Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Christianity does make one's life perfect here on earth, it does however change how we view our time and our purpose here on earth... for if it doesn't, then what is the point?
Here's to praying 2017 a year of eternal change and eternal purpose; a year of great faith no matter what awaits.
Pray this New Year's Eve, aka #communitySaturday, that in times of reflection, people would understand the true changes that may need to occur in their lives. Whether in matters of faith, perspective, purpose or habits, may God bring illumination and wisdom to hearts and minds; that we may live life to our full potential. May 2017 be a year of placing Christ at the center and seeking first the kingdom of God. Pray the mercies of God, that are new every morning, position us to glorify Him in all circumstances, both in word and deed.
Rejoicing as we exit 2016.
Grateful for His Hand of protection and provision
Excited for the prospect of 2017
Lives changed for eternity
Because of the body of Christ
Presenting a genuine faith of God every new day; every new hour.
Like everyone's favorite band, you occassionally (or often, in my case) find yourself digging up some of the deep cuts from the discography. I know... you just read this just a day or two ago. Yes... it happened again.
As we pray for those in missions and declaring the gospel of Christ, it can be hard to understand. Like a kid's favorite question... why?
Well, the simple answer to Christ' purpose on earth is Love.
Yet, I found the lyrics to Petra's "King's Ransom" playing on repeat in my mind.
"Why would a king leave His throne to save humanity?"
Yet while we were dead in our sin, Christ indeed loved us. He exchanged His life for ours,
His crown for one of thorns.
But as Petra sings,
..."the Master of the earth became a servant of no worth, and paid a King's Ransom for our souls."
The power of the message that all who follow Christ carry, is that rich or poor, prominent or impoverished, every one can relate to the economics of those who have and those who have not. Even when it's not about possessions, we relate to those who have other desirables in life; relationships, families, friends, lifestyle activities, talents, gifts, skillsets... the list goes on.
And the only explanation for one giving up and of themselves for another is love.
I heard the other night, of another religion; that it allowed no room for unconditional love.
How incredible, though, at the very foundation of Christianity, one finds Love... in God alone, through Jesus Christ. It doesn't make any of us perfect, for we still struggle in receiving Christ' love for ourselves as much as we have difficulty expressing it to those around us, whether life being going well or not so much.
Love may be beyond understanding at times, but whether it can be explained with words or not does not diminish the power of expressing love. In word. In deed. With our time, resources and skills.
(funny... as I'm typing this post, Michael W. Smith, from the Change Your World concert playing on YouTube.... just started singing, "Love isn't love til you give it away". *in real time)
On that note (pun intended), pray this #missionsFriday, that those in need the miraculous in the lives, would indeed experience the love of God, as missionaries, and all Christians for that matter, share what we have received from the Lord. May we not hold on to our own desires and lives that we miss the opportunity to give the gift of eternal life. Pray for missionaries, that they would be encouraged, as the people they minister to respond and engage; seeking not just answers for life, but seeking the Creator of all life. For those missionaries, and even believers who are struggling in their own lives at times, with receiving Christ' unconditional love in a particular area of their life, may the know that God cares for them, has and will never leave nor forsake them and desires to accomplish the miraculous... not wasting a pain, scar or tear, but using all things for His glory for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
The greatest sacrifice ever made.
May our inability to understand it
Not interfere with our ability to receive it.
For God so loved humanity,
That He gave... a King's Ransom for our souls.
Once again, for whatever reason, I had DeGarmo & Key's classic, "Casual Christian" playing in my mind this morning. It probably doesn't help that my favorite online streaming radio station has played it a few times over the past couple of days... including last night, before typing this!
Then something clicked as I prayed for God's help, what He might have for today' perspective.
I'm always amazed at how pastors and their families transition in ministry. Most often, there truly is a calling and a moving, to another church or place of ministry in the sovereign hand of God. It is true and genuine and when it's all said and done, people stand, understanding the move was from God; as sad as parting ways is to endure.
Every once in a while, the transition is a struggle... because it's outside the will of God, quite frankly. I don't know how pastors handle it when they get it wrong. Many don't do well; many more, it takes a while to recover.
That said, whatever the details of the transitions that take place within the pulpit (and the success and difficulty thereof), it's the deacons, administrators and staff that remain. For very extended and prolonged periods of time, those who hold these position within the church go above and beyond to make sure the church moves forward, in its' ministry, mission and purpose to the community they serve.
These church leaders and many more volunteers who serve in key positions are planted, committed and involved; wanting what's best for their families, their church and the communities in which they work, play and worship.
Now, that's not to say, pastors aren't those things... for surely they share the same sentiment; whether they've led the church for two years or twenty-five. But let's be honest... if a pastor is called to another church, community or ministry, then he or she is no longer involved in the day to day activities of the former church and the former community. Thus, what happens to the church during times of pastoral transition and their influence and impact on the community during these times are crucial.
So would you join me in prayer?
