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.
I think it's fairly obvious to say that some environments are more conducive to effectiveness than others. There's purpose, there is planning. There is a reality that certain tasks and performances were meant and intended for a specific space.
We don't cook in the bathroom.
We don't perform surgery in the back of the garage.
And AA meetings are not conducted in the bar!
Conversely, the church is about being a place of worship; a place to encounter the presence of God.
Is it the only place where such moments can happen? Absolutely not!
But if it was designed for that purpose, should it not be the place that is most effective in fulfilling that purpose?
Let's pray, this #effectiveSunday, that today would be a great day, of people experiencing the power of Almighty God. May lives be changed for eternity Pray that as people enter, hearts would be healed, strength renewed and minds at peace. Pray that marriages would be restored and families made whole. May God be glorified as faith is challenged and fortified. Pray.the name of the Lord would be lifted high as the people of God arise.
For the cause of Jesus Christ
For the advancement of the kingdom of God.
There truly is a powerful and brilliant message, behind Clint Eastwood's movie, Trouble With The Curve. Clint Eastwood plays an old school baseball scout who has a tenuous relationship with his daughter, who is making a run for partner at her law firm. Meanwhile, Clint's character, Gus is to go scout this young baseball player, Bo Gentry; but with eye-sight that is starting to give him trouble, Gus's daughter is convinced into helping Gus on this trip and hopefully repair their relationship in the process.
It turns out, Bo, for all his talent and potential, can't hit it a curve ball. Of course, the climax of this circumstance comes towards the end of the movie, after everyone is convinced this kid is a gold-mine of a baseball player. However, when the devastating truth comes out... wow. Talk about a "how did this get missed" moment.
Well, except for Gus... who with eye-sight on the decline heard through the power of sound that something was wrong with Bo's swing.
I'm writing this post service (ran out of time this morning), so if you'll permit a little leeway...
Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday. And the message was simply titled: #speaklife.
Obviously there is power in positive words and speaking "life" into people and circumstances, but this was an emphasis on the power and importance of life. From the point of conception to one's last breath.
And on this #effectiveSunday, I found myself juxtaposing the lesson on the movie and the power of the issue of life. Society as a whole and even the culture within the church thinks and considers itself to have it together; to play a great game and exist with an unlimited amount of potential. We've convinced ourselves that we are good and doing good work while we utterly the destroy the lives of the unborn.
Like Bo, we can handle most the game, until someone throws a curve. Likewise with issue of pregnancy. We can handle most of life, until an un-timely or un-desired pregnancy, whatever the circumstances are that surround it, is considered as being thrown a curve. And rather than learning how to win through the circumstance, we choke. And the result is a disastrous display of the unbelievable.
On that note, let's pray this #effectiveSunday, that the church would not be caught off guard by the unexpected. May we be prepared for all circumstances and situations; to live and be victorious. Pray that we would be people that would stand a counter-culture to the world, and speak life and speak up for life. May the issue of life and birth not be the downfall of humanity as we have utterly destroyed the womb and the unborn. Pray God's forgiveness over this nation; that we have allowed such an unbelievable display of recklessness define multiple generations, having justified our decisions throw words that are a disgrace to the glory of an everlasting and loving God.
Lord, help us.
That we would not have trouble with the curve.
But live life right. And speak for what is right.
For the glory of God and His righteousness.
I had to laugh just a little bit last night as yesterday's post played out in real life, albeit on a very small scale. We talked about life changing in just a moment as such grand events occur, such as entering a new year and my kids, moments before getting ready for bed, went from laughing and carrying on like teens (which they are not) to the opening seconds of an emotion 180 spin akin to a 2-year old (which they are also, not!)
Well, that happened fast.
Then, while watching an episode of Fuller House on Netflix, there's a scene where nearly every cast member steps into the room, ready to share their bed news. And just like that, everyone was having an "oh-no" moment.
Real life returned again this morning, as a friend posted on social media, the past two days of their life... further inundated with bad news and a rough start to the new year. Friends posted that at least all the bad things were happening at the beginning, but as we're barely one day in to the new year, it's hard not to consider... no, we're not getting all the bad out at the beginning.
It's highly likely and probable that there will be many more in the 364 remaining days of 2018.
