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.
I don't know that anybody "likes" to talk about money when it comes ministry. However, there's no denying... we live in the real world with real dollars and real lives.
Yet, the culmination of these three dynamics makes for exciting radio, for those who listen to the Dave Ramsey show. If you missed yesterday's broadcast, a young couple, from Utah traveled to Ramsey's HQ in Tennessee to do their "debt-free" scream. The wife in her late 20's, the husband, 30, if I recall and their one year old daughter. And at the end of the call, Dave expounded on his reasoning, about how people change the financial aspect of their lives, it changes their family tree.
This couple had paid off $150,000 in less than two years, most of it being their home. Yes, they took a huge increase in income, based on the completion of an advanced medical degree, but still.
"There's no reason to make this kind of money and be financially burdened"
So, after the call, Dave does the math.
Average house payment of $2000. 40 years to retirement. Invested at a 12% annual return, you're talking $23 million and change. And if Dave is 90% wrong on the equation, that's still 2-3 million in the bank! Keep in mind, that's with zero change in income, no other retirement strategy, no 401k with employer match or anything.
Is it not God who gives the ability to produce wealth? Even the Good Samaritan was a man of some means. Who foots the medical bill in advance of the care for a stranger with a promise to pay any outstanding balance upon their return from a business trip?
Yet, many within the church are bound. Many more in ministry are likewise, bound. And the pressures and responsibilities bind our hands to give generously and our feet to travel one mile, let alone the second.
I get how hard it is. It's a daily choice. People in every walk of life within the congregation are struggling as are every level of pastor. And it's especially difficult for those pastors just starting out in ministry, like those finding their first pastorates working with kids and youth. What an incredible story to be able to share, as they prepare to discuss the realities of life with young people, how they are debt free and the difference it makes as to how they approach both life and ministry.
If you don't think there is power in this analogy, then consider this couple's daughter. She'll be 40 and her parents, 70. They will be taken care of and set, in their final years... perhaps full of life, with no excuse to say no, to what God might call them to do. Likewise, she will have a 40-year foundation of, making sound, wise financial decisions... with an incredible launch point as God prospers and blesses her parents. It's literally astounding to consider, even as I type this. And I can only pray the same for those in ministry who consider this a dream. It doesn't have to be that way.
Pray, this #youthPastorWednesday, that they would be inspired to live in freedom, in every realm, but especially financially. Pray God would give them creativity and discipline in their stewardship. May God honor the sacrifices they make, both for the long-term goals of their lives and for their ministry. Pray God would accomplish the miraculous, in this very real struggle and balance of life. May ministry and life not be hindered because of financial constraints.
That our indebtedness would exist
Only in relation to the Cross of Christ.
May we live in freedom and abundance
And give as Christ gave;
In extravagance and obedience.
For the glory of God and His grace alone.
We read the notification yesterday, thanks to the power of social media, that the Pastor who married my wife and I went to the hospital, as we was experiencing incredible back pain. It's turns out there is a bone spur hitting the nerve. They finally came in this morning and said they are going to try a few other things first and that surgery is now a last resort.
However, as last night came to a close and this morning kicked off, I remained in the dark regarding this post. Then God dropped in heart, how many Pastors are getting ready to deliver the Word while in all kinds of pain. My heart goes out to our beloved Pastors, who story of life and ministry over their tenure would boggle most minds as to what they have endured and struggled; as many other Pastors have equally, unbelievable stories of tragedy, loss, pain, agony and frustration.
I don't know how much of what we encounter in life as a "Satan approaching God regarding Job" moment or it's the trial by fire hand of God, but whatever the cause and reasoning behind such matters, I know that it is all the under the watchful Sovereign eye of God.
I know Satan takes advantage of every opportunity to reach in to a place of struggle and frustration and extract from it whatever strength of faith and resolve may reside in the heart of the believer.
I'm just curious...
Does Satan stand in God's throne room asking permission to intervene in our lives more often than we stand in the throne room asking God to intervene on our behalf?
