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
Pastor James McDonald preaches an incredible sermon on Elijah, when he visits the widow and asks for water and food, before she makes her "last" meal, figuring that she and her son will soon die from the effects of the drought. It's a powerful message and I was grateful to have it heard it when it aired yesterday on the radio.
A few things are amazing about this story. First of all, she recognizes the power of Elijah's God. She knows the struggles and realities of her life, but she doesn't acknowledge her circumstance in light of her understanding of God. Instead she says, "as the Lord your God lives..."
At the end of this story in 1 Kings, we know that she comes around to the reality of the power of God and that His Word is true. But in the meantime, somehow, she listens and responds to what Elijah has told her to do, as instructed by the Lord. It was this lesson that McDonald highlights, that stands out on this #associatePastorTuesday.
How often do we as Christians or people of faith, or people not of faith for that matter, step into the presence of a pastor, priest or rabbi and seek their advice, in the hopes that they will be able to help with their spiritual insight and understanding. Perhaps that they will have a Word from the Lord specifically for us, over the course of the conversation.
Yet upon hearing it, especially if the Word speaks to a sensitive area of life, and walls go up.
"Don't know you know what I (we) are going through? How difficult things are at this moment? Leave us alone, that I may do my thing, so that we can eat and die."
I can help but wonder, if it we weren't immediately obedient to the work and Word of God in our lives, how much different would things ago, if we listened and followed through on what was spoken to us through our pastors and church leaders as a recognition of their spiritual authority and leadership... not as a matter of greatness on their own, but as a mouthpiece of God helping to direct our lives, our struggles, our realities and our future.
How many miracles do we miss on when we fail to do the simple thing, even when our reality is one of drought and despair?
For the widow, the miracle of provision and healing. For you, who knows? Only God.
Pray this #associatePastorTuesday, that God would give pastors wisdom as they represent Him to those in need. Pray that God would not only grant them insight and discernment in their conversations, but the boldness to lead people in truth. May those who seek them out, be willing to acknowledge their position and authority and respond accordingly. Pray that pastors would not be discouraged in the outcomes that are beyond their control; but remain faithful to do and speak into the lives and circumstances in which God has placed them.
Faithful in the calling upon our lives
Obedient in the direction we're instructed to go.
Despite the realities of struggles,
For God is able to accomplish the miraculous in all matters.
For His glory and honor...
That all may know He is God.
?What does it profit a nation to focus on and debate the sins and wrong-doings of the previous generations rather than acknowledging and correcting the wrong-doings of the generation in which we live?
And how can we correct the the wrongs of our world, if we are not willing to work on the wrongs of our individual hearts?
For who can change the past by destroying it, whether in the life or their community?
We can only ruin our individual and communal future by mishandling what we do today.
Earthly change means nothing if it does not impact eternity.
On this #communitySaturday, we are in need of revival. May the love of Jesus Christ enlighten our minds and affect our hearts. May a genuine relationship with Christ impact our interaction with humanity; to respond in love... not as the world expects, but as God leads us. Pray we would not look at the world through the filter of our life and experience, but through the love and grace of God, given to us by Jesus Christ and empowered to live out daily through the Holy Spirit.
God, we cry out to you alone.
For you alone can heal the brokenness of our sinful hearts.
Call us to repentance,
That we may forgive as you have granted to us.
For your glory, we pray.
Well, once again, as we've witnessed in the past 100 hrs or so, we're living in pretty outrageous times.
Complex issues are coming to a head. Broken people are speaking out in ways that cause uncertainty, angst and downright fear. And in the efforts to make sense of it all, after of course, everyone comes into agreement with exactly who is to be condemned and who is to be blamed for being the source of ignition, or re-ignition as it may be, is the outcry for peace, understanding, empathy and love.
None of which, I'm against, lest I once again be accused or perceived as standing or siding "with the wrong side of history".
But people keep coming back to what we are teaching and through our example showing our kids. And all I can resolve is that without Christ, they are doomed. As we all are. However, with those words, I understand faith doesn't make us perfect.
I'm daily reminded that I am far from perfect. Spend any time on social media. and you'll realize so is everyone else. The power of the Gospel is that it is not tied to any specific race, ethnicity, color, creed, or socio-economic status. While humanity cries for a "level playing field" in this thing we call life, the only place a level playing field truly exists is at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Thus, no matter where we come from, our family history, or political bent or our bank account balance, we all stand on the wrong side of eternity without Christ. It's true for all generations, regardless of their life and times, their struggles, accomplishments or flaws.
Leaders at every level are flawed. Followers of every belief are flawed. For all we pursue in this life, if Christ isn't at the forefront, then society will continue to be in any variation of outrageous on any given day. Perhaps Christ's advice to "take up your cross daily and follow Me" is prophetic today more than ever before.
Pray, this #youthPastorWednesday, that God would grant us wisdom in leading the next generation. For these incredibly difficult days, may God give super-natural insight and discernment in the conversations that will transpire regarding recent events. Pray once again for a firm foundation of faith to be established; to trust God regardless of the trouble that surrounds us. May God help us to be a light in the darkness to reflect the love and grace that only He can give; that can transform lives in ways that humanity by it's best efforts simply fall short.
We need a move of God
In the healing of our land
In the brokenness of our hearts.
That repentance would come.
And we would turn from our wicked ways.
For the glory of God alone.
It's becoming increasingly clear that writing these posts are becoming an exercise in stepping out in faith, not that God will bless my efforts, but that there is a reason I have the perspective I do and that I have a way of communicating it. Misunderstanding is inevitable; assumptions are made on my part as I explain things; assumptions are made by the reader about me. But I preface this for the reason that as I engaged in a few conversations on social media regarding Charlottesville, that one post stood out to the point I felt led I couldn't not address it as it relates to pastors.
In this debate over the past 24 hours, people have come out and condemned the act and actions of violence. And rightly so and I'm there. People have called for the church and Christians to speak up and stop the insanity in their circles and communities at a more local level and I agree.
But one sentiment I'm sure didn't sit well. In fact, my perspective probably made people think I was off in my faith or my politics or life in general. What I attempted to convey, as I've stated numerous times, is that Christianity and the church needs to speak the truth; wherever we can as we engage the world around us. But society keeps removing God from the picture and the conversation.
Abortion? Nope... it's woman's rights, leave her alone.
Marriage and sex? Who cares as long the love is real.
Finances? The church just wants your money.
One way to God? Yeah, right.
The authority of Scripture? You mean the archaic book written by dead men?
The church speaks and the world says, "whatever."
Then tragedy strikes. And any statement that sways the slightest bit from anything other than 100% agreement or 100% agreement with a caveat is met with contempt, intolerance and name-calling... often the very thing they'd rather not hear, but have no problem stating. And it's followed with, where is the church and why aren't Christians speaking up, speaking out and teaching and preaching on these matters and how to handle them?
If you don't believe me, then you missed what I read yesterday (and what prompted this focus). Essentially, it was the sentiment that if your pastor didn't set aside their summer sermon series and speak to the issue of racism and the tragedy in Charlottesville, that perhaps it's time for you to consider attending a new church.
Shortly thereafter, was a post of how white leaders should not trust their instinct until they talk with leaders of color; that they will seek the counsel of leaders of color and listen to their counsel and will act on the counsel of those leaders. Write and repeat 100 times if necessary. Literally.
My first reaction to these were simple. First, it proves my point that people want to be telling the church, Christians, and/or it's pastors what they should be speaking and when, even within the church itself. Secondly, what happened to seeking the counsel of the Holy?
Let me be clear, I'm sure some communities are in a place and position where yesterday's sermon might needed to be abandoned in light of this tragedy. But enough to recommend changing churches because every church in the nation didn't follow that advice?
Yes, there's a benefit to sitting with the leadership and pastors of other races and ethnic groups and speaking up against racism of all kinds from all groups, political and otherwise. But shouldn't such times like these draw the church and its' leadership first and foremost to the throne of God, in a broken and contrite heart for the evil of humanity and seeking the face of God as to how He would have us speak to both the congregation and the community?
These are serious times, with serious problems, and whether they are caused by the millions or the hundreds, if we don't deal with them as we feel directed by God, through the leading of the Holy Spirit and the authority of God's Word... then trying to solve societies ills through the efforts of fallen people are futile.
On this surreal #seniorPastorMonday, pray that pastors of all denominations, from every community would indeed, seek the face of God and FIRST. Pray for wisdom, especially for those in communities where the struggles and challenges of society may be more prevalent in their congregations. For all of societies ills and issues, may the church once again, as it seems I've stated for days and weeks on end now, remain committed to speaking the truth and in a spirit of love; even in light of being misunderstood or risking being on the "wrong side of history." Pray once again, that God would move on the hearts and minds of the hearers; that when pastors and Christians speak, the Holy Spirit would do the miraculous. May the "whatever" attitude cease, in order that lives may be truly transformed by the power of God... not for a religious ideology or political cause, but for the sake of eternity.
For if any man seeks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives generously.
God help us;
To speak light in the darkness.
Not for the sake of popularity or approval of men,
But for the purpose of pointing people to Christ.
For we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
I heard a pretty incredible statistic yesterday, regarding the persecution of the church... something like 100,000+ Christians were martyred last year. So a quick search brings up some pretty astonishing results.
The organization, Open Doors says that persecution against the global church has risen for the third year in a row. How about some quick specifics...
* approximately 215 million Christians will experience high, very high or extreme persecution
* North Korea remains the most dangerous place for Christians, for the 14th consecutive year
* Pakistan is now the "most violent", exceeding levels of Northern Nigeria
* Nigeria has seen more than a 62% increase in the killings of Christians
* On Open Doors' Top 50 Worst Countries for persecution list, Mali moved up from #44 to #32!
* 39 million of India's 64 million Christians experience direct persecution
If that doesn't move you, or at least open your eyes to just how close and real this battle is becoming, consider this: 75% of the world's population live in areas with severe religious restriction.
Indeed, eternity is at stake. Heaven's fallen angel is literally hell-bent on keeping as many people as possible from experiencing the incredible environment he once inhabited.
Whatever he can do to distract, detour and derail Christians, he will do.
All the more, if he can destroy the messenger, then he limits the effectiveness of the message.
Granted, he's already defeated, but he knows humanity remains hanging in the balance.
Well, on this #missionsFriday, there's certainly much to pray about. Pray for strength and perseverance among the millions of those persecuted. May their resolve to the faith and the Gospel stand firm in the face of all kinds of adversity and opposition. Pray for pastors and missionaries across the globe and especially this Top 50 list. Pray that God would turn the hearts of kings and leaders, as a water-course, back towards Him. Pray for the missionaries in the countries where the stats are extreme, such as Pakistan and Nigeria. May God will accomplish the miraculous in their ministries. Though we are essentially promised trials and tribulations, for indeed the world hated Christ Himself, pray God's protective angels over these, as we read of so many occasions in Scripture... the protection of Daniel, the release of Peter and Paul from prison.
The battle is the Lord's
May our prayers be as the lifting of Moses' arms
In the spiritual realm.
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
John MacArthur preached an incredible sermon series this past week on family and how the most basic unit of community begins with family... as I've often stated. Yet one statement in particular stood out, particularly as I thought of the application and implication of these words on my own life and in my own home.
"Family is the proving ground of Godliness."
I know, no family is perfect. We have our struggles and battles like everyone else. Kids don't always get along. Parents have bad days. Stuff gets missed and misplaced and life takes it's toll and somehow we all figure out ways to cope and manage. By the grace of God; with the love of God... and some days shear force of will.
As much as we know we must persevere in our faith, so to are the days where it feels as though we must persevere in family. But God is a god of relationships. As we were made in His image, part of that is shown through the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having created male and female in His image, it's the relationship of the two of them coming together that reflect the power and the synergy that reflect the character of God.
It is with that understanding that helps to explain why society is having such an elemental breakdown in the fabric of community. If the enemy of our souls is successful in disrupting and destroying the family unit, then Godliness never leaves the proving ground where it can influence the open market of society.
The power of family is the testing, learning and developing of faith and the understanding of God whereby we are empowered and equipped to step in to the world and be used for His sovereign plan and purpose.
On this #communitySaturday, pray for families. Pray for those who are struggling with the realities and complexities of life; where the struggles and challenges stand to destroy and tear apart the very thing that God has created and brought together. Pray for healing and restoration in the lives of those whose homes are broken or on the verge of breaking. May the power and truth of God be revealed; may understanding come into existence as we see situations and circumstance in light of what God desires to accomplish in and through our lives. Pray the broken and damaged things would be healed and made whole.
The power of family.
Created and quickened by the Hand of God.
To be used for His glory.
Reflecting the character and love of God
To a world in desperate need of true and eternal relationship.
For the cause of Jesus Christ.
Friends of mine from church are pregnant, expecting their second child, another daughter. Two weeks ago, they had to do surgery on the baby, as fluid was building up in the lungs. Last week, when they went in for the checkup, they discovered the fluid has built up again, this time on the other side. So, today, they go back to do the exact same surgery, a second time.
Nothing like repeating situations, conversations and lessons. #saideveryparenteverywhere
In fact, one has to wonder if God doesn't wonder the same thing about us. Lessons, trials, difficulties... all for His glory, yet like the Israelites; the wandering in the desert was unnecessary. In fact, having to do it twice was just... it's like rooting for your favorite team struggling to get through the game or the season and in the playoffs. "Come on, guys! Get it together!"
The little things add up; but when the big things hit, blood pressures go up, as do stress and tension levels. But show should our faith and trust; that God is working His plan. It truly is a balanced effort of trusting and searching. Indeed there are times for understanding and corrective action and then there's the man born blind. Not for nothing, but solely for the glory of God.
Hence, no matter what we go through and endure; as hard as it may be, as frustrating, tragic or exhaustive, standing strong in the faith is paramount.
Burnout may encroach anywhere, but our faith should fortify all.
Thanks for joining this #associatePastorTuesday, as we pray for pastors and those in difficult and trying times; perhaps for the first as they experience a complicated pregnancy unlike their first child; or the pastor who finds themselves again in a place of unexpected transition in ministry. No matter what the challenge or difficulty, may the grace of God continue to transcend understanding and emotions and reflect Christ to a world who needs to know that an omniscient, omnipotent, Sovereign God is in control. May discouragement and burnout be kept at bay, as faith stands firm and reminds Satan, moment by moment if necessary, that He is defeated foe.
No matter how many times life repeats itself.
Grace in the midst His plan.
Trust when understanding escapes.
For His glory
And the advancement of the knowledge of Christ.
In totally un-related to ministry news, O.J. Simpson will sit in front of the parole board today, awaiting if he will be let out early, after serving 9 years of a 33-year sentence. A local Christian talk show host was talking on air, how it would be hard for the parole board to pass the opportunity to have him continue his time. Was it justice catching up with him, for not having served after the criminal trial? Perhaps.
But it brings up the topic of restoration.
A friend posted Romans 4:7 yesterday, which talks about the joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven and whose sins are put out of sight. Upon reading it, I replied that it's amazing, that the verse gives definition to the concept of confession. For it is only sin that is confessed that God puts out of sight. Otherwise, unconfessed sin has a way of coming to the forefront of our lives and calling us out.
Consider David with Bathsheba and Uriah. Plenty of opportunities to come clean, yet it doesn't hit him until the prophet Nathan tells him a story. David is outraged, until he has his light-bulb moment.
We often hear what happens to church leaders, especially ones of prominence, who find themselves in places of trouble. And yet, as I stood in service last night, it's not like deacons and other church staff people aren't prone to behaviors and situations which could land them in trouble. With the church, denomination, congregation, family or community. Morally, ethically, financially... the situations are endless. There are usually systems in place to help pastors that are in trouble in such circumstances... but for staff and deacons; their positions and offices could just very well be closed for good. And what are the options for healing and restoration and stepping back into the position (or a similar one to what they held)? Well, I don't know that they are all that frequent. Of course, they are rarely heard of, so perhaps they are quite frequent. The aftermath and the gap that is created by their departure can be just as disruptive as it is when a pastor is involved.
Let's pray, this #deaconThursday, for those church leaders and operations personnel that are in places of difficulty and perhaps dealing with an unconfessed sin of a problematic and damaging nature. May God do a work in their lives that would bring healing and restoration as they look to Him and go through the process of forgiveness and redemption; whatever that may look like. Pray for the churches and ministries that are affected from these circumstances. May God give them wisdom and clarity as they move forward. Pray that families and churches would not have to pay the price that Israel witnessed in King David's life following the revelation by Nathan. Pray that church leadership would be quick to bring to light unconfessed sin to the throne of grace, with the expediency and sincerity that pastors wish the congregation members would express in their lives.
Made clean through confession.
By the power of God
And the washing of His Word
Through the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
For the glory of God.
And the cause of Jesus Christ.
A quick, short and sweet #effectiveSunday post before we all step into service shortly, right?
Well, I posted on my personal social media page last night that I needed a distraction and so, as Job experienced break-through in his life when he prayed for his friends, I too, asked my friends how I could pray for them.
Of course, as soon as a new comment was posted, I immediately took a few moments or minutes to lift them up in a prayer, especially as there were a couple that were incredible experiences and difficulties that people were facing.
Then, this morning, a friend posed the question... when we say we are going to pray for someone, do we actually do it, or do we put it and off and perhaps, end up forgetting about it?
Well, isn't that interestingly timed? I'm not sure if the two postings are related, but it got me thinking this morning...
How can one be effective, let alone efficient, if we don't at least do what we say we will do? In matters of faith or life or otherwise?
On this #effectiveSunday, pray that the church and the people of God would indeed be people who would follow through on our words and actions. May we be people who would, both literally and figuratively, engaged in the world offering the cup of cold water that people so desperately need. Pray that we would be effective in reaching out and reaching across; that the truth of the love of God would be made real and transparent to those around us outside the church and to everyone who steps through the doors.
That we would be doers of the Word of God,
That we would be doers of our word, naturally.
Pointing others to Christ
By living in ways that honor Him
For the glory of God.
I'm pretty certain that everyone has those days (and mornings, especially) that you just can't seem to engage. Situations have been discussed. Opinions have been offered. Facts have been presented. Ground work has been laid. Observations have been made.
You know there is more work to do and things that need to be said, but you find yourself in a place of pause.
You question what you are doing.
Maybe doubt encroaches.
The mind begins to wander.
Speculation starts to infiltrate.
Shortly thereafter, fear and anxiety make their grand entrance.
How thick headed are we? About as thick as Jesus' disciples! All throughout His ministry, He shared, don't be afraid. And after His resurrection, during the appearances before His ascension, He is still telling them the same thing... don't be afraid.
No matter where we find ourselves; no matter our energy levels or engagement quotient; whether we have the wisdom and answers or are seemingly quiet and patient, may today be a day of peace and rest in Christ, whereby our trust in Him is reaffirmed. If for no other reason, than His ways and thoughts are higher and greater than ours, than we can ask or imagine.
Pray this #deaconThursday, for those that are struggling... perhaps feeling restless or out of place. Indeed, may the place their trust in you once again and resolve to remain in the peace of our presence, rather than the anxiety of the unknown. May you grant to them a clarity of mind and a determination of heart in the direction you would have for them to move and live and have their being. Pray for the courage and boldness to ask; as we are reminded we have not because we ask not. May they ask in alignment with the will and Word of God. Pray these times of vulnerability would not give way to the enemy to gain a foothold within them; but they would hold on strong to the faith in Christ of which they profess.
Resolute in faith.
Fearless in living it out.
Trusting in God when He can't be traced.
For His thoughts and plans towards us are good.
To bring about glory to His name.
