Friday, July 31, 2015

What Am I Supposed to Pray?

It is hard to imagine that God would have made prayer so difficult for us that we don't know what to say to Him or we do not even make an attempt to pray.  Prayer is speaking to God, which He asks us to do continually (1 Th. 5:17).  But what do we say?  Often, the natural reflex is to ask God for things or to ask God for healing.  This is fine and certainly biblical.  However, I believe that a Christian must see prayer as constant communion with God throughout each day and not only at a scheduled time.  It is a matter of continually thanking him for each act of kindness and each person that comes your way.  It is telling Him how great He is for the beautiful sunshine, trees, river, and the small things that make life so pleasant and good.  It is asking Him to calm our hearts when frustrations arise.  It is our silent cry to him in prayer when we hurt so badly and we are unable to share with anyone else.  It is thanking Him for His daily provision beyond our food but for our cars, homes, clothes, friends, and families.  It is thanking him for the future He has in store for us because He is our blessed Hope.  It is thanking him for eternal security through the work of His Spirit.  It is thanking Him for never taking His eye off of us and for never leaving us.  It is just sitting and reflecting on His holiness and His sovereign hand in the details.  It is meditation on His Word and claiming His promises because He is so good.

You see, Paul encouraged believers that as they lived each day they were to walk in a spirit of prayer.  There should be an element of constant fellowship with God and speaking to Him as your best friend.  It is the way that we are to move forward each day in victory over satan (Ephesians 6:18).  Many times believers are flattened spiritually and can't understand why and it is due to a lack of a precious relationship that God has made Himself available to us through prayer.  Through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, the veil has been torn, and believers can have direct access to God Almighty--amazing!!!  We don't even have to stand in a long line.  Yet, we often forfeit the most important thing in life that we could EVER do. 

"Father, I stand amazed at the provision of prayer that you have made for your children.  You delight in our company, praise to you, and requests that we bring.  You are patient, holy, perfect, just, and good all the time.  I marvel that you are constant and sovereign.  Your love for me is steadfast so how could I ever not give you everything I have--especially time with you in prayer?  I praise your name today and give you all the glory for everything good!  You are my Father and I am your child.  I long to delight in your presence and to marvel at your majestic name.  Amen."

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Defeating Christ's Church

This morning I had a great time with one of our missionaries, Jordan Rittmeyer.  Jordan has a passion to share the Gospel with the Mormon people in Utah.  He and his wife are the strong minority and they are a shining light to a lost community.  He spoke of the powerful forces of evil against him as he strives to do ministry.  He and his wife truly feel Satan’s attack and desire us to pray for them as they return in a couple of weeks—I am strongly committed to do this with him.  Satan has placed blinders on those who don’t know Christ and he does not want anyone tampering with those blinders.
Our conversation reminded me of a great article by Dr. Chuck Lawless who spoke about Satan’s strategy to render the church ineffective.  Please take a moment to read this and I’m sure you will be strengthened and agree.
I have studied spiritual warfare for more than twenty years. During most of that time, I’ve also worked as a church consultant. I’ve learned these two worlds often collide: churches fail to recognize the schemes of a real enemy, and they have no plan to respond. Here are some of the primary ways I’ve seen the enemy attack churches:

1   Congregational division – I’ve seen churches divided over budget decisions, paint colors, worship styles, Bible versions, community outreach, global missions, staffing choices, service times, choir robes, small group curriculum, and church vans. Some of these issues are obviously more significant than others, but the enemy still knows this truth: believers make little dent in the darkness when they shoot each other in the back.
2   False teaching – Most of my work is with evangelical churches, and I don’t often see blatant false teaching. What I see is much more subtle than that:

   Small group leaders teaching unbiblical theology, with no internal system in place to recognize or address that problem
   No oversight or accountability about curriculum taught in small groups
   Theologically-suspect material in the literature rack
   Problematic “recommended reading” in the church library
   Music lyrics that promote bad theology
   Poor exegesis of biblical texts.

3   Family breakdown – I remember the first time I heard about two believers divorcing.  A teenage believer raised in a non-Christian home, I just assumed things like divorce didn’t happen among church people. I also recall the devastation I felt as a pastor the first time a couple whose wedding I had officiated divorced. Now, many churches hardly pause when another home falls apart – and the enemy is pleased when the marriage picture of Christ’s love for His church (Eph. 5:25) gets distorted.

4   Hidden sin– The story is tragic, but true in more than one situation. The church is not growing, and they invite consultants to help them recognize their obstacles to growth. Attention is given to infrastructure, programming, staffing, and facilities. Sometime later, the truth comes out that a more significant obstacle had existed: someone in church leadership had been living in sin for months, if not years, even while doing his day-to-day ministry.

5   Transfer growth diversion – Let me summarize this point: the enemy is seldom threatened when churches grow only by “swapping sheep” with other churches down the street or across the city. I have worked with churches that brag about their growth, but never ask the question whether they are seeing non-believers turn to Christ. Transfer growth often distracts believers from doing evangelism – and thus plays into the enemy’s hands.

6   Self-dependence – Some churches, I am convinced, would continue to exist for some time even if God withdrew His presence. That is, they operate in their own strength and ability, but they do it well. Often they have enough size that decline is almost imperceptible. Their leaders are natural “fixers,” and they tend to fix first and pray second. Though these churches may speak passionately about the “power of God,” they rely more on their own power.

7   Discipleship distraction – The enemy delights in churches that have no strategic, effective discipleship strategy. After all, these churches have no plan to teach believers how to wear the full armor of God (Eph. 6:11).  They frequently leave new believers to fight battles on their own, select unprepared persons for leadership, and then provide no training for those leaders. Because no one discipled them, their members often lose battles in a spiritual war they did not know existed.

8   Hopelessness – It’s easy to get here. Church leaders give all they have to give, yet with few results. The church is dying but unwilling to change. Lay leaders protect their turf. Staff members sometimes battle among themselves. Seemingly, no lives are experiencing transformation. “What’s the point?” the enemy asks. “Why not just give up?”

We do have hope, of course, in Jesus’ words: “I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18b). The enemy is viciously strategic against the church, but we need not let him win.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

When God Doesn't Come Through

There are many times in my life that I have not been very patient on the Lord (or with others).  As much as I want God's best and in His time, I can be found helping Him answer my prayers.  I'm thankful that He exposes this character flaw in my life because it mocks His character and I don't want to do that.

What am I to do when I don't hear back from God or receive the answer I want?  Because I did not hear "no" am I to pursue or should I wait to hear "yes"?  Should I just make the decision I want and then pray for Him to work out the ugly outcome?  I'm sure there are many times that I've ignored His answer because it did not gel with what my heart was wanting.  Am I really trusting in His ability, sufficiency, and knowledge of what is best?  Who am I really concerned about glorifying?  Him or me?

I know that the right answer is to view all of life through the lens of God's Word and not through my own creative thinking.  God is faithful, just, and His character is perfect.  I know this and I love the promises in His Word to me.  I need to trust Him more for His best in my life.  I DO NOT want to waver but trust His great name to be my shelter and my supply.  Pushing and shoving to get my way in this short life in order to satisfy my longing is not Biblical thinking but trusting in the Lord Jehovah to supply my every need is.

"God, may I be patient for your best and trust You enough to release the grip that I think I have on my little life at times.  You are FAITHFUL in all that you say.  I love you Lord."

*Take time to read through Genesis 15-18.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


This week I am sharing with you a beautifully, well written post by one of our college students at the church.  It is rich with theology and practical for living.  Please take the time to read about the impact that we have on one another--this convicted my heart!

An ancient Indian proverb says this: "Whatever you are overflowing with will spill out when you're bumped." 

I realized just how true that saying is within the past few weeks... 

I found out that I would be spending some time with a person who has aggravated me in the past, and who tends to rub me the wrong way. 

To put it another way: I was bumped. 

I picture a tall glass filled with some sort of liquid. The glass is a dark color, dark enough that you cannot see through it to see what is inside. How do you find out what it's filled with? 

It gets bumped. It gets shaken. It gets disturbed.

Whatever it is filled with comes out, spilling over the sides. 

I think the same happens to us when we are bumped, when we are annoyed, when we are aggravated... Whatever we are filled with tends to start coming out. 

I think of Matthew 12:33-35 (NIV), which says, "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him." 

The AMP version of verse 34 says this:  "For out of the fullness (the overflow, the superabundance) of the heart the mouth speaks."

 Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.

What is your heart full of? Because whatever it is filled with, that is what will come out when you're bumped.

I realized how true that is over the past few weeks. Ouch. What a convicting realization.

Because when I was bumped, it wasn't patience or kindness that spilled out.  Instead, I spilled out impatience, and annoyance.

Oh Father, forgive me. 

My prayer became that my heart would overflow with thanksgiving, love, and kindness... and that is still my prayer!! I know that the overflow of my heart should be God-honoring, and I know that I cannot change my heart on my own.. 

Father, mold me, shape me, and change me so that the overflow of my heart will be honoring to You. So that when I am bumped, love spills out. So that more than anything, I will be filled with You: Your Love and Your Light. 

I'm realizing and re-learning (again!) how important our hearts are, and how careful we need to be to guard them.

"Above all else, guard your heart, 
for everything you do flows from it." Proverbs 4:23

Out of the overflow of the heart... 

What does your heart overflow with? If you're not sure, just wait and see the next time you're "bumped" what comes out, and you might have your answer. 

I know I got mine, and what a convicting answer it was. 

Thank God for His forgiveness and His grace, and His willingness to help us, to shape us into His image-bearers, to not leave us where He found us. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:6). Praise God! 

So may the overflow of our hearts be filled with God's love and kindness, and with thanksgiving, so much so that THAT is what spills out the next time we are bumped.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

God of the Impossible

Many times our view of God stems from our limited time and experience with Him.  We often limit God to only work within a small framework and within our own simple thinking.  Is God ever limited?  I would say that God is only limited by His  divine nature and character. 

At times, we stand in amazement over some of the simplest things that God does for us each day such as a beautiful sunset or an answered prayer.  The most amazing work of God was the sending of His Son and all the details that surround this event. Throughout history, God has proven His control over all the details of life and He has come to the rescue of so many who walk with Him.  God always works within His will, according to His principles, and according to His character.  Scripture never portrays God as some genie in a bottle bringing good fortune for the one who stumbles along and finds Him.  Yet, God reveals Himself in mighty ways, especially to those who are fully devoted to Him and His glory.

Throughout the Old Testament, God worked through His people, Israel, to establish His fame and glory before the other nations.  Leaders were chosen by God to guide His people.  God empowered the simple and He provided them wisdom for daily living.  God worked the impossible as a testimony of His greatness.  God's desire was that His name would be great amongst the nations and that others would marvel of His greatness and holiness.

In the weeks to come I plan on studying select passages in the Old Testament that focus on The God of the Impossible as He works through simple men who yielded their lives to His control.  If God is never changing and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Malachi 3:6), then, can we expect God to do mighty things on our behalf and for us today?  Do we place restrictions on God in our minds?  Is our faith in God a testimony to others as to what He can accomplish?  Plan on being a part of the next 8 weeks as we consider the character of our GREAT God.