On this #deaconThursday, for these church leaders, who even this moment, find themselves in states of pastoral transition. May God grant to them an anointing in the decisions to be made and directions to be taken. Pray for wisdom, as conversations are had and meetings are held, that God would lead, guide and direct their every step. Pray for grace, as these times are difficult and the circumstances that surround them are flooded with many emotions, depending on the nature and reason that started it all. Pray the church's impact and influence in their community would increase, as they and the body of Christ testify to the goodness and greatness of God, even during times of uncertainty. Just as God has moved pastors out of a pulpit and to other churches and ministries, pray the sovereign Hand of God would divinely fill the pastoral roles that stand vacant.
May the people of God be passionate for Him.
Living lifes of great faith in the midst of great uncertainty.
May the church light up the night,
An everlasting light to the community.
Because those who follow Christ will be known for their love.
For the glory of God.
I am praying tonight for many things, among them, that I am about to witness a breakthrough in the days and weeks... the hopefully result of a heart-to-heart conversation I had with my two beautiful kids this evening.
Though I had to separate them twice, off to an out-of sight spot for each of them (just so I could get them to understand Dad was serious about this conversation) I'm hoping they understand my frustrated point of view.
A pretty simple one at that... you listen to other people you respect in this life; your teachers at school, the kids pastor at church and the people who teach their class there, Grandma & Grandpa.... they kept telling me what they do that shows they listen and respect them, but couldn't quite tell me why. After some prodding and concluding that is was simply "because of the position they held", then what was missing when it came to Mom & Dad?
I know right... who in their right mind listens to their parents??
As a great comedian once stated, "when I was 14, I thought my Dad was the dumbest man on the face of the earth. When I was 21, I was amazed at what he had learned in 7 years."
Meanwhile, I went all day, narry a clue as to what to write for this #youthPastorWednesday. After the conversation with the kiddos, it occurred to me...
Does God have those parental moments? Really? You'll listen to your earthly parents, but not the prompting of the Holy Spirit? Teachers, scholars, professors, but not My Word? You read and take into conideration the written words of great philosophers and poets, yet not the heed the words of Christ?
Whether we are young in the faith or seasoned, we have earthly relationships where we, or the other part, wonder how certain dynamics seemingly play out. Thus, it matters not, spiritually as well... the possibility for any Christian, whether in the pew or the pulpit to experience a similar dynamic in our walk with God is great.
Thus, pray this #youthPastorWednesday, that church leadership would be strengthened and encouraged to lead by example. While, like parents, they fail greatly and often, may the church know and understand what kids know of their parents; their hearts are in the right place... desirous to love and seek the Lord God Almighty. Pray their lives would not be thrown off balance, when life interferes with their faith; but that their faith in God would lead, guide and direct the paths they choose, the conversations they have and the decisions they make. May their faith not falter when life gets difficult and the tension and frustration of the moment takes center stage. Pray they would respond in ways and words that glorify God.
May all these things follow,
Those who seek first the kingdom of God.
By the power of the Holy Spirir
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
Family relationships are work. Even in the greatest of families, with the most incredible amounts of love.
In the families where there is great struggle and tragedy, even stressful points of tension at seemingly drops of a hat, there are moments of great joy. Moments when personal issues and troubles, relatioal frustrations and differences on life and living... they are all set aside in the interest of showing care and concern for those we love, just because of the nature and foundation of the relationship.
I considered this yesterday afternoon and the power that such moments can have, when they happen.
They are disappointing when recognizing such a moment is needed
They are frustrating to wait in anticipation, as a hope is seemingly prolonged.
They are a joy to watch such moments unfold... when it finally happens.
Every time I consider the difficulties of family life, I wonder how pastors do it.
Then I remember the plethora of reasons pastors burnout out and end up leaving the ministry. They don't alsways do. Amidst the struggles and challenges of ministry are the struggles and difficulties that await when they come home. Frustrations with extended family, kids fighting over toys while it's still Christmas day and spouses upset with conversations that quickly took a turn downhill... whether the joke wasn't that funny, the sarcasm wasn't well received or the wrong answer was discovered wrong after being spoken.
Like the professional mechanic whose vehicles are the last to get worked on, or the plumber, whose wife's kitchen is the last to get fixed, so to pastors, perhaps more often than you and I both probably realize, can have difficulty keeping their families in healthy, emotional and spiritual states of existence.
All the more reason, we pray, this #associatePastorTuesday, for pastors battling family difficulties and frustrating relational tensions, whether in their immediate or extended households. Pray God would give wisdom in handingly whatever strains may exists, in the marriage or in parenint; in siblings or with in-laws. Pray for strength and rest, where matters and circumstances have lasted seemingly longer than anticipated or expected. For the short-lived moments of tension, pray for grace... that they would be quickly dismissed where they are not important and quickly resolved for real problems, avoiding the potential to become drawn-out indefinitely. May the challenges at home not dissaude, diminish or derail the efforts of ministry and the work of the church. Though the balance is hard, may God move on their behalf in all things.
To receive the glory and honor He is due
Both at home and at church
In the community, here on earth
Before the cloud of witnesses in heaven.
Displaying Christ, no matter who stands in front of them.
I trust you all had a wonderful and joyful Christmas!
Ours was great, minus just a couple of moments, which we'll just leave at that.
Today's prayer focus though, is brought you directly from yesterday morning's service, as when I heard it, I thought... "what a great thing to pray for as we prepare to enter the New Year in just a few short days.
