Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Train Your Child To Be Great

But Jesus called them to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Matthew 20:25-28

The room was full of family. All of them were singing the old lady's praises. She grew up in poverty. Lived simply all her life and was now about to meet her maker. Everyone in the room talked about how she fed them, loved them, and did whatever it took to raise them. They said she had literally given away her own clothing to help others. She was drawing near to the end of her life, but her family was filled with joy. She had served them without any thought of herself all her life and now they were glad to spend whatever time they had left serving her.

Psychologists say that today 80 percent of parents teach children that the priority in life is personal achievement and happiness.  That means those are the priorities for 80% of parents. So there are at least two generations who are doomed to fail.

They will fail because those are not the priorities that bring true success. As a matter of fact, if you want to find personal happiness, making personal achievement and personal happiness your priorities is exactly what you should not do. It dooms you to failure, because the only way to live a great life and have a great eternity is to make servanthood your priority. When self is the priority, there is never any true peace and happiness. When servanthood is the priority, not only does the servant find peace and joy, but the world sees peace and joy.

This has to be one of those areas of life where we, Christians, are radically different than the world.  It has to be because it's what Jesus said and did. The world needs to see the value of the difference and uniqueness of the Gospel. The Gospel is about Jesus. Jesus didn't come to achieve or to be happy. Jesus came to serve and give his life a ransom for many. And, Jesus was full of joy. When we preach Jesus as the only way and don't show who Jesus is, we gut our witness. When we preach Jesus and show it by serving, we give credence to our testimony. 

If you're an 80 percenter, what would it take for you to reprioritize your life? What would it take for you to reprioritize your parenting, your grandparenting?  Start by changing your message. Stop preaching personal achievement and personal happiness and start preaching personal servanthood. Then show your children how to serve others. But, what if you don't want to? What if you don't want to serve? Well . . .

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

When Serving Seems Wasted

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. ~ Mark 10:45

     Not long ago I saw a post on social media. It brought back a lot of great memories. I remember how they were when they showed up at our church, and I remember how our people served them. It was like watching 1 John 3:18 played out, "Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." I remember watching as they become part, got excited about Jesus, and began to serve others rather than just being served themselves. It was one of those stories that you sit around and say, "God, you're good. You're right. You used your people to restore these people."
     The post also renewed the pain. See, after all that, they went back. All that work. All that prayer. All that service. It all bore fruit. They were transformed. They moved from being desperately in need to meeting needs in the name of Christ. And then they went back. They began to drift in devotion to the church family. They began to drift in devotion to God. Another crisis came and they stopped serving others, devoting all their attention to themselves. People reaching out again, serving, praying, encouraging, but it got harder. It got harder because they never responded. It also got harder because even the greatest servants are still human. And, after awhile, it's hard to keep serving people who seem to take and take and never give.
     The post reminded me of one of the greatest challenges of servanthood. It's the one that happens when you've served and served and it seems your service, your love, and your caring was wasted. I saw their post, and I was angry. I wasn't angry at God. I was angry at them. I was resentful that our church had done so much for them and they had responded like they had.
     So, I sat down to write this. I sat down to remind myself about the only pure motive for servanthood. We're told that people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. We're told that people don't respond to the Gospel anymore until they have seen it in our lives, and that we are to build relationships with them - we are to serve them.
     We are to serve them, but it's not our service that saves. Only the Gospel saves. We are to love, but it's not our love that saves. It's only the love of Christ fulfilled on the Cross and believed upon after hearing this same good news. We are to serve and to love. We should hope and pray that others see the love of Christ in our love and our service. But, never delude yourself into thinking that those you serve owe you. They owe you nothing, but you owe Him everything.
     Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve. We should never serve someone so they will serve us, even if that service is becoming a believer and part of our church. I think there may even be some twisted pseudo-Christian ethic deep inside us that thinks that people "should" believe in Jesus because "we" have been so loving to them. Yes we want them to believe. But, we must guard against any thought that we had anything to do with their belief. 
     Everything we do we do for His glory, not ours. People only truly believe when they believe in the only true love - the love God expressed pristinely in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. People are only saved because of His love, not ours. So, the only motivation that works for the child of God is the love of God. We must serve others because He first loved us and so we love Him. All other motivations will be revealed in resentment or discouragement. Why? Because most of the people we serve and preach to will not believe in Him. The road to destruction is broad and many are on it. The road to eternal life is narrow and few there are who find it.
     So, if you have ever wondered if your service has been in vain, check your motive. Did you serve so they would join your church, or even so they would profess faith in Christ? Did you become their friend so they would become yours? Or, did you serve because you are a sinner loved and saved by a gracious God?
     Your purpose is to serve, not to be served. To love, whether they believe or not. Your purpose is to love the one who loved you first. Any other motivation that the love of Christ, will result in your downfall. You will become jaded at best, resentful at worst. And, if you quit serving you will become small in the kingdom, for the greatest in the kingdom are those who serve.
     When your service seems wasted, remember Christ. They took all His love and put Him on the cross. Still He loved them, and He will empower you to love them as well. Keep your love for Him front and center. Every time you give a cup of water, give it to Him.
    

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Police Jury Election, The Tax Renewal For The Animal Shelter & Christian Stewardship

The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.
For He has founded it upon the seas
And established it upon the rivers.
Psalm 24:1-2

     Everything belongs to God, including you. When you believe in God through Jesus, His Son, you surrender the control of your self. You confess that He is Lord of Your life, and joyfully give yourself to His word and His ways. His Word begins to inform and shape your opinions, your desires, and your direction. Before you believed in Jesus, you thought you owned your cars, your house, and even yourself. Now you know you don't. Rather than being an owner of everything, you've recognized that you're just a steward, a caretaker of everything in your life. There's great peace in knowing that God has and will provide all you need, and all you have to do is take care of it for Him.
     What does stewardship have to do with local politics and an animal shelter? Well, a great deal. Most of us will vote for the police juryman we believe stands the best chance of fixing our roads. We want an official who will take care of our tax money, and we should. But, these aren't really our roads, and that's not really our tax money. It's all God's. We should elect someone who will also be a good steward of all within his realm of responsibility. 
     What about the animal shelter tax? Well, the animals belong to God, too. So, if you have animals, and you're a follower of God, you're supposed to take care of them. The shelter is a place for those animals whose keepers have failed in their stewardship.  So, will those realities impact your vote?
     As a follower of Christ, you have a responsibility to take care of the environment because it belongs to God. It's easy in a world of radical environmentalism to forget that it's the believer's responsibility to take care of the world. The Bible doesn't dismiss environmentalism. It defines it. That responsibility extends to the animal kingdom as well. In a world where many people seem to love animals more than humans, it's easy to forget that. Don't.
     Look, animals aren't humans. They're not eternal. God didn't create them in His image, nor did He breathe the breath of life into them. They are given to mankind to have, use, even consume, but not in an irresponsible manner. The Bible says God created animals, takes joy in them, and uses them for His glory. While they have no soul, they reason and have emotion of a sort.
     So, a person who takes God's ownership of all things seriously, and His Word seriously, will treat animals humanely. "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, but even the compassion of the wicked is cruel." (Prov. 12:10) If all people would do that, we wouldn't need an animal shelter. There would be no indiscriminate breeding, no starved livestock, and no abandoned pets.
     That doesn't mean we would never kill an animal. God gave many animals for food. It means that when you kill an animal for food, you do so humanely. It also means that when stray animals must be destroyed, it is to be done humanely. That's what an animal shelter does when it cannot place the animals with someone who will take care of them.
     Now, He did not send His Son into the world to save the earth or the animals. He sent His Son to save human beings. When He returns, he will redeem the world from the curse of sin, but at the end of the age He will also destroy the existing heavens and the earth and create a new Heaven and earth in which redeemed men, women, boys, and girls will live with Him. Until then, followers of Christ should take good care of the earth, all it contains, and those who dwell on it as they go about demonstrating the Love of Christ and preaching the Gospel of Christ.





Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dixie League: Savior Or Satan


     It is Spring so two things are in the air - pollen and baseball. In the past that meant three practices and two games a week. Now it can mean a lot more. No one likes to lose, but sometimes we get so obsessed with winning that we will make our kids do whatever it takes to win.
     For Christians whose kids are involved in ball, being faithful to God, church and playing ball can be a challenge. Many will attend church less until the season is over. Some will just check out all together. If you've decided that you can substitute ball for church and still be a faithful follower of Christ, we disagree and this article isn't for you. But, if you're trying to help your kids take advantage of a great team sport and still be faithful to God and church, read on.
     Baseball isn't Satan. It won't turn you or your kids into win-crazed sports junkies. It also isn't the Savior. Sports won't save your kids. You still have to parent and they still need Jesus. If your goal is to live your life on mission for God, the ball field provides you a great mission field. The challenge is to remain committed to Christ and His church, while playing ball. How can you love your kids, help them enjoy a great team sport, and have some great family time while glorifying God and making Him known?

#1 - See the mission field at the ballpark. Life on mission means the mission field is wherever you go. So, build relationships with parents and coaches. Look for spiritual and physical needs and meet them. Pray with your children for the team, the opponent, and for your coaches. Ask God to show you doors of ministry in those people's lives. Display the love of Christ by serving, coaching, and caring rather than criticizing and cussing the kids, the coaches, and the umps. Share the Gospel and invite people from the field to your church.

#2 - Make God's glory your goal, not making it to all-stars. We've all either seen or been that parent. You know the one; the parent, grandparent, or coach who loses it. We know how poor a witness that is. When God's glory is your priority, you're much less likely to lose it at the ballpark. You will love the kids, support the coach and be a witness to the sufficiency of Christ whether you win or lose. Remember that you aren't going to glorify Christ if you act the fool at the ballpark.

#3 - Enjoy the experience. Whether your kid starts or not, whether your team wins or loses, when the ball field is your mission field, you'll never lose. Every moment is an opportunity to enjoy the life God has given you, enjoy the game, enjoy the people, and display the joy of the Lord.

#4 - Preach the Gospel with your priorities. Some professing Christians will have no problem practicing and playing while their church meets. Will you or will your priorities reflect the priority of worship and the body of Christ? If you're a coach, don't set practices on Wednesdays and don't play on Sundays. If you're a parent, let your kids and their coaches know you won't practice or play when your church is meeting. Don't do it with a holier than thou attitude. Just humbly make your kids and their coaches aware of what's important to you. 

Imagine how great the season can be when you live it on mission for God.



Photo Credit: Wildernice/Original uploader was en:User:Barry Bonds at en.wikipedia




Tuesday, March 7, 2017

One Of The Greatest Ways To Reach The Nations

Approximately half of the world's population lives in countries that restrict or ban the sharing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, yet we are commanded to take the Gospel to all the world. There is an amazing current opportunity to do that very thing. We can take the Gospel to many, if not most, of those nations without ever leaving the relative comfort of our own nation. And, we can do it face-to-face.

Here's how it works. People from those nations immigrate to this nation all the time. Those immigrants have real needs. While their greatest need is spiritual, they also need to learn the language, navigate the culture, find jobs, and raise families in a strange and foreign land. When they come here, the doors that were shut in their countries are opened.

When an immigrant from a closed country meets and believes in Jesus Christ, and are discipled, they become a missionary to their own people - those living here, and often even those of their own people group living in the nation of their birth. 

Here's a story about how Southern Baptists are supporting this kind of evangelism here in North America.




Read more about them here:Ron &Tim Carr, NAMB

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Ministry Of Showing Up


Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a  joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.
Acts 2:46-47

     I don't know exactly what to call it, but I know it when I see it. The people who do it are invaluable. What they do makes all other ministries work. They may never teach, lead a song, or preach a sermon, but their ministry is life and church transforming. 
     Maybe this one ministry shouldn't be so important, but after spending the morning with a group of pastors it is clear that it is. And the funny thing is the people who do it probably don't have any idea what a source of strength and encouragement they are. 
     Sunday School after Sunday School, worship service after worship service, home group after home group, discipleship group after discipleship group, event after event they show up. That's what I call this ministry. It is the ministry of showing up. They suit up, and they show up, even when it's tough to put up or shut up. Superstar athletes are exciting, but only if they show up for the game.  You can only win the game with those who show up. 
     I've had the privilege of pastoring the same church for a long time. I've seen many come and go. I've seen many get hot and grow cold. I've also seen those who have been here, come here, and stayed here. Forgive me for not saying thank you enough to those of you who continue to be part of the ministry of showing up. THANK YOU!!!  I don't think you know how much encouragement your faithfulness to this church is.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Ash Wednesday, Repeal and Replace, & True Christian Fasting


Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.
Isaiah 58:5-7

     It's Ash Wednesday, a tradition practiced by some Christians for over 1,000 years. It's a tradition, first of all, not a command. And, it's a combination of two Biblical practices - fasting and repentance in sackcloth and ashes. Jesus makes it clear that even under the new covenant, His followers will fast, "But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, so that you don't show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret." (Matthew 6:17)  But, He says nothing positive about the external show of fasting in sackcloth and ashes, nor does He command it. He actually seems to discourage the outward attention-calling practices of sackcloth and ashes and points to an inward change of heart that results in a change of behavior.
     Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It's the Old Testament practice of repentance in sackcloth and ashes combined with a memorial period of fasting, repentance and reflection. It memorializes Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness. Again, neither ashes nor 40 day fasts are commanded by Christ. Fasting, however, is expected. The length of fasting is not prescribed, but a change of heart is required. 
     Even under the law in the Old Testament, God expected more than lip service. The passage in Isaiah above makes it clear that when His people merely went through the motions of fasting, He was unimpressed. He said that they should deny themselves, but that they should also serve others. They should fast AND lose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, share their food with the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked stranger, and take care of their own family as well.
     Forgive me for using a popular (or unpopular) term, but they should repeal their regular religiosity and replace it with pure religion, "Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." (James 1:27) 
     God's heart did not change from Old to New Covenant. He has always expected His people to love their neighbor with acts of kindness and sacrificial love. Here is the Law of the New Covenant, "For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14) 
     It's still about loving and caring for others. Jesus describes the judgment of the nations and says that the difference is how they took care of others. To His sheep, He will say on that day, "For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited me." . . . "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." (Matthew 25:35-36, 40) The goats who were not His people did some of these things, but not for Him. They did them only for themselves, perhaps as a religious act of penance or good works to earn a better place in eternity. 
     So, ashes or not, there's probably a need in most of us to repent of selfish religious practices like, "What did I get from church today?" Then we should replace those selfish practices with selfless, pure and undefiled religion - food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, water for the thirsty, justice and freedom for the afflicted and oppressed, clothing for the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the prisoner. 
     Ok, here's one last Scripture. Please do not use this to go off on anyone who has ashes on their forehead. They may well have entered into a 40 day period of repentance and service to others. Let God judge the motives of their hearts. You deal with your own.
     "Whenever you fast, don't be sad-faced like the hypocrites, For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They've go their reward! But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, so that you don't show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Mathew 6:16-19) Repent of sin. Replace with active service to Christ and the least of His brethren, meaning whoever He puts in front of you today.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pray, Care, Share Begins And Ends With Prayer


     If you've read the last few posts on my blog, you've read the testimonies of several people in our church who went prayer walking (or prayer driving) a few weeks ago. Honestly, I was surprised at the number of people who responded to my request for testimonies. I was surprised at the number of encounters. I shouldn't have been. Dozens of us had been praying for our neighbors for several months. What should I have expected?
     Prayer is the priority of a caring, sharing church. At least that's the way I read the Bible. Before Jesus sent out the 12, he told them, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." (Mt.9:37-38)  Before He sent out 70 more, he told them, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." (Lk.10:2)
     Before He sent the Holy Spirit to fill and propel the first church out into the world, He said, "And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high." (Lk.24:49) Then Luke tells us how they lived out that obedience, "All these were continually united in prayer," (Acts1:14) And, when Paul taught the church at Ephesus how to act like God's household, how to live as the church of the living God, he gave them this priority, "First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone," (1Tim.2:1) and that the priority of the church was the mission of God to save sinners through the preaching of the Gospel.
     So, after months of prayer, many of us went out. And, as we went out, we experienced divine encounters. Through prayer, our hearts had been prepared. Through prayer, we were led to the harvest. The danger, the risk, is always that we will pray, go, get busy, and then forget to pray.
     That's what has happened again and again to the church. In dependence on God, we wait and pray. In obedience to God we go, love, care, and share. Then the harvest begins to come in. We get busy. We keep loving, caring, and sharing, but we stop praying. Then the harvest seems to dry up. Why?
     The harvest never dries up. We dry up. The harvest does not occur because of us. It occurs because of God. It is His harvest. We are His servants. The power of God, the control and fullness of His Holy Spirit, comes when we obey Him. It does come when we finally go, care, and share the Gospel. It also comes when we pray. Going is no substitute for abiding. They are two sides of the same coin.
     Do not forget to pray. Do not neglect prayer. Especially when the harvest begins to come in. You will need Him more than ever when it does, and you cannot abide in Him if you do not abide in prayer.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Misunderstanding, A Pot Of Peas, And A Neighbor - Prayer Walk Testimonies


