Meanderings of a Minister


What Are You Standing on When You Pray?
October 16, 2017, 1:06 pm
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I recently attended our denomination’s state convention.  While there, I took a seminar on prayer.  In the seminar, the speaker asked the question, “What are you standing on when you pray?”  I was intrigued by this question.  I was even more intrigued by the fact that he asked the question while standing on top of a chair in the middle of the room.  The speaker told a story about growing up in an abusive family and about being sexually abused by an older foster brother for years.  He finally reached the end of his ability to deal with the abuse and cried out to God to get him out of the situation.  He promised God what he would become a Christian and live for God his whole life if God would just get him out of the torture and pain.  Through a series of events, he was sent to live with his grandparents, who raised him to love Jesus.

The day that he arrived at his grandparents to live, he decided that he needed to make good on his promise to God.  He knelt and gave his life to Jesus right at the threshold of his grandparents’ house.  Having made that decision, he began to study his Bible, pray and try to learn all he could about this new life he had chosen.

One day, he realized God really did answer prayer.  He had prayed to be delivered and he was delivered.  He had prayed to be saved and he was saved.  The next prayer he prayed, he literally went to the same spot to pray and wrote his previous prayer on a piece of paper and