On this #effectiveSunday, pray today for Pastors and my friends, especially, who find themselves in places of pain and agony; whether physcially, emotionally or spiritually. May God gird them up and strengthen them anew and afresh by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray today that indeed, Jesus would make intercession for us, to the Father. Pray for a quickening and fortification of the resolve of faith within the lives of the believers; that we stand strong against the attacks of the enemy, whatever their source of origin. May the efforts and works of ministry that take place today accomplish much for the kingdom of God; not because of a man on the pulpit or the worship on stage or anyone helping in a classroom; but because God inhabits the praises of His people and is found in the midst of where two or three gather in His name.
For there is a higher place to go
Where God beckons us
That we may know Him more.
And He who has begun this work,
Won't let us go.
For once we were weak
But now we are strong.
For the glory of God.
I'm kinda bummed I was unable to join my church friends today in an outreach to a nearby community that has witnessed some serious decline over the past couple of decades. In more recent years it has only gotten worse.
Yet over the past few days I couldn't help but consider the power that is being displayed today, as a community of believers not only steps outside the four walls of their church, but also outside the four corners of their own community to drive to another area and make an impact.
It's a huge undertaking, but I'm believing as many are, that it will be a day of miracles, as many tangible and physical needs are met. People are experiencing an abundant outpouring of love, grace and compassion as the body of Christ steps up and steps forward to express care and concern to those in need and those less fortunate.
It's so easy for many churches and organizations, as well as individuals for that matter, to live life more concerned about personal lives, missions and goals that we neglect to seek and pursue opportunities whereby we show that others matter.
That this world is not our own, but God's.
That our lives are not ours, but His.
That we don't exist in a vacuum;
That our needs are not more important than another's
God shows His care for humanity by moving a humanity to care for others more than themselves.
While the evidence of the evil that resides within is great and often on prominent and dominant display, greater is He who is in us. We should be providing even great evidence of the goodness that we are capable of because of the work God has done in the hearts and lives of those who have submitted to His plans and purposes through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
So, pray this #communitySaturday that God would do the miraculous. Pray for today's outreach, that the compassion, love and grace of God would overwhelm those who are in need and receive the tangible touch of His hand through the people of God. Pray for connections to be made, that people would be connected to local churches and witness daily God's love and provision in their lives. May today be a day of glory and honor to God through the obedience of Christians who have been moved to compassion, to step outside their lives and make an eternal impact in the lives of strangers.
For the glory of God
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
A day that impacts eternity.
"All of our problems are theological"
This line closed out a train of thought that was shared during our Wednesday night devotional from the book of Habakkuk and as I reflected and thought about it yesterday, it really is true. All the problems and ills that we face and encounter may take on different appearances and affect various parts of our lives, but at the core of it all, we are spiritual beings. Thus what happens to us and how we respond happen in the spiritual realm.
We are witnessing firsthand, what happens when we neglect and dismiss spiritual truth.
We dismiss God in our daily lives, so all things become permissible.
Our identity is not found in Christ, so do or be or say anything one feels on any given day.
Without God and the understanding of eternity, than life has no consequences.
We are watching a free-for-all in all realms of life because we fail to tend to the most important aspect of our being. Yet when tragedy strikes, we fail to be able to understand, let alone explain it. We struggle with the evils of the world and what if anything or anyone is good and why, yet leave out the pivot point on which it all hinges.
As a result, the conversation is becoming increasingly difficult to have, yet more apparent in the need for it to happen. We need a move of God to change hearts and minds; at the very least to be open to receive. The barriers stand strong, but if we focus on the heart of the real solution to the essential problem, then everything other "problem" is put into proper perspective and understanding, which gives rise to hope. A living and active hope, whereby God can intervene.
Pray this #missionsFriday, that God would indeed change hearts and minds... to be open to hear and receive His truth. May we understand that for all the world's problems, our attempts to fix and solve them are futile in light of eternity and a relationship with God. Pray a renewed boldness to communicate Christ and to share His love and life to a world in desperate need of His grace. Pray for a move of repentance. As fast as we have witnessed a change in society, may we see a fast and quick return to the things of God.
For what good is it if we gain the world, yet lose our soul.
Our problems are theologically.
Yet if we place God where He belongs,
In our lives and in our world,
He can make things right
As we are brought into right standing with Him.
By His grace and for His glory.
So our youth pastor is heading up a class this fall on the very topic, of cross-generational ministry. We talked yesterday about legacy and ministry; of the next generation learning ministry from those who've led for years and decades prior. The more I've thought about this the past couple of days, it's a complex matter... the process of one generation duplicating the next generation of leaders, while the next generation of followers of Christ have any entirely different life experience in terms of building relationships.
Hence, the concept of cross-generational ministry. Leadership duplicates itself. Yet, the "market" changes. Those who follow do not duplicate themselves... they enter the picture of their own volition. So there is a significant, if not a great difference between pastors passing the baton of leadership and leaders ministering to multiple generations. There's also an incredible difference between a ministry that focus on a particular generation (seniors group versus college/career) and a service in which the pastor is preaching to three or four generations all hearing the same message.
Clearly, this issue is becoming increasingly prominent and problematic within the church. Older generations are tired and frustrated by the church for a wide variety of reasons. Subsequent generations find the church irrelevant. It doesn't fit with modern and progressive thinking and a society and culture that has publicly desired to have and speak less of God and less highly of God in the public square.
Thus the church struggles to be a powerful counter-culture in a 21st context.
We need a move of God and even more, a move of the Holy Spirit to turn the hearts of humanity back towards the heart of their Creator.
Let's pray this #youthPastorWednesday, that indeed, we would witness a modern day move of God and the Holy Spirit upon this culture. Pray that God would soften hearts and prepare the minds of many to understand and receive what has been accomplish for us through the cross of Christ. Pray for a generational call to repentance and an openness to the things of God. Pray for wisdom, as the church works to reach the disenfranchised, the disengaged and disingenuous. May we witness the miraculous as we navigate these difficult and challenging days.
For there is no barrier that God can not reach,
No barrier that the blood of Christ does not cross.
No trial that Christ has not endured,
That is beyond the reach and capacity of God to heal.
For His glory and the cause of Jesus Christ.
I heard this story the other day and it's absolutely incredible. It's a story that you must read and I'll leave out the details for you to check out in a few moments.
But the end result, is a man, who was formerly an assassin for Sadaam Hussein, is now a Christian, as is his wife! And the event that transpired which brought about this conversion is a scene from an action movie.
As this story rattled around in my mind for the past day or two, I was reminded of how easily we can miss, forget or neglect God's working on the hearts and minds of those we are attempting to reach with the Gospel. He chooses to use us, yet there are times that He will simply reveal Himself directly, as He did for this couple.
For all the preparation that we can put forth and invest in training and resources to reach the lost, whether they be local or abroad and regardless whether the laborers for God's kingdom are few and abundant, this story is a reminder that it is indeed God who intervenes in the affairs of men; who directs their hearts as a watercourse.
That's not to say ministry is worthy of our full and best effort; indeed it is. Writing this is a painful reminder of how badly and frequently I miss the mark. But if God doesn't intervene, to help prepare hearts and open minds...
Perhaps ministry is most suited to the adage:
"Pray like it depends on God, work as though it depends on you."
So, let's pray this #missionsFriday. Pray that God would help us to better reach out to those around us. Pray that God would strength missionaries in their attempts to reach the unreached people groups in the areas they've been called to serve. Pray God would help us to better reflect the love, grace and character of Christ, regardless of what transpires in our personal, daily lives. Indeed, pray that God would continue to move on the hearts and minds of those still at risk of perishing without Christ. May the eye scales be removed and minds illuminated to the truth of Jesus Christ.
That we would witness the miraculous,
Daily in neighborhoods, near and far.
A day of great repentance and redemption
And more as we await Christ' return.
For the glory of God and His kingdom.
*in case link doesn't work for some reason...
Former Assassin Comes To Christ
Just a man, attempting to fulfill God's plan. Husband, Dad, Dreamer. Blogger.