But, perhaps as a part 2 continuation of yesterday's thoughts, it's one thing when we can control our attitudes and responses to the circumstances and situations that happen to us directly; but it's somewhat hard when we watching it happen to others and we are faced with how to encourage and help them respond, whether they be our child of a few years or a friend of many years.
We all have "stuff" going on in our lives and the moments that serve to remind us that others have their struggles as well and need us, give us opportunity to set ourselves aside and share life with those around us. It's hard to do at times, even for those in ministry. Having to do it more often because of their position doesn't make the process any easier.
Thus, on this #associatePastorTuesday, pray for pastors, as they continue to serve others and play aside their own challenges and difficulties to help others. May God grant them strength and insight as they help others through their struggles. Pray they would be refreshed as they refresh others. May God move in their hearts and lives as they take time to invest in helping meet the needs and concerns of others. Pray they would not grow weary in well-doing, but that the Holy Spirit would be their sustenance throughout this entire year and whatever may come there way.
That we would live to serve.
God. And Others.
In humility and honesty,
In spirit and truth.
For we are never alone.
Thanks be unto God.
Community does really take on all forms. The family and I ventured out on a little road trip for the evening and enjoyed it so much, I thought, why haven't we done this sooner?! Then, this morning, on one of the group pages that I'm in on social media, somebody, posted how grateful they were to be a part of the group and experience the online conversation. Around the same time, I discovered the "Electric Holidays" radio station on Pandora and again... how come I didn't find this sooner in my life?!
Last night's road trip reminded me again, of the accomplishments of a small group of people coming together for a single cause, mission or goal. And yet, whatever the purpose and pleasure of the group, it does not happen if people themselves do NOT come together.
And yet, we come together for such great times as Christmas, and again this weekend for New Years. It's easy to engage for the big moments, the big events, the grand holidays. But where and what are we doing the rest of the time. Every other lazy Saturday. The typical Monday morning at work. The Sunday service that isn't holiday-related or themed.
I only ask because 2018 starts in 36 hrs and change.
Are we ready to live differently?
Are we ready to engage differently?
With intentionality and purpose?
With clarity and vision?
What 2018 has in store for you certainly depends on what God desires to accomplish in your life.
It also largely depends on your focus, your attitude and your response as God guides your steps.
On the #communitySaturday before New Year's Eve, pray that we start, this weekend, to engage and live out community with a fresh attitude. May we engage with meaning and purpose, speak with clarity and truth and experience love, grace and forgiveness. Pray that we be a community that reflects Christ and is growing ever closer and deeper in our walk with God. May God work the miraculous in and through lives that are renewed in their resolve to be used for His purposes by by the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit.
May 2018 be a year for breakthrough.
Strongholds are broken
Relationships are restored.
Community is revived.
And life in Christ is lived to the fullest.
For the glory of God.
Well, this was kinda weird this morning to happen like this, but I promise, I'm not making it up. I woke up this morning, laid in bed and asked what God would have for today's post and before I could even finish the thought, "I need something...", the Holy Spirit dropped the word.
It seems of late, that people efforts and life purposes have been long endeavors. I know this happens all the time, but it feels like this has been the year of longevity. A pastor has led the same church for 25 years, national names of recognition are hitting their 24 and 25 year marks in their field. A friend has had the same job for 19 years.
And this project is half-way through it's 3rd year... of having a daily prayer and perspective to pray over our pastors and church leadership. And I thank you for joining with me.
Yet, when life and it's responsibilities lose their appeal, when relationships lack purpose, when clarity diminishes and obviously, when things go wrong or get just plain hard, it is a downright struggle... a frustrating struggle to find the wherewithal to run through our difficulty with joy.
Interesting, that I type this as my dear friends are preparing to deliver their 4-month old baby girl into the hands of doctors who will perform open-heart surgery today. And they are emotionally-wrecked, yet resolute in their faith.
Whatever you face, God has you. He has "this".
Whatever your circumstance, God remains, the great "I AM".
Pray, this #associatePastorTuesday for those who need a freshening, and a refreshing, in the life and ministry. May God work their miraculous for them, as He will for my friends. For healing, for clarity and direction, for a revitalization of life and purpose; may the Holy Spirit breathe afresh into situations and circumstances that overwhelm hearts and cloud the minds. Pray today would be an undeniable sense of renewal.