Pastors's desire to agree in prayer, was simply that in 2017, those who step through the doors of the church would feel the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that performs the miraculous as we live to bring glory and honor to God and lead a life that points others to the person of Jesus Christ.
We can not become more like Christ on our own... that is how each of us came to the place of needing Him in the first place!
As I thought this morning, getting ready to type this out, my favorite streaming music station played the song, How Long, performed by The Front. (The Healing Rock station is the one to listen to! http://www.healingstreammedia.com/stations.html)
The song talks about how we keep calling out for help, yet keep ignoring Christ' knocking on our heart. Thus, Christ asks, "how long" are we going to do this?
Each of our lives and our faith in Christ can only be accomplished as we walk out our faith and the Holy Spirit works in us... it can be set by anyone else, nor can we seek to please anyone else... for that matter, we can't be guilted or convicted by others in our faith; although many have tried.
The only life-sustaining change in our lives comes from a genuine encounter with God through Jesus Christ followed by a continuous process of the conviction and leading of the Holy Spirit that draws us closer to God, whereby we live more for Him than ourselves and reflect the life of Christ to the world around us.
Tell me, how long, // oh, how long,
can you hear Me call your name // and run the other way?
Tell me, how long, // oh, how long,
until you change your mind // and let Me back into your heart?
Pray, this #seniorPastorMonday, that 2017 would be a year of the Holy Spirit accomplishing the miraculous in lives of all walks; that many would come to know the saving power of Jesus Christ. Pray that God would grant wisdom and discernment, as people search for understanding in the lives and work out their faith as it applies to daily living. May the convicting power of the Holy Spirit work in many lives; that addictions would be broken, relationships restored, healings of all kinds and many signs and wonders that would display the glory of God at work in our midst. Pray 2017 would be a year that the church would witness the super-natural, not in a weird or suspect manner; but as a show to unbeliever that God's love for humanity is great and real... available to any who would call on the name above all other names... Jesus Christ.
For God so loved the world
He sent His all Son.
That those who call on the name of the Lord
Will be saved.
Life-Changing moves of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
For the cause of Christ.
How cool is is, that every handful of years, the calender works out that we can gather together, to praise and worship the Lord our God, while simultaneously celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
What a great day and a great opportunity for the church to be effective in communicating the Good News of the Divine Plan of God, to send His only Son to Earth, to save us from our sins. Indeed it was the only way for us to be restored in to right relationship with God, after the fall of man.
Of course, one of the greatest reminders of the purpose of Christmas is this great tune from the band, Stryper.
It's easy to think we have life figured out, that we can do things on our own, away from God; without Christ and everything is fine. Yet it's not.
Life is not complete without the joy of Christ... not a temporal joy that comes from watching kids, friends and loved ones open gifts, but the heart of man receiving the eternal joy of life, through confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Pray, this Christmas #efffectiveSunday, may many discover the truth and reason for Christmas. Pray this would be a great day for the kingdom of God, that people would acknowledge the greatest gift ever given to humanity, through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May the church itselft, remember that today is about Christ and the generousity exemplified by God, rather than the temporal gifts and blessings of this earth.
For the eternal blessings and gifts of God
Far and away are greater that what man could ever hope to give and receive.
For we were made for the glory of Almighty God
As we take opportunity to worship Him together.
Wow... Christmas Eve.
Tomorrow we celebrate the ultimate gift ever given... by a being who so desired relationship with the creation who bears His image that He was willing to give that which was most precious to Him in order for the miraculous to occur.
Somehow, even with all the good and generous acts that come to light during this holiday season, Christmas is still a consumer mindset, rather than a contributor mindset.
Perhaps it's somewhat a good thing, that we don't boast in ourselves, but that said, nobody ever asks what was given for Christmas, but what was gotten.
And in the busy-ness of all the activities, gatherings and events, it's easy to get flustered and frustrated by all the things we have to do and make arrangements for... the sacrifices we make and set-aside our own desires and agendas; sometimes just in the name of keeping the peace.
Yet, as disconcerting as such a position may be when we are alone in our thoughts and the energy has died down, the gift of God in the form of Jesus Christ was just as much an exercise in peace-keeping. For the faults and frailties of the humanity, the error of our ways and the sins we'd committed, whether in the heart, mind or body disrupted and disconnected man and woman alike from the peace that comes from standing in right relationship with God.
As it hard as it may be, pray this #communitySaturday, that the church and the body of Christ would follow the example set by God... that while it may not necessarily involve giving our most prized treasure, it may involve a sacrifice of our time, our talen or our resources. May we recognize that while it may be difficult and perhaps not our preference to do so, pray that God would indeed by glorified in the conversations and gatherings that take place this holiday weekend. Pray seeds would be planted, as Christ is displayed in our lives; that agendas, expectations and even the gifts themselves, neither distract, nor diminish the truth of Christmas.
He is the Reason for the Season
It's not about stuff, nor about us;
But God's Love for humanity.
That He gave the gift of life...
The Only Name whereby man can be saved.
Happy Birthday, Jesus.
The human body is truly an amazing creation.