I thought I had told everyone just to bring a sack lunch and we would eat and go out after church to walk our individual neighborhoods. As we were gathering after church, a young mother in our church approached me, "I thought we were having pot luck, so I made a pot of peas." My wife, beside me, said, "Yeah, I was unclear about that, too."  I felt bad that this mom had gone to all that trouble, apologized, and we had to go on our way.  Guess what God did with my mistake, a misunderstanding, and that pot of peas. Well, you don't have to guess. Here's the prayer walk testimony about it all.

Would you believe we were able to share lunch with one of our neighbors since we had such a big ol' pot of peas! One neighbor we've been praying for pulled in the same time we did. We stopped to talk to him and he said he'd been to church. I asked if we could pray for him and he couldn't think of any needs he had but was open to prayer so we just praised God for His provision and love. The last time we'd prayed with this neighbor he was in tears over a friend's health condition. His friend is doing fine now. What a blessing. God is so good.

So, the peas didn't go to waste. God was praised. Healing had occurred. The body of Christ was strengthened. You never know what's going to happen when you step out your front door on mission with God.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Prayer Drive And Special Prayer For A Neighbor We Know - Prayer Walk Testimonies



Some of us couldn't make our neighborhood on foot, so we "prayer drove" rather than "prayer walked." Here's one such testimony.

Ok, we went 29 miles in 1 hour and 35 minutes. Made all our neighbors and called out each name in prayer. No activity or vehicles home at most homes, but we were able to see the overall picture of our neighborhood.

Here's another family that prayer walked with all their children, most of whom are teenagers.

It was really cool because all my children could choose their houses and then pray. We didn't see anybody outside, but was thinking how cool it was and how it didn't take long to pray for each one. Many of them we prayed that they would come to know God, but in front of one neighbors home who we know personally we prayed God would continue to use her as an encouragement and a light to our parish.




Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Cake And A Divine Appointment - Prayer Walk Testimonies



You may have heard someone say they had a "divine appointment." Most people don't mean they encountered an angel or a vision of God when they say this. What they do mean is that they had an encounter with someone that was so unexpected that it was clearly arranged by God.  Here is the story of one such encounter during a prayer walk last week.

"I prayed over my neighborhood then decided to stop at one place where I thought a family lived, but it was a widow who lived alone. I had taken a cookie cake with me and she invited me in. When she told me her name, she was one of my prayer neighborsI told her I had been praying for her and invited her to church. With tears in her eyes, she said, 'I have been wondering where I could go to church. I know God sent you to me.' At this point I was in tears of course. We visited and I prayed with her. Hope to see her Sunday!! It was awesome!!"

So this believer was praying for her 100 closest neighbors through Pray 4 Every Home and went prayer walking to pray on site with insight. She thought she was going to visit a family she knew, but found someone she didn't know in a house where she didn't think they belonged. Then she found out she did know her, and that God had arranged for her to have been praying for a widow for weeks before their face-to-face encounter.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Prayer Walk Testimonies: As We Walked, Our Hearts Changed


"During our prayer walk our eyes were opened to the diversity in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood goes from not-so-great to "well-off" all within a block. As we walked, our prayers changed. People have so many different needs but what we kept coming back to is that everyone needs Jesus. We also realized how out of touch we are with those who live near us. How many times do we see our neighbors at the store and not know them? How many Christians live in our neighborhood that we don't talk to and encourage and join together with? As we walked, our hearts also changed. We began to wave when we would usually avoid looking. We began to talk about what we could do to help the single mom who lives right next door. God is growing our love for those around us. We went on another walk this evening."