For indeed, His mercies are NEW.
And who would want it any other way.
For the glory of God.
Yesterday morning's message has kinda stuck with me, as we are already almost half way through the month that surrounds Christmas. It was an interesting message on the birth of Christ, and particularly, the gathering that occurs at the manger scene.
And while a number of points and applications were made, one understanding in particular stand out, as we once again gather at this page to pray for pastors.
Consider this for a moment...
It's entirely possibly to stand in the awe and wonder of God, while feeling as though you are of little to null value to Him. Furthermore, what happens when that sense of awe and wonder is lost? Who are we? And what are we doing here? Where do I go moving forward?
The hand of God at work in our lives is incredible and why He chooses who He does escapes our comprehension. And yet, we see throughout Scripture what happens when the love and pursuit of God disappears from our lives and what we are doing is nowhere near what He had planned and purposed for our lives. Problems of epic proportions usually ensue.
So will you pray with me, this #seniorPastorMonday? Pray that pastors would neither lose their sense of awe and wonder, nor would they lose their understanding of their value and importance to God. May God strengthen and revive the flame with them regarding their love for God and the work which He has called them. Pray the lies of the enemy and the misleadings of their emotions not detour and derail them to the point of destruction. May this season be a time of drawing ever closer to the presence and power of God at work here on Earth.
Time and again,
May He help us through
And show us the way
That leads us back to Him
As we stand in awe and wonder
Humbled in His presence,
And a part of His grand design.
I mentioned Mitch Albom yesterday and if you aren't familiar with him, over the years he has set-up 9 different charities throughout the metro-Detroit area that are focused on meeting the various needs of the poor, from helping with day-care to after school programs, to helping working families get housing to senior citizen and veteran services.
This past Thursday, he held his 6th annual radio-thon fundraiser, by holding a 15-hour long radio show (as his normal radio show is the 2-hr drive home slot). And it was incredible to watch community happen.
For those 15 hours, friends and celebrities, people of influence throughout the city and state and business owners, professional athletes and coaches and team owners... it was utterly flooded by people who came on board to help raise funds. Over 1.2 million dollars!
No admin costs. Nothing owed to anyone else first. 100% straight to meeting the needs.
Of course, they use the funds to help other charities in the area as well, but among the many incredible moments throughout the day was one in particular.
Mitch also has a project in Haiti, taking care of kids and the poor in that country as well. And while he joked about not knowing where they got the money or perhaps they raided his desk down there, the kids from his Haiti program called into the radiothon... to tell him they had collected $200 to help those in need in Detroit.
It was later pointed out, that while it's amazing that people who have been blessed with abundance would be compelled to share with those less fortunate and really, you wouldn't hope or expect anything less. But it seems the more one has, the easier it is to forget how difficult things are when you are without. Thus, we often witness the phenomenon of those who have little for themselves will give, and give generously for those who often have very little or even less than they.
So to hear kids in Haiti respond to a call to help kids in Detroit... well, it was a tear-jerker to say the least.
Mitch's story of how he moved from not being a generous and charitable person to this kind of investment and influence to bring others together to accomplish this good is quite moving. And while I don't know where he stands in his faith with God, I can't help but consider how often the church misses the opportunity to experience community at this level.
Reasons why we can't or don't give. Can't or don't find time. Can't or don't know where to start or how to get help. Yet it's the church that will be known by their love. And many communities don't know the church in that way.
So, on this #communitySaturday, pray that the church would arise anew, to lead in building, sharing, growing and influencing community. May we make the time and financial investment into those in need among us. Pray for opportunities as we forth, to share Christ and experience God. May the excuses end and obedience begin.
For while big contributions are far reaching
Even the smallest gifts can make great impact.
May we do so today.
For the glory of God
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
I posted last night this thought... #ineedalist4mylists, in recognition of the craziness that seems to be close to unfolding in coming days and weeks. The holiday season is busy for everyone; some more than others when it comes to events and gatherings, whether of a personal or professional manner. Then there's the major life events that occur, normally throughout the rest of the year... specifically so that the holiday season can be somewhat enjoyed, rather than an all-out frenzy.
Regardless the focus of what needs to be done can very quickly diminish the wonder and awe of the moment and I would dare bet, that the more items that exist on those lists, the quicker the diminishing of the moment happens.