For all the difficulties and frustrations that, at times, our hearts and minds struggle to navigate and sort out, the body is truly a great communicator of letting you know something is wrong, awry or amiss.
Exhaustion. Frustration, Sickness. Aches. Pains. Uneasiness and a lack of comfort. And more.
The body kicks out all sorts of indications... that it's time to go to bed; that it's time to relax, that it's time to stop over-thinking and over-complicating life and start moving in the direction you keep wishing you could go.
The body knows how to respond when the task or challenge is presented just as it knows you've taken on more than you can handle.
Physicallly, mentally, emotionally... your body knows you better than you do.
There is definitely a balance, I won't argue that point. The tricky part is, that if any sort of a break is required, life keeps moving. As do the responsibilities that go with it. Sure the problems will be here when you get back, so you might as well recoup and recover and return refreshed... it's just a matter of handling the problems that existed when you left and whether anything new has been added or compounded in your absence.
Ministry of any form and nature is a ton of work and while this post could be written for any of the weekdays' posts, let's pray for missionaries, whose minsitry is costly. The set-up of a ministry in lands far and wide, even remote, is incredible: language barriers, extreme cultural and social differences, goverment relations, economics, living arrangements, and so much more.
So, pray with me, this #missionsFriday, for missionaries that are running low... on energy, on resources, on time. For those exhausted, anxious and worn-down, pray God would strengthen and quicken them, in body, mind and soul. May they be encouraged to fight the good fight and keep the faith. May they not be dismayed or discouraged, but empowered from On High, that they may finish well, the work that has been set before them. May God provide all that they have need of, whether interally or externally; anxious for nothing, but confidently trusting the sovereign hand of God.
As they share the love of Christ,
May the testify again and again...
Of the grace and goodness of God
For the His glory
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
I think many Christians find themselves at times, questioning their faith.
No matter how long one has been a Christian, no matter how long they have been a part of a local church body, no matter how many services they have attended or outreaches or church-related events...
Moments arise in life, in difficult circumstances and in our reponses to it all that make us pause and reflect... can this be reality in light of my faith and how do they impact and affect each other?
As the mental train continued, the speakers in my head started playing Petra. The updated version, from the Back To The Rock album is perhaps my favorite of the two, but I heard the lyrics to the song, Bema Seat.
When our labor all retire // There will be a trial by fire
Will your treasure pass the test // Or will it burn up with the rest
You may build upon a sure foundation // With your building in dilapidation
When it all comes down to rubble // Will it be wood, hay, or stubble
Or precious stones, gold and silver- // Are you really sure?
[And we all will stand at the Bema Seat // All will be revealed - it will be complete
Will there be reward in the fiery heat // When we see our lives at the Bema Seat ]
Every talent will be sure counted // Every word will have to be accounted
Not a story will be left untold // We will stand watch the truth unfold
Every score - will be evened - nothing to defend
Every building will be shaken // Every motive will be tried
He'll give reward to the faithful // Will you receive or be denied?
If the everyday Christian struggles with the solidity of their faith, feeling as though life and it's hassles and concerns are dominating their perspective rather than their relationship with Christ setting the pace, how much greater the struggle for those in ministry!
Pastors, we expect have a strong faith and a great personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We assume, at least... which is why burnout always seems as a surprise. Yet, for deacons... admins... staff...
Frustrations about whether their conversations and decisions are making a difference, showing up for work trying to figure out how they can just get through the day, forgetting that ministry is for making an impact for the cause of Christ rather than the cause for our own agenda. Just because it's disconcerting to think about ministry in this light doesn't mean that there aren't people in ministry who have or are living this reality.
Life is crowding out their faith, rather than faith directing their lives.
Pray, this #deaconThursday, that God would come quickly, to the aide of those struggling in ministry while living out a true and genuine faith in Christ. For whatever questions and concerns and doubts that may be rising and occuring in their heart and mind, pray that God would bring peace to their spirit. Pray God would bring about a divine appointment, whereby they may confide and converse their struggle. May God perform the miraculous where there are legititmate areas in life that God desires to do a great work and bring His glorious light to areas where our faith has perhaps faltered. Pray the reassurance of the Holy Spirit would bring comfort as those in difficult places are reminded that the enemy of our souls is a defeated foe.
They say, "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger."
Meanwhile, frustration, stress, anxiety, fear, unanswered questions and the friends and cousins of all the aforementioned will take you for a ride for frightening than most can imagine.
A detour unnoticed will leave you lost.
A derailment uncorrected will leave you stuck indefinitely.
A point of destruction left unkept will be harder to restore, the longer one waits.
It's amazing at times, the influence that little annoyances and inconveniences carry, as they impact our lives, plans, attitudes, words and actions. Depending on one's level of self-awareness, it may take an outsider or, more often a true friend to shed light on the impact. Even the most self-aware, can miss what has thrown them off, even on their best day.
On their worst day... well, there's a reason they call them "worst days".
Even our broken points, given the time to heal and recover, come back stronger. It truly is an incredible process and an even greater mental exercise to consider.
This is why Satan has always been out to destroy the children... all throughout Scripture. Moses. Josheph. David. Christ. If he can take out kids and youth, teens and young adults... while still in development, still learning, still growing; if he can prevent or destroy the foundation, if he can disrupt the building up of one's faith, by any means necessary, he will do so.