I woke up this morning, having enjoyed an extra day to sleep in and not exactly awake but knowing I wasn't falling asleep, I did what most people these days do... reached for the phone. Yes, I should have started my day in prayer.
Thanks for another day of life.
Thank you for my beautiful family.
Use me this day for your glory.
Nope... I wonder what happened on social media while I was sleeping in. Sorry... that's how it went down.
Then the unexpected.
A former is pastor is scheduled to go in to surgery this morning. Certainly, a situation that is nothing to mess around with and as I just recently saw them, I don't think this was expected or planned. His wife posted the news, herself waiting for a ride to the hospital as well, for a check-up visit on her own surgery from a few weeks ago!
And these aren't retired pastors. Active in ministry after many years of service, still holding their senior pastoral roles; their kids all adults now... they both are still full of life. Yet, like so many pastors, they've had a very difficult and challenging life. Challenges in ministry and with family, over the course of decades and I'm having a hard time comprehending their frustration and their feelings as this morning moves forward. As if ministry doesn't have enough concerns. As if family matters don't add pressure to an already intimidating balancing act.
Sure, it's just one more event in a life that seeks the face of God and trusts that He will indeed use this for His glory and honor, but in the meantime, it's one more event full of a war where faith confronts fear and the battle within the body, mind, heart and soul ensues.
Will you cover them in prayer? On this #seniorPastorMonday, pray for my friends... and many others like them; that are prone to life events taking them out. Whether this be an attack of the enemy or the sovereign hand of God; may this be a time of ever drawing closer to the presence of God. May the spirit of rebuked and cast out; that the peace of God would fill their hearts and minds, even this very hour. Pray for wisdom for the health professionals in these circumstances and in the health of other pastors that are struggling today... may today be a day that the miraculous is witnessed and God is lifted up. Pray for strength and healing for these mortal bodies; that are ever-so-ready to serve their communities for the advancement of the Gospel of Christ.
They may look to be down,
But they most certainly aren't taken out.
Empowered and anointed anew
To fulfill the calling of God.
For His glory.
This is going to drive me nuts now, all morning trying to remember who relayed this story yesterday on the radio, but oh well.
The Christian faith has been persecuted since before the days the Apostle Paul's Damascan Road conversion; by the man himself. While the church is witnessing phenomenal growth in recent years, particularly outside the Western Hemisphere (and specifically the States) they are also witnessing incredible persecution. Talk has been on the rise that the USA is closer than ever to such a reality, as increasing, God is becoming "taboo" in the public and political arena. The opinions and voices wanting nothing to do with Biblical influence seem to be getting ever louder.
Yet, the story was shared yesterday while I was channel surfing the radio, of a home pastor and his wife, ministering in Bangkok. The pastor wasn't home at the time, so the police took his wife in for questioning and continued, so far as beat and torture her. The one relaying the story mentions, that as the home pastor shared this experience, he didn't finish the story of what happened with his wife; leaving it open as if she seemingly entered eternity, either from the sustained injuries or the alternative.
But what had happened... she stood in the place of her husband. They had come looking for him and the wife had told the authorities that she, herself, as was the pastor.
Around the world, these are the challenges and futures facing many missionaries, whose cultures, societies and governments are against Christianity, the things of God and the power of the Gospel to change the hearts and minds of a nation.
And yet, daily, we witness just how great, every nation is need of the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
So... will you join me once again, this #missionsFriday? Pray for missionaries around the world, that God would strengthen and protect them as they proclaim the Gospel. For those who are in places of extreme hostility, may God continue to grant them courage and boldness as they stand firm in their faith and the knowledge of Christ. May many come to Christ through their efforts and perseverance. May the Holy Spirit empower them; that they would not be overcome with a spirit of fear or discouragement, but that they would witness the miraculous transformation of lives as the truth of Christ is revealed to those around them. Pray God would move on the hearts of kings and governing authorities; that the walls would come down and many would enter into the presence of God.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood
But powers and principalities of this dark age.
For the glory of God
And the advancement of the Gospel of Christ.
Peace be with you.
Just a man, attempting to fulfill God's plan. Husband, Dad, Dreamer. Blogger.