Thus, we while we may be effective and perhaps even efficient, in terms of taking care of what needs to be done, we will be miserable the entire time... for we most likely will have missed the joy of giving, care, sharing and serving with those around us.
I'm certainly prone to missing the mark in the coming days and perhaps you've done so, as well. Certainly, as churches and ministries head into their own craziness of events and outreaches, the same can occur on their campuses... at a time and season that is critical in the spiritual realm.
So pray, this #effectiveSunday, as we enter the Christmas season, that the lists will not overpower and detract our focus to minister and to be a blessing. Pray once again, for an increased awareness to share life and love as a representation of Christ. Pray for the preparation of hearts and minds; who have given up on God and lost hope for humanity. Starting today, pray that the process of healing and restoration would begin for those who've lost the joy and purpose of life and faith.
May today be the start of a miracle
And a season of miracles.
Filled with awe and wonder
At the mention of the name of Jesus.
For the honor and glory of God Almighty.
Another inspired moment that I didn't see coming as relevant to a #missionsFriday post, but here it is... courtesy of a Christmas movie that was playing on the Hallmark channel last night.
We all lead busy lives, full of a delicate balance of joy and frustration, rest and stress. But there is power when we aside ourselves for the benefit of someone else.
As was conveyed by a character in the movie (and of course, now that I'm typing it, I can't remember the exact wording)
We become the best version of ourselves when we care for others.
And what an interesting day to be reminded of that truth... on Black Friday. As the memes state on social media, the day we rush the storefront to buy more things just hours after having spent a full day in a attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving. Granted many are getting presents, but still... we are focused on the earthly gifts rather than the eternal Gift.
So it's possible to suffer from burnout by caring too much too often for others.
And it's miserable to be so concerned with self and entirely miss great moments of small miracles that only happen through the care and compassion of blessing others.
Thus, the balance is to neither rely on ourselves, nor look to ourselves, but to remain focused on God and be active in our care for those around us.
On this #missionsFriday, pray not only for missionaries, but for the body of Christ as a whole. May we be about the care and concern for others, for indeed, it is not only how we become the best version of ourselves, but the best representation of Christ to a lost and dying world. Pray that we would seek to use our blessings to be a blessing to others. May we not be so quick to receive for our own benefit, but to give away for the benefit of others.
For as God shared His Son with the world,
So too may we share what Christ has done in our hearts and lives
With those who've yet to experience
The eternal Gift that is greater than anything Earth has to offer.
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
I had a little bit of an epiphany yesterday afternoon... and it's probably one of those things that I've known and/or realized before and perhaps forgotten that I knew this to be true. But sometimes things just work a particular way and the realization hits as an "ah-ha" or "oh wow" moment.
We all know that life is a journey; and that the focus is not always about the destination or the result, but the process. Thus, if you don't take the time to be aware and notice what is happening along the way, you could miss some pretty cool moments.
Take Monday afternoon for example. A personal matter in my life is unfolding and while I don't know yet know the result as of this moment and the decisions that follow, there was a major miracle that transpired. It certainly was a hope and prayer ordeal... a "man, that would be really cool if that happened" moment, so that certain next steps could be taken. Well it did happen, and so did the subsequent steps.
But it would be easy to look at the end result, if it turns out to be different than the direction we feel we are being led, that I could totally miss that miracle, as if it didn't happen at all.
It's the perspective we try to instill in our kids, yet often need to be reminded of as adults.
Enjoy the ride. When you need to know what's going on, you'll be informed. In the meantime, be aware. Look around. Watch, wait and see the miracles that have already occurred as well as the ones that are in progress. Decisions and outcomes are awesome, especially when they seem to work out in favor, but to watch the hand of God at work in our lives as we traverse the process is where the excitement lives. As well as the frustration, for that matter, but again... they are moments to press in, to seek the face of God and trust in His Sovereign plan.
Let's pray this #youthPastorWednesday; that pastors, in the challenges and circumstances they face would not get so caught up and focused on the outcome that they miss the miraculous that occurs in the process. May they be encouraged today, to press in to the presence of Almighty God. Pray their unwavering faith would guide them, to stand and step forward with a steadfast and resolute spirit. Pray they would enjoy the moments that God grants throughout the day, with a trust and knowledge that He is in control, has a plan and is working all things together for good in spite of our understanding or lack thereof.
May we not miss out on the journey
Because we are focused on a destination yet unknown.
For the life of faith is marathon, not a sprint.
May we pace of ourselves to truth in Him
And walk with Him
According to His ways and His plans.
For the glory of God.
Somehow, as time and circumstance progress we fail prey to the temptation that we have been warned not to fall into as stated in the book of Romans... that we not think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
And yet it's so easy to do. Whether in the place of prominence or a place of obscurity, none of us are immune to pride. It's a dangerous place for the Christian, as well as the Pastor.
I was reminded yesterday of the joke, most often made by fathers regarding parenthood and child-rearing. It's the phrase used by a well-known comedian from back in the day. It was reminder of profound reminder of the truth of the relationship.
"I brought you into this world and I'll take you out. And it doesn't make any difference to me; I'll make another one look just like you."
Oddly enough, the eternally profound truth is that if any father is permitted to make such a justified statement, it is God.
Which leaves me wondering... is there ever a split-second of relief and reprieve where God isn't wondering in the deep recesses of His Sovereign mind:
"Who do these people think they are? Have they truly forgotten who I am?
On this #associatePastorTuesday, may I offer these words as representative of the sentiment we would all do well to share. Pray forgiveness, for indeed we have all thought more highly of ourselves than we ought. Forgiveness, for while we may have not fully forgotten who God is, we have limited Him; placed Him in a box; doubted His wisdom, debated His Sovereignty, questioned His plans and acted outside His purposes. Help us Lord, for it's Your love that has brought us into this world and it is by Your grace and mercy that keeps You from taking us out.
May we remember and acknowledge anew and afresh;
You alone are God.
There's a scene from The West Wing, where President Barlet is standing in the Oval Office with his wife Abbey and at the end of the conversation, she "concedes that she was wrong about the thing" and quickly proceeds to follow it up with "however..."
It is at "however" though, that the President stops her and delivers this brilliance.
"No, no however. You were wrong. Just be wrong. Just stand there in your wrongness and get used to it."
A very lovely, and humor scene of marriage that somehow never quite works out to be so endearing. Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything. (wink, wink)
We live in a world where certain things are just plain wrong. The problem is we all seem to be in varying degrees of agreement as to what attitudes, behaviors, words and deeds constitute "wrong", both on an individual and cultural basis.
The conversation of course, is getting more and more difficult as we continue to work to communicate with community with the truth and love of God. Yet religious views and political leanings often stand in the way, of hearing, receiving and understanding truth. And it doesn't help that we only seem to allow certain arenas of life to be told where are wrong and by whom. Case in point, some people are commended for pointing out to their bosses that the boss was wrong, other employees are fired for continuing to do things wrong after being told by the boss to stop doing things the wrong way.
In essence, in society's effort to move us toward being more open-minded to differing views we have moved away from being able to receive and make true and positive correction... which everyone seems to be calling, waiting and hoping will happen. Each to their own satisfaction, of course. But alas, only One person can help.
As Herman Cain states in the post I referenced the other day...
"Evil is flourishing and America has made a cultural decision to let that happen, and to reject the God who overcomes it."
So, on this #communitySaturday, would you join me again? Pray that as much as we have made a decision to allow evil, may we equally and just as quickly make a decision to turn from evil and repent of our wickedness. Pray for people's open-mindedness to be sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit, and that they would allow the truth and power of God to speak into their lives, hearts and minds. May the church be a source of truth, spoken in love... not as the world defines it, but as Christ calls us to be and live. Indeed, pray for repentance and a turning towards God, not only for America, but for the World.
For He holds us in hands.
We are His workmanship
To be used for His purposes
And His glory.
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
Until the whole world knows.
Well, first things first, on this incredibly somber Monday morning.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the pastors, leadership team, congregation and community of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
I'm shaking my head in disbelief, yet simultaneously frustrated on a number of levels.
Of course, society's commentary is already well under way.
How the church should respond.
How government should respond.
How legislation should respond.
These are incredibly complicated times. And yet they are blatantly simple times.
What is at work in the world has been a long-time coming, even more so as the created world continues to want nothing to do with it's Creator while simultaneously crying out for something greater than itself.