What the enemy of our souls fails to realize or remember, is God is made strong in our weakness. The catch is that we remain close in our relationship and reliance upon Him. That is the caveat to our faith; the key to our survival. We must guard and protect it at all costs.
Thus, pray this #youthPastorWednesday, for young pastors, that are early on, in their ministry to kids and teens. Pray God would strengthen them; to lead by example and model a life of firm faith and great conviction. Pray God would lead, guide and direct their conversations, as they minister; that they would impart knowledge and widsom that would build firm foundations of faith and draw young people into the presence of God and relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. May the plans of the enemy be detoured and derailed; unsuccessful in his attempts to destroy our youth. May God perform the miraculous through the faithful service of pastors who have a passion for kids and teens to truly know God, not just His works and His ways.
Holding fast to the faith we profess
Being made complete in Christ.
Sons and daughters of the Most High God
Strong in the Lord, though broken ourselves.
For His glory and honor, we pray.
I've learned a valuable lesson this Christmas season.
Don't wait until one specific day to conduct an overwhelming majority of your Christmas shopping. The kids knew this happened over the weekend, as they went out for a few hours with Grandpa and Grandma to do some shopping of their own. All had a great time.
However, for the rest of the weekend, every couple of minutes, one question had been placed on "repeat."
"Can we open presents yet?"
Can we open presents yet?
Can we open presents yet?
Is it Christmas yet?
Then this exchange, which my wife didn't find as funny as I did.
Yes, you can open presents!
Yes, as soon as today is Christmas. Is today Christmas?
Then no, you can't open presents.
Is this how we are in our faith? We get a glimpse of what God might have in store for us and rather than wait for the destined time, we push on God. Can we do this? Can we go here? How will this happen? When? Where? With you? Can we go yet?
Or worse... we don't get a clear, or even a reasonable indication, of what God might have in store, and we start searching, not knowing what we are getting into and where we might be headed; stepping into unknowns that we have no place digging.
It's a frustrating time for sure. I understand. I've been there. Multiple times. And each time has some point of stress and agony.
If this is dangerous ground for the believer, all the more for those in ministry. Impatience in personal matters can cause some serious damage. Impatience in ministry raises the potential for inevitable ruin in some form. I pray that it doesn't; but it's hard to miss how it wouldn't. Come to think of it, I watched it once. They've come out stronger for it, but it was a hard road full of difficult questions and conversations and the congregation suffered in the process.
Pray, this #associatePastorTuesday, for those struggling with the waiting and anticipation of what God has in store and the promises that await. For those who have acted on the impatience or perhaps, misunderstanding of the hand of God and are now in places of difficulty, pray God's wisdom and direction... that He would guide their steps and direct their paths, as they are rerouted back to the place God has in store for them. Pray that the spirit of defeat would not detour or derail them; may frustration not dissuade them, but may the wake up each day, confident in the hand of God to sovereignly direct them. For whatever the next steps are, may there be a peace and comfort; that God is still in control, full of grace, mercy and compassion... willing and able to redirect us back to where we need to be and focus on what is at hand.
Neither be anxious,
For in due time, may God place you
Exactly where He will use
To bring glory and honor to Him
In ways that are beyond your control and ability.
Wait on Him and seek His face.
For He knows what you have need of, before you ask or think.
After writing yesterday's post on retention and attrition before walking out the door to church, I couldn't help but consider the primary defintion of attrition. Perhaps a confimation that I was on the right path mentally, for the past couple of weeks, our Sunday series has been reflecting on the person of Christ as seen in the Christmas carols. As I listened about how Christ' birth was anything but calm and bright, I was reminded once again, that life often is a spiritual attack.
We talk about situations and circumstances as a part of normal life; everybody goes through rough and difficult times and this stuff "just happens". We can't control it (or at least not all of it), but we can control our response.
While there is a great deal of truth in that, attrition is how the enemy of our souls works.
It's called "attrition warfare"... a strategy taken, through "the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure."
This is how life has felt for the past number of months... perhaps even a bit longer. As isolated circumstances, most of it probably isn't much to worry about, except that each time there's a chip and a dent and another layer of fortitude and determination that takes a hit.
I'm thankful for the encouragement of friends, who come along side and stand in the agreement of prayer to lift up members of the body of Christ and ask "what's going on".
Our pastors need those same interactions. If the enemy is trying to take out the "every day believer" with this strategy, imagine how much harder he is working to wear and tear down pastors. And obviously, with 1500-1700 leaving because of burnout, it's working.
So, pray, this #seniorPastorMonday, for pastors, particularly who are feeling the effects, of the strategy of attrition warfare. Pray for those feeling weekend and battle-worn; may they be strengthened and encouraged by the power of the Holy Spirit and the comfort of people coming alongside in support. Pray the power of agreement in prayer, that God would indeed be in the midst of two or three, gathered in His name. May they be refreshed and rejuvenated in their spirit and renewed in their mind through the washing of the Word of the God. Pray a release of oppression and frustration, just in having the opportunity to confess the struggle and pain they have encountered and endured that are seemingly beating them down. May God do a great work, in their hearts and minds, even this day as you agree in prayer with me.
A watershed moment;
A turning point in the battle...
For victory is mine, says the Lord
Who accomplishes His good will
In our lives as He sees fit
All things for His glory, for those who love Him.
Called according to His purpose.
I couldn't help but to continue to consider Walsh' words yesterday regarding the church. Like many organizations and businesses, churches struggle as well, with retaining people with in the church. Retention and attrition, for that matter.
A church can be so focused on outreach, that they spend little to no time on building and maturing the faith of those who have been apart of the church for any significant length of time.
A church can be so focused on a particular age group, demographic or need within the community, that others will question why they continue (not just that, church is about 'what's in it for me', but if one feels disconnected or they feel they don't belong after numerous attempts to get "plugged-in") to attend where they feel left out.
A church can be so focused on a topic or an emphasis of ministry, that while it may be great that that is what they are known for and do well, if they don't develop or grow other areas of ministry for people to be involved, then they too, may not stay around.
The church is full of great people, great opportunities and great ideas. And while a church may not be able to accomplish all that it hopes, dreams and sets out to do, if a church can't find a consistent rythem of sustained development and growth, in terms of both physical numbers and spiritual maturity, then everything they set out to do in ministry will be some sort of uphill battle.
Finances, participation, efficiency and effectiveness... all of it will be a struggle, sooner or later.
So, pray this #effectiveSunday, that God would strength the body of Christ, in their current state. May those who are a part be encouraged, to develop their faith, to contribute to the ministry, to deepen their relationship. Pray that conflict and problems would not be so disruptive as to cause splits, and departure; but that people would work through differences and come out of situations and circustance stronger than when they began. May the faith of many remain steadfast and firm to that which they profess; unwavering and uncomprising. Pray God would accomplish the miraculous in honor of their faithfulness to the work of God and the advancement of the gospel of Christ.
Rythem and balance.
Strong foundations and great development.
The building UP of the body of Christ
To impact the world, both locally and globally.
For the glory of God.
All too often, the church... just doesn't get it right. It seems wrong to say that, but I'm at a loss for words as to how to describe it. Our interactions with society and culture get misunderstood and misconstrued; we act in ways that people respond negatively (which seemingly isn't that hard to do anymore) or we walk cautiously, as to not to offend. Whether we are perceived wrong, regardless of whether we say, or act "wrong", the church is increasingly finding itself in interesting predicaments.
My advice... just be the church. Be yourself. Act natural. Breathe regular.
The fake faith, the false faith... the insincere and disingenuous will be witnessed and dismissed.
Conversely, the genuine, the real, the honest, will be recognized and appreciated. They will not know us by our words or deeds, or economic status or political bent; not by quality of life or family or relationships; not by prominence or promise... but by our love.
Sadly, society has skewed and defined, even redefined love, albeit inaccurately. Amazingly enough, however, the love of Christ, one on one; in places of great difficulty is quite visible.
Yet we struggle so much to reach the lost, we often forget to simply allow the handiwork of God flow through us, as we daily live out who we were.
Sinners saved by grace. It doesn't make us perfect; just redeemed. It doesn't make us righteous; just on a journey whereby we more closely reflect the image of Christ. And as Christians more closely reflect Christ, so to, will the church as an organization reflect Christ.
Interestingly enough, as I got ready to wrtie this post, I read the latest blog by Matt Walsh...
***permit me an extra couple of minutes and read the intro he writes when he posted this piece... (copied from his facebook update):
The church is very focused on "welcoming" and "including" the secular, the worldly, the unrepentant, and all kinds of other people who aren't actually interested in Christianity. Of course, we SHOULD try to include these people, but the problem is that the church often tries to do it by watering down its doctrine and imitating the world. "They like our godless culture," many churches say to themselves, "so I suppose we should give them a godless form of pseudo-Christianity."
I've written my columns and recorded many podcasts addressing this and explaining why it's incredibly misguided. But there's one aspect of it that I haven't focused on. That is this: while these churches try so hard (and so ineffectually) to "welcome" the un-Christian, they often succeed in alienating the actual Christians. In other words, many actual, real, believing, devout Christians go to church on Sunday and find a service that doesn't appear designed for them at all. It doesn't speak to them. It doesn't try to reach them or encourage them or revitalize and strengthen them. In fact, often it may do the opposite. In some churches, believing Christians are chastised, scolded, and labeled as bigots.
This is a problem for many reasons, but here's the biggest one: believing Christians ARE the church. The minority of people in this culture who actually strive for righteousness and try with great sacrifice to live according to the doctrines of the faith are not merely "a part" of the church, but they are the church. The church should always feel at home in any church. This, to me, seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but apparently it must be explained. - MATT WALSH
Join me, this #communitySaturday, that the church simply be honest and genuine. In their daily walk, in the sharing of their faith, in their desire to extend the hand of Christ to those in need... may the people of God be known by their love. Pray we would not compromise our convictions in favor of society's acceptance, nor afraid to speak the truth because it might offend. May God accomplish the miraculous in the lives of the lost, through the testimony of those who have come alive in Him.
In whome we live, move and have our being
To impact this world for our Lord & Saviour.
For the glory of God.
Another reference from my favorite political tv drama...
The President and his Chief of Staff are discussing a situation involving another country... the obvious solution, and the one people seem to be calling for and advising to pursue, is to take military action. Meanwhile, the President is weighing other options, evidence and trying to find a peaceable solution.
In his argument against military action, the President makes the argument that taking military steps could cause set-backs with relationships in region for decades, potentially. In response, the CoS argues in reply...
"We don't always know; how it ends."
Yesterday, the roads were dicey for seemingly half the day. Weather wasn't horrible, but the roads, while plowed, weren't clear... so traffic speed was low and visibility occassionally still dropped significantly. Winter weather has arrived in full force on my homefront.
As I reflected on how we respond to poor visibility on the road, the similiarities to how we respond to life as a matter of faith could not be ignored.
We "back off" on the tasks and projects in front of us.
We pay more attention to our surroundings and what others are doing
We remove distractions, in order to help increase our focus on the task at hand.
We position ourselves to take greater care of said task, both physically and mentally.
We don't want anything to go wrong or end up in a dangerous and tragic situation.
Like a new or relatively inexperienced driver, navigating matters of life when just starting out in one's faith, such an environment can make for long days. Furthermore, even for seasoned people of faith, the navigation process can be exhausting. One just continues to trust God for what lies ahead yet remains unseen; and focuses on what God has in store for them, that can be seen.
Pray, this #missionsFriday, that God would strengthen and encourage missionaries and the believers in Christ they have impacted, who find themselves facing life with low visibility. Pray they would be rejuvenated in their hearts and minds as they continue to seek the face of God, despite circumstances where the unknown seems to be mounting. May they not lose hope or give up the faith, but hold fast to the calling and purpose which God has anointed them to fulfill. Pray for wisdom and direction; that God would divinely and strategically light their path and direct their steps. May the press on towards all that God has in store for them to accomplish in this life...
That God be glorified in all things,
In all circumstances, despite difficulty.
For God knows where we are and what awaits.
Having promised to never leave us or forsake us.
In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
I should have known it was going to be an interesting conversation
When someone says, "I have two questions to ask you, and if you don't know the answers, that's ok", you know it's time to reach for your thinking cap and prepare yourself. He then proceeded to ask to the questions, after which, he again reiterated... if you don't have answers right now, it's ok. But I have an answer to both, if you want to hear them.
Well, now my curiousity is piqued, so yes... what do you have?
Needless to say, I wasn't prepared for that conversation; thinking cap on or not.
Of course, after it was all said and done, like any time one is presented with information, you are now faced with a decision to make; a response to give and potential changes to enact. Yet, as I continued to reflect on this conversation, I couldn't help but consider as we pray for deacon and church administrators, the decisions they face on a daily basis.
I don't claim to know everything (although I know I sadly, probably come across that way to some people at times), but I do know that many gurus and experts will tell you that the progessive downhill slope of people's influence as leaders and authority figures begins when they start limiting their receptiveness to new information, ideas, perspectives and solutions to problems.
Sure, leadership positions ultimately must make decisions, and there will always be a percentage who won't care and who won't agree, but when you begin to not want to hear what others have to say, it can change how you are perceived and ultimately affect one's ability to effectively lead. Sure, there's a balance to what you take in, process and dismiss, but at the same time, stubbornness can carry with it a certain level of arrogance and immaturity... two things that cause serious detriment to the legacy of one's leadership and influence.
Thus, join with me once again, to pray this #deaconThursday, for leaders and decision-makers who have lost and are beginning to lose their ability to receive. Pray God would do the miraculous in their lives, for if we begin to close ourselves from receiving from others, it's only a matter of time before we begin to limit the desire to receive from God. Pray God would speak to their hearts and minds anew and afresh; that their hearts would remain open to hear, for one never knows who God will use to speak life, revelation and break-through into a situation or circumstnace. May their influence and authority not be diminished, but that God would do a great work, as they continue to seek the face of God and accomplish His will in their lives as they support and lead the church in which they have committed their time, treasure and talent.
To the voice of God,
To the prompting of the Holy Spirit,
To the work of Jesus Christ in our lives.
For none of us have arrived;
Many opportunities await,
For God to be glorified in our lives.
We've prayed a couple of times over the past few weeks for the conversations we find ourselves as parents and pastors having with our young people and our youth. As I had a few conversations yesterday afternoon, it got me thinking...
Most adults have very few people in which they confide; those who are closest enough to share the battles, struggles and realities of life and the "sorting of it all". Making it all the more challenging; the reality that kids and teens learn from us... often holding on more to what is caught, than taught, as pastor often states.
We can set our youth up for failure, essentially, when they witness us handle situations and circumstances from our emotions, rather than the Spirit of God and when we respond in the fear of the flesh rather than our trust and peace in the Lord.
Likewise for pastors... sharing many of the same struggles; when kids and teens watch their own leaders struggle, what is it "speaking" into their lives, even if nothing is being said? What are they learning about who to turn to, how to process their emotions, how to think through the challenges and most importantly, how to pray in confidence as they seek the face of God and what His Will is for this particular moment.
The effects of the carryover in adulthood are great, as well. For what isn't right early on, often needs correcting later. As is the case in so many other areas and arenas of life; the longer something continues just slightly ascew, the more it will be off course when the moment of correction arrives. What a disservice we serve up to the next generation.
Thus, pray with me, this #youthPastorWednesday... for pastors of children and youth facing difficulties, whether personal or professionally as they minister. May God place and reveal to them, who the people are in their lives that have been divinely placed, that they may confide in and work through their challenges. Pray God would help them amidst the frustrations, to continue to seek His face and trust, that against the odds, they would take the hand of God and draw near to Him. May their conversations with youth and kids, always point back to the person of Jesus Christ and that whatever the outcomes in this life... they are for the glory of God and our lives are for that purpose.
May God accomplish the miraculous,
Especially in circumstances where it seems most needed
And in the everyday, where it may not be so obvious
For each day is another to reflect the image and glory of God
For the cause of Jesus Christ... even to the next generation.
I mentioned yesterday, as Pastor shared the tragic news of a family situation within our congregation, that you could tell, even for a moment, he hesitated, as if at a loss for words and support.
I certainly understand the dilemna, as the scenario that played through my mind this past Friday of "what if" tragedy struck my family... how would I respond? How would my friends and family support me? The situation would grieve and affect their lives directly... how would I support them as they worked through such great loss? We would need each other, yet we would need our own space and time.
Healing comes through community, yes.
More importantly, healing comes through communion with God.
Upon Christ's ascension, after the resurrection, He did not promise that He would send us understanding for what we would endure. He promised to send the Comforter.
We like to think we have it all together... that we understand and know how it all plays out. And we just might; for a minute. Perhaps even a moment. But it's a solitary falling star in a galaxy beyond our comprehension, full of the majestic sovereignty of God.
I certainly don't have a clue. Yet, I know that doesn't and shouldn't prevent from being a support to those in need when I have opportunity to do so... even when I am at a loss for words, time or resources. While each struggle may be difficult, God is still able to use us to help others through their struggles, if we would take the moment we think we have it all together and invest it in helping someone else keep it together.
Pray, this #associatePastorTuesday, that the Holy Spirit would strengthen and comfort them during the difficulties and challenges they face. May they continue to be open to be used by God to support, encourage and uplift Senior Pastors and others they serve with in ministry, despite whatever may be going on directly in their own lives. Pray they would not become so downtrodden and discouraged that the miss opportunities for God to accomplish the miraculous; even if they are at a loss for words or don't seem to be the help that is needed or desired. May God honor the faith of the friends who come along side, to be ministers of grace and love, as they pray the Holy Spirit to do what He was sent to accomplish...
With peace that surpasses all understanding.
Trust in the Lord,
Even when life falls apart.
For God is in control, with a divine plan.
Beauty from ashes, for His Glory.
So Pastor quoted author Henry T. Blackaby during yesterday's incredibly snowy morning service. Upon hearing the statement, I thought, I should read more of his stuff. Last night, as I browsed through some quotes and excerpts from his books, I thought, perhaps I should reconsider. There are some incredibly profound statements of faith designed to do nothing less than challenge the reader.
Sometimes, you just have those moments... are you ready for such situations?
Speaking of "being ready", the sudden change in weather over the weekend, had me reflective on my life... what if horrific tragedy struck? During service, Pastor announced friends of mine, facing a horrific tragedy. While the circumstances are different, the end outcome was close enough to similar to essentially be considered the same thing. Unexpected loss.
As Pastor shared the news and we prayed for the family, I caught his hesitation. For a moment, it was as if even he, didn't know how to pray.
So, when he shared this statement by Blackaby, it truly to spoke to me.
"If you feel weak, limited and ordinary, you are the best material with which God can work."
It's hard to fathom what we would do, if our lives sudddenly changed dramatically. Then, to consider how it would affect our friends and other family members and how we would respond, both to the situationa and to what God would accomplish through His sovereignty.
Yet, it's when we try to operate on our own strength, knowledge and ability that we get into trouble. When we get into trouble and yet fail to turn to God for His help, then plan on things getting deep quick.
Nobody likes to acknowledge the frailty of our humanity, yet denying it only increases the likelihood of it being revealed publicly. The struggle is real.
Thanks again, for joining me in prayer, this #seniorPastorMonday. Pray for pastors, struggling in their ministry... for those attempting to do things on their own, may God bring them back into proper position and reliance upon Him; for pride goes before the fall. For those who are feeling weak and limited; unqualified... may God strengthen and quicken them by the power of the Holy Spirit. May they be encouraged, that God is not finished with them; yet has even greater things in store for them as they rely upon Him and call upon Him anew and afresh. Pray a rejuvenation as they seek the face of God and draw close in His presence in spite of the difficulties and challenges they meet. Finally, pray for wisdom... when they have no words, may God speak and bring healing, comfort and revelation through the Holy Spirit.
Soley relying upon God
Trusting His Sovereign Hand
For we are clay in the potter's hands.
May the Master Craftsman do a great work in our midst
For His glory... whether in triumphant victory and tragic loss.
Just a man, attempting to fulfill God's plan. Husband, Dad, Dreamer. Blogger.