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Horse, A Healing, A Broken Heart - Prayer Walk Testimonies


     After our prayer walk (drive) we were hungry, went to a local restaurant, and were about to pray for our food. I asked the waitress if there was anything we could pray for for her. She immediately teared up, and told us she was fighting for custody of a child. We prayed with her and even got to meet her child.
     We left the restaurant and went to Walmart for groceries. As we got out of the car, so did one of our neighbors who we had just prayed for. We had just prayed for her husband who was having testing for possible cancer. She told us that many of the tumors the doctors saw are gone and they believe he does not have cancer. We praised God together in the parking lot.
     As we prayer walked we had prayed again and again that God would give us opportunities to demonstrate His love to them, to care. Well, yesterday afternoon (the day after the prayer walk), Denise came in and said, "There's a horse out in front of our neighbor's house." I went out with her. She called the neighbor in whose yard the horse was.
     That neighbor said it belonged to another neighbor on the other side of the pasture. They called the neighbor and then we tried to keep the horse from running off. Now, if you know me, you know that me corralling a horse is truly an act of God. I'm not afraid of a lot of animals, but horses and I just don't get along. But, by the time we were able to reach the owners of the horse, that young mare was following me, (without a feed bucket), like a puppy dog up into our yard where we waited  for the owner to come get her. And, she was too young to be well-trained, so she was pretty skittish. She belonged to a neighbor who was the son of another neighbor in the yard of a neighbor, all of whom we had been praying for.
     We asked for opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ, opportunities to serve our neighbors. Within 24 hours, we had been able to serve 5 of them.  I just have to point this out. We had been praying for three months for our neighbors. Nothing had happened until we walked out the door and began to look for ways to care. And then, the ways we cared for our neighbors had nothing to do with our ideas but with their needs. Praise God!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Unexpected Blessings From Prayer Walking Our Neighborhoods


     Many of us at our church have been praying for our neighbors for at least a month using the resources of a ministry called Pray 4 Every Home. It's a great tool. You log in your address, and it generates a list of your 100 closest neighbors. Then you are emailed 5 of their names each day. So, in less than a month, you can pray for 100 homes by name. Imagine what God would do if every member of every church in America did this. The whole nation would be lifted to God, by name, in less than a month.
     Well, praying isn't all God commands us to do. We are to go into the world and share the gospel. But, how many Christians do you know who say they don't really know anyone who isn't a believer. The only reason most of us don't is because we aren't paying attention. We pray, but we don't see. If we don't see, we don't care. If we don't care, we won't share. So, we took an extra step, literally.
     We set a date and encouraged the people of our church to take their list of neighbors and walk (or drive) and pray through the neighborhood. Prayer walking is often called "praying on site with insight." Prayer walking is great for the people we pray for, but it's also great for us. It changes us, giving us insight into our neighborhood, so that God can begin to open our hearts to opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ in real ways and share the Gospel of Christ with real people.
     I have no idea how many in our church actually prayer walked. Some did. Some just went home. But, the ones who went and prayed were blessed. God did some wonderful things, and for the next few days I'm going to share some of those testimonies with you. Here's the first.

"Prayer walking my neighborhood changed my insight into how to pray. When I got my five neighbors to pray for in the email this morning after prayer walking all our neighborhood, I could picture each and every one of their homes. It made it personal, increasing my compassion."

NOTE: If you want more information about prayer walking, you can find it at Waymakers.

Monday, January 30, 2017

This Was A Wonderful Monday

     Mondays are not usually great days. I mean, only the sickest of optimists looks forward to Monday morning, right? And, for pastors, Mondays have special import. Mondays, you see, are the number one day that pastors resign. Why, you ask? Well, they were hoping Sunday would turn everything around and it didn't.
     Well, I wasn't planning on resigning today, but I really wasn't looking forward to this Monday. I won't bore you with all the details, but I had far more to do today that I could do. So, I backed out of an early morning prayer meeting with pastors and an evening denominational board meeting and focused on the mission. Praying for people, expressing God's love through acts of compassion, and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That's what I've been preaching, and that's what I want to do.
     Now, my hope was simply to get everyone seen that I had to get seen, to do some good, and to make it home in one piece spiritually and emotionally. But, my goal was to live this day on mission. So, off I went, and God did not disappoint.
     I met an elder in a nursing home, inquired about his faith and family, and then got to hold a shallow dish while he vomited violently. The first round went all over him, I called for the nurse and grabbed a shallow bowl and held it for him as he continued to be sick. He was so embarrassed, but I was so glad to be there, holding that bowl, and reassuring him. 
     Next door a church member was taking are of his wife. I went in to encourage and pray, but he wanted to talk about the movie at church last night, how it impacted him, and how he had made the hallway outside his wife's room his mission field, loving and sharing the Gospel of Christ with all he could. It was 1 Timothy lived out. Caring for your own while caring for others and sharing the Gospel.
     I travelled to another town to see a hospice patient, share the faith, pray, and then make my way to Shreveport for hospital visits. I, and two other people, needed help navigating the maze of hallways to find the rooms and people we were looking for. That's when God led us to encounter a six and a half foot tower of joy. He worked at the hospital, led us to the right door, punched in the code and said, "The Lord bless you!" It was a joy to see him so filled with joy in a simple act of kindness.  I found the family, the were doing well, we prayed and gave God thanks and I made my way across town to another hospital where I was so blessed. I watched a father be the hands and feet of Christ as he cared for a very sick son, and then we all prayed together asking for divine healing and intervention.
     On my way home, I nearly ran over one of our elders, who had been working, but also taking care of a family member. Again, living life on mission. He was praying, caring, and sharing with his primary mission field - his family.
     I pulled up to the church just in time to welcome a group of at-risk kids who play basketball once a month with some Christian men who pray for them, show the love of Christ by playing ball with them, and share the Gospel and truth of God's Word with them. My job was to provide a gym and share my testimony. There were two law enforcement officers present. Both of them believers. Both of them doing this because they are living on mission, not because they get paid anything extra for doing it. Two guys from our church came and camped out with the kids as sponsors. One of the guys is out of work, and one is about half sick from the crud that everyone has, but they were there . . . caring . . . serving.
     I know the world is imploding, but the mission hasn't changed. I know things are crazy in America, but the Gospel is still the power of God that saves. I've spent so many Mondays sitting around playing "ain't it awful." Thank God I didn't have time today to do that. I didn't just get to be part of the mission today. I got to see the mission being lived out. Some think that only young people are willing to live life on mission, but I saw the very old, the old, middle aged, and millennials on mission today. I saw those who were willing living on mission.
     What did I learn today? Get out there! Open your eyes! I didn't get it all done today. There are people I wanted to see, books I needed to read, scripture I needed to study, and plans I needed to make . . . all of which didn't get done. But, this was no resignation Monday. I wonder what will happen tomorrow.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Life-Saving Station


These men were members of a rescue crew for the United States Life-Saving Service at the Vermillion Point Station on a strip of Lake Superior known as the Graveyard Of Ships. Crews like these eventually became the United States Coast Guard and their members have saved thousands of victims of shipwrecks through their many years of service.

Between 17 and 18 years ago, there was a great move of God at our church. In one year our church of 100 baptized over 60 people. Dozens more were changed and added to our church. So much had changed that we talked about changing the name of the church. One of the suggestions was "Safe Harbor Baptist Church," and another was "Life-Saving Station," because it seemed that God was rescuing so many shipwrecked lives. Well, it's obvious that we didn't change our name. How about our mission?

Churches are made of Christians - people born spiritually by faith in Jesus. They are spiritual beings inhabiting physical bodies in a fallen world. They have not arrived. They have begun. Spiritual growth must follow spiritual birth, and sometimes it doesn't. Christians and churches are quite capable of settling into a lifestyle that is far less than God's plan. They are capable of adopting only the parts of God's mission that suit their own lifestyle. So, it's necessary for Christians and churches to take stock of where they are and whether they are still on mission with God. That's what we're doing this month at our church. 

Here's a parable that has helped us begin the examination. Maybe it will help you and your church do the same. It was originally told by Dr. Theodore Wedel in the middle of the last century.  It's called the Life-Saving Station.

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little life¬saving station. The building was just a hut, and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought for themselves went out day and night tirelessly searching for those who were lost. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and gave of their time, money, and effort to support its work. New boats were bought and new crews trained. The little lifesaving station grew.

Some of the members of the lifesaving station were unhappy that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea. They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building.


Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members, and they decorated it beautifully because they used it as a sort of club. Fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions, so they hired lifeboat crews to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in the club’s decorations, and there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club’s initiations were held. About this time a large ship wrecked off the coast, and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick. The beautiful new club was in chaos. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split among the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon life¬saving as their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life¬saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station. So they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself, and if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive clubs along that shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.