I don't know.
All I have right now, is the words of Christ.
Don't be surprised when this happens. The world hated Me. They will hate you also.
Yet somehow, the Christianity community will be known by there love for one another.
I don't know what tomorrow holds for any of us.
I do know that God holds tomorrow. Furthermore, He holds the whole world in His hands. And if we are to get through tomorrow, even if the whole world stands opposed to us, we will need the strength and grace of God to abound in our lives, homes and churches.
And lest we forget... let us be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Wisdom... comes first. May God fight for those who are His as we stand for Him.
Pray this #seniorPastorSunday for wisdom to navigate these certain, yet uncertain times. Pray for the strength to persevere in the face of evil and overwhelming odds. Pray for favor between church and community; that our love and passion for good and righteousness would emerge victorious. Pray for peace and comfort for this Sutherland Springs. May the Holy Spirit bring healing and restoration and may joy rise from this tragedy. A day of new beginnings. A day of revival.
God, come quickly.
Heal this very broken land.
That we turn from our wicked ways
And fall at the base of the Cross of Christ.
In surrender to your glory.
For the honor of your Name.
I keep looking at the world and hearing what I often hear with my kids. And I keep wanting to have the same response as the question I ask them.
How hard is it to play nice?
Let me be clear... I'm not talking about "co-existing". And I'm not delving in to that matter here and now. However, for all the national and international debate taking place on any number of issues, at the end of the day, we are responsible first and foremost, for our individual words, attitudes and actions.
And seriously, I know certain people and personalities can rub us the wrong way and strained and stressed relationships of any kind can certainly be difficult to navigate, but how hard is it to smile?
A friendly acknowledgement of the life of another as you walk by each other.
By and large, you'll really notice the couple of seconds or minutes lost, by deferring to another through the simplest of gestures?
Regardless of religion, politics and economic differences, friendliness costs nothing but two seconds to determine every morning that you will display love and respect through the simplest word or deed of kindness.
Society does better than the church... or so it seems some days.
But a few minutes on social media quickly reminds me that the church should be leading the way in this lifestyle. Plus, we are instructed to love God and love our neighbor.
We keep trying to instruct our children to play nice, but we so often fail to do so as adults. And of course, the inconsistent message places them in a position where they are prone to repeat the cycle of broken adults. And sadly, that's what the world is full of.
Broken kids, who've become broken adults, who've in turn raised more broken kids...
And we watch the news and read our newsfeed and wonder what and how the world is and become so broken. Meanwhile, we deny and ignore the only source of healing and restoration.
So, before this post gets any longer, let's pray this #communitySaturday, that God would help us to be the church He has called and purposed us to live... to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. May we be people of kindness as we interact with a world full of broken people and broken kids, living stressed out lives and engaged in strained relationships. Pray that we would be people who would not only reflect Christ, but encourage those around us to engage with Him. May God continue to grant us wisdom and discernment as we live through the current chaos and that He would accomplish the miraculous through our conversations.
That God would go before us,
As we step forward in faith and obedience
To be used for His glory and purpose
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
We all stand frustrated with the evil of humanity and yet when asked, we fail to recognize the evil that resides in the heart of every individual. We ask how we got to this place as a society and a culture and yet we don't view our words and deeds in light of eternity.
We fail to recognize God, let alone seek to see and understand Him.
We wish for a purpose to this thing called life, but miss the opportunity to have a relationship with the One who designed us with and for a purpose.
We desire meaning and long to be loved, yet deny what Christ did for us and what it means for our lives.
We wonder why people don't do right nor even know what is right, while we teach that there are no absolutes, there are no eternal consequences and that you should trust your gut, do what you feel is best for your and operate by your feelings.
We are teaching and living lies.
All because we fail to believe the One who says that they and their Word are true and truth.
Yet, James McDonald says that hope takes work. Despair is nearly a default.
It stands to reason then, that if we are to have hope and it will require effort and time on a daily and sometime moment by moment basis, that would we put it our hope in someone/something that has stood the test of time; has never failed, never left, never missed a detail, never wasted an experience or a tear to bring about a divine, sovereign and glorious plan.
But that would be sensible and logical, even if it was a risk and a step of faith. And it amazes me how much risk we will accept and what steps we will take, for things far less impersonal and important in light of eternity. Yet when given the opportunity with God, far too many write it off as good for someone else... as if it's possible for humanity to be too good for the grace and love of God. For not only is that not possible, but quite the opposite is true.
People need hope. And the people of God need His help in communicating such to a world fill will evil living a default state of despair.
On this #communitySaturday, pray that people eyes would be opened to the truth of God and his plan and purpose for humanity. Pray that hearts and minds would be opened to the opportunity and risk to engage with Almighty God, Creator of the Universe. May we not be people who live in despair and frustration, but that would be people people who live in peace and hope, ready to give an answer to all who inquire as to our Source. Pray our active faith in Christ would shine to those around us.... like a city on a hill.
For God has not left us in our lonely state
But has made every effort and ultimate sacrifice
To display His love, plan and purpose.
For though He is frustrated with humanity,
We are not utterly destroyed.
Because of His love and His grace.
May we engage people with the same.
For the glory of God.
I heard this article referenced the other day, so after knowing the subject of yesterday's post, I knew this article would make for an interesting extension. Again, as I did yesterday, I don't share this as a point of condemnation, but conviction, for I know once again, I could to be and should be doing more.
But as we talk about culture and community and the realities of people's struggles when it comes to economics and quality of life it's pretty incredible to consider what would happen if the church gave as Christ calls and commands us to give. So look at some statistics that were posted on a blog at Relevant Magazine last spring.
In your average congregation, only 10-25% give tithes.
Only 5% of the United States tithes, with 80% of American's only giving 2% of their income (which by definition, is not a tithe)
Christians in the Great Depression gave more at 3.3% per capita, than today's Christians at 2.5%
So here's the power of giving, if every Christian actually gave a minimum of 10% of their income.
The work of the ministry would have 165 BILLION to move forward!! If you aren't sure how long that will last, consider these numbers
– $25 billion could relieve global hunger, starvation and deaths from preventable diseases in five years.
– $12 billion could eliminate illiteracy in five years.
– $15 billion could solve the world’s water and sanitation issues, specifically at places in the world where 1 billion people live on less than $1 per day.
– $1 billion could fully fund all overseas mission work.
– $100 – $110 billion would still be left over for additional ministry expansion.
Eliminate illiteracy? Solve world water and sanitation problems? Fully fund all overseas missions?
And the open ended question after all the specifics are taken care... God what you have us do with $100 Billion that's left over? It's hard to imagine how churches could impact and forever change their communities. It's hard not to consider how much more churches could accomplish if they eliminated their debt and mortgages? My mind is blown.
On that note, pray this #communitySaturday, that the church would indeed be people who give. May our hearts be opened as well as our eyes, to not only see the needs and perhaps understand them, but to respond to do something positive to change them. May we be people who love, in word and deed, time and resources. Pray God would call and us and move us to be the blessing to others that He has been to us.
For it is not ours, but His.
May we give us unto the Lord
As much as we work unto Him.
To change someone else's world
By changing how we take care of our own.
For the glory of God
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
So I was having a parenting moment last night, as I considered the sacrifices that parents make for their kids. And even moreso, the sacrifices families make for ministry.
There's a power message I heard recently... you can listen to it here:
Towards the end of this message, the pastor tells the story of a small church pastor and his wife who were compelled to give to the feeding program that this pastor was running. Having nothing to give on a particular Sunday morning, the pastor and his wife, unknowingly to each other, both gave their wedding rings as a gift for the feeding program. They weren't worth much to the pawn shop, so our story-teller didn't know what to do. The next Sunday he shares this story. A man afterwards asks if he still has the rings. He buys the rings, on the condition that the money is given to the feeding program and the rings are returned to the pastor and his wife.
The man paid a great price for those rings.
The pastor returns to the small church to give back the rings. The husband refuses. The pastor says, what do you want me to do? Tell the story again.
And another buys the rings on the condition they will be returned. And bought and returned. And bought and returned. Who knows how many times, but you have to listen to the sermon to hear the amount that raised for this feeding program, through the sacrificial giving a pastor and his wife, whose own church was struggling. It's unbelievably mind-blowing. But God.
Ministry requires giving. And I'll be the first to admit and confess, I'm not giving enough. Maybe you are. Maybe you aren't. But eternity is at stake. While even missionaries suffer burnout and leave the field, there are many that are heading into the field. They need our prayers. They need our gifts... more than we need our stuff and toys and lifestyle and our kids, more stuffed toys.
Pray this #missionsFriday, that God would provide. May He lay it on the hearts of His people to give where they can't go; to send where they cannot step themselves. For we all have struggles, trials and tribulations, but they all fade and pass in light of those who've yet to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray eyes would be opened and hearts would be changed as the power of the message of the Cross of Christ goes forth, from every corner of the church to every corner of the Earth.
For we are blessed to be a blessing
None of it is ours
Nor can we take it with us when we die.
It is all God's, as we are His.
Stewards for a short time
In light of the eternal glory that awaits.
One day, in the presence of the Lord.
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
As I reflected on yesterday's post, it occurred to me just how much of that existed with the disciples.
Thomas doubted. He was there. He witnessed. He was engaged. Yet despite all of that, he needed help with his unbelief. How must he have felt in his heart and mind?
Peter. Trying to be what God had for him, yet his mouth and his anger were problematic. And worse, he denies in front of the group that he won't deny Christ, yet when none of his friends are around, he responds in the manner that his ego resisted.
And then there's the tragedy of Judas. All that time spent with Christ and he yet he apparently didn't believe in Jesus' power to forgive such a betrayal. Did he not know what God's plan was for his life? One life to the crowds. A similar one to his friends. Yet under the cloak of darkness, he hands his master over to those looking for a reason and an opportunity to destroy the threat they considered to be Jesus Christ. And he knew. He knew the decision to make to correct that decision, yet couldn't bring himself to do so.
By now, you're wondering where's the connection with pastors who work with kids and youth?
It's a young person who calls Peter out. Aren't you...? Don't you...? I know... I've seen...
When we don't think they're paying attention, they prove they know more than we give them credit for regarding their insight, wisdom and perception. It's enough to make one want to be a better adult, parent, teacher, mentor and pastor. Yet pastors have their troubles. And even in ministry, tragedies and troubles occur, as much as we'd prefer they didn't, let alone think about them and have to deal with them.
Where there are inconsistencies, there are messes.
Pray this #youthPastorWednesday, that pastors would lead their ministries by living consistent lives, especially in front of today's youth as they need the truth in a world full of lies and confusion. Pray for situations and circumstances that exist, but shouldn't. Pray for correction, healing, forgiveness and restoration in matters and relationships that unhealthy and problematic. Pray for today's young people... may God protect them by His strong right hand. May the learn to live and walk with a clarity and confidence of the truth of God, His Word and His purpose for their lives.
For God does not waste our experience,
Nor our pain and tears.
Clean from the mess
Beauty from the ashes.
Living with an intentional focus,
For the glory of God
"It's the knowledge of sin that is the beginning of Gospel grace." - James MacDonald
James has been preaching a powerful sermon on the Holy Spirit that is currently being broadcast, and this statement is so simple yet empowered with truth. So often we try to make things happen when the conversation turns to matters of faith.
But there's two important things to remember...
It is not ours to convince.
It is not ours to convict.
Yet, as we've discussed a few ties in recent months, society's determination to label and relabel the issues and problems of the day seem to hinder the evangelistic process. How can God do what He needs to do, if we don't understand the condition of our lives as He sees them?
This disconnect leads to many problems... both for the unbeliever who continues to live without a relationship with God, as well as for the believer, when we prevent the Holy Spirit from working in us to greater reflect the character and person of Jesus Christ.
We should have an awareness and sensitivity of the refining power of the Holy Spirit as much as we pray people would have an awareness and sensitivity to the redemptive power of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Thus, on this #missionsFriday, let us pray to that end. Pray for an openness to receive the Gospel as well as open doors to share the same. Pray the continued work of the Holy Spirit, to work both in refining the believer and convicting the unbeliever. May we continue to place our trust in God, rely on Him for all that we have need, seek His face and live out His will for our lives. Pray the truth of His Word would continue to impact, lead and direct all who hear and read it.
Indeed, may we be better readers.
By the power of the Holy Spirit
By the grace of God
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
Just a man, attempting to fulfill God's plan. Husband, Dad, Dreamer. Blogger.