Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pray For Deputy Darren Goforth's Family

Pray for the family of Harris County Deputy Darren H. Goforth who was shot execution style while pumping gas in Texas. He is the 24th officer of the peace killed in attacks this year. If you add other in-the-line-of-duty law enforcement deaths, the number rises to 64. Was the murderer mentally ill, on drugs, racially motivated? At the time of the writing of this article, we do not know. We do know that a wife has lost a husband, parents a son, children a father, and officers a brother.

Pray for the thousands of men and women who have given their lives to protect and serve, and who are once again shaken by the death of a brother. Their work is already overstressed and underpaid and now there is one more reason for hyper-vigilance to add to their stress.

Pray for Louisiana. Of the 24 peace officers murdered in our nation so far this year, 6 of them were officers in Louisiana. This beautiful state is one of the most violent, perhaps the least peaceful in the nation. We kill one another at a per capita rate higher than any other state. No state has more incarcerations per capita, and almost no state has a higher level of poverty than Louisiana.

Pray and work for change. Prayer doesn't remove the need for people to change things, but it does empower and inform that work. Laws need to change, and society needs to change, but laws and programs will not transform a culture. Work to change the factors that lead to the victimization of children, families, officials, and all people, but recognize that for that work to be done our hearts must be transformed.

Pray for revival of the church. We are one of the most religious states, and yet the most violent. There are more churches in our Louisiana parish per capita than almost anywhere in the nation, yet we are in no better shape than our state. If all the people who claim to be followers of Christ in our parish were obediently following Him, things would be radically different here. Jesus said we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. He said that if the light is hidden or the salt loses its saltiness it is worthless. We, the church, need revival - brokenness over sin, repentance, and a return to God.

Pray for yourself. If I'm right and the church in our parish needs revival, that means you and I need it. All revival is personal. There's no sweeping change in a nation that is not the sweeping transformation of individuals. Don't blame race, religion, church, politics, or presidents. We are the church. If we are not devotedly in love with and obediently following Jesus Christ, we are the problem in need of the solution.

Has your church called for prayer and fasting? If not, then you do it. Are you fervently crying out to God for revival and awakening to begin with you? Draw a circle on the ground. Step inside the circle. Kneel down. Pray for God to send revival and awakening to the one in the circle. Then focus on the rest of the world.

There is still hope. His name is Jesus. Wherever He reigns, peace reigns.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Proud People Praying

  I wonder what people think when we pray and fast for revival and spiritual awakening. It dawned on me that some might think it arrogant for us to presume that there is a great need in the church and the culture. They could be right. We could be arrogant, thinking that we have arrived at a higher spiritual plain than all the poor heathens around us. 

As we have begun this 40 day period of prayer and fasting, I have not found myself to be superior. I have found myself to be inferior. Shortcomings in my character are glaring at me. I have struggled to pray and fast. I am captivated by worldly concerns and desires So, it is entirely possible that I am spiritually arrogant and entirely oblivious to that condition. I believe God is showing me my spiritual weakness, and producing in me a fresh fear of God that is frighteningly humbling.

While none of this is comfortable, it is desirable. I am beginning to be thankful to God for it; for the fear of my sin and its consequences, for the fear of the Lord who is my Savior and also the Righteous Judge. Since the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, maybe I will finally learn something worth knowing. Maybe now, if God will teach me true humility, He will be able to do something through me and with me. Maybe he will be able to revive even me, since apart from humility there can be no real revival.

God does not promise to hear from heaven and heal a land inhabited by proud people praying (2 Chronicles 7:14). He does not promise to deliver the worshipers proud of their worship, preachers proud of their sermons, or servants proud of their service (James 4:1-6). He does not draw near those who raise themselves up, but rather to those who submit to Him, resist the Devil (pride), and draw near to Him (James 4:7).  He does not revive a nation through the prayers of church-goers who think themselves to be a step above the average sinner.

So, while this season of prayer and fasting has not begin with comfort, it is beginning. And, this beginning is apparently very necessary for this follower of Christ.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Will there be another awakening and where will it start?

Tomorrow night I will speak at the last of four worship events we've had at a downtown theater this Summer. The goal of this ministry was to connect Millennials and God through music and gospel through the use of a nontraditional setting. That was our goal. Unless something radical happens tomorrow night, that goal will not be completely reached. We have preached the Gospel. We have worshiped the Lord. We have done so in a nontraditional setting where Christians from many different congregations have come together, and that is no small thing. Lives have been changed, and all of that is very good. But, we have not accomplished our goal of connecting large numbers of disconnected Millennials with God. So, what will we do tomorrow night?

We will worship God together again, with the great desire that He be glorified. That is always a very good thing. We will present His Word. Hearts will be encouraged, and we hope and pray that lives will be saved. I will also invite the people from the different churches to revive a neglected biblical practice, one that always accompanies great spiritual awakenings. I will ask them to unite in fervent prayer with fasting. Why, because we didn't reach anyone and now we are desperate? No, because I believe that another great awakening is desperately needed, and that it could happen in a small town like this one. This summer of Avenue Live may be at an end, but the kingdom of God knows no end. So, we will worship, and pray, and call to prayer for the glory of God.

Two of the last great awakenings in this nation began in small towns. The Second Great Awakening that swept the frontier, began in the small village of Cane Ridge, Ky. The Jesus Movement of the 70's was sparked by testimonies from two college students who had been in a powerful campus revival at Asbury College in Wilmore, Ky, population 3,000. (Note: Baptists didn't start either movement. God did, and He used preachers as diverse as Presbyterians and Methodists to spark those two great moves.)

Will there be another great spiritual awakening in our nation? If awakening is my great hope, then prayer will be my great ministry and the call to prayer my great message. Matthew Henry wrote, "When God intends great mercy for His people, the first thing He does is to set them a-praying." And, if God is calling His people to prayer, He will call them to prayer through preachers proclaiming the call. Every time I have been part of localized outpourings of the Spirit of God, fervent prayer and fasting were practiced. History records the same. Fervent prayer accompanies the great movements of God.

Where will it start? Well, why not here? Great need precedes great outpourings, and we are certainly in need. We are small in number, but just as great in sinfulness and brokenness as the greatest cities. Perhaps the only thing lacking is a great desire for His presence, His power, and His ways. I know of no more effective way to get that great desire than by prayer and fasting. Could it be that the only thing that is lacking is for the people of God, those called by His name, to humble themselves in repentant prayer, seeking His face as they turn from their wicked ways?

Let it be and let it begin with me, here, in our small corner of the world.

(Thanks to Mark Snowden, and his blog, Is Awakening Imminent And Will You Be Included, for inspiring this post.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

PEW: Understand And Encourage Your Pastor's Passion

When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

No one wants to listen to a passionless preacher. No pastor wants to lead a passionless church. Certainly no one wants a passionless marriage or a job they couldn't care less about. Passion is empowering, but it is also explosive. No one ever blows up in an argument over something they couldn't care less about.

The Apostle Paul was passionate about Christ and Him crucified. He wrote about this central passionate message of His ministry, "but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles." (1 Cor. 1:23)  The Jews didn't understand it. They were passionate about the law. The Gentiles didn't understand it. They were passionate about logic, but Paul remained passionate about His calling and the message of His calling.

Parishioner, your pastor is a fellow follower of Christ. He is not superior to you. The one who has called you to your ministry is the same who called him. However, his calling is unique. The weight of shepherding the flock of God is tremendous. The calling to preach the Word of God in order to equip the people of God, when taken seriously, can be an overwhelming task. As great as his passion for the work of the ministry is, so is the discouragement that can follow the rejection of that passion.

Week after week, I hear pastor's share their hearts. When their people respond to the Gospel, to the truth, they are elated. When the people they serve respond with apathy, they fight discouragement. Do you want a discouraged pastor?  Here are a couple of simple things you can do to encourage the shepherd who cares for your soul.

First, understand his passion and give thanks to God for a passionate pastor. Understand that he is not just called to live the Christian life, but to care for Christians. Give thanks that he takes this calling seriously.

Second, encourage his passion. Yes, pastors can become overzealous. Yes, they can become so Heavenly minded that they are no Earthly good. But, could we not use more heavenly mindedness and less worldliness?  Encourage your pastor's passion with your words and with your response. Don't respond for his sake. Understand, however, that when you respond to your pastor's call to live for and serve Christ, you are not only glorifying God but also encouraging the primary person He has called to lead and equip you.

Pastor, let me encourage you (us). Never turn away from your calling because you think the people you serve don't share your passion. He who called you is faithful, even if some you serve are not. Don't expect your people to share your passion in all things. Their calling is not your calling, but the one who called you both is the same. Lead your people to embrace Christ rather than your vision and you will be much more content. Finally, work to understand the passion of your people. It could be they can teach you something about passion you have missed.

(Practical Encouragement Wednesdays)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I Can't Help It

Years ago revival swept through our church and our community. Everywhere I went I talked to people about Jesus, invited them to church, and encouraged them to believe. Many times in those conversations, the people I was talking to would say that they had already heard the same things from someone else. Someone else had already talked to them about Jesus, had already invited them to church, had already prayed for them. It seemed that we loved Jesus so much that we could not help but talk about Him.

Christians are the most persecuted group in the world according to the U.S. State department. Do you know why? In most of the world, Christians are so in love with Christ that they cannot help but talk about Him. If they would just be quiet, just fly under the radar, just keep their faith to themselves, they could live a relatively peaceful and undisturbed life. They cannot, though, because they have not abandoned their first love. They have embraced Him. 

But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent. (Rev. 2:4-5)

Have you abandoned or embraced your first love? Is it that you cannot help but talk about Him, because you love Him so?

Monday, August 3, 2015

My Eyes Are Dry

But I have this against you:
you have abandoned the love you had at first.
 Remember then how far you have fallen;
repent, and do the works you did at first.
Revelation 2:4-5a
I'm thinking about this season at church and in my life. A month to pause and focus on Christ. A season to remember how far we may have fallen. A time to repent and do the works we once did when the risen Christ was the love of our lives. As I think, as I remember, I remember an old prayer put to song. A prayer that expresses the cry of a tearless heart. Maybe it is your prayer, too.
My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to you and dead to me
But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up with oil and wine
The oil is You, Your spirit of love
Please wash me anew
In the wine of your blood
~ Keith Green
If you want to hear it, you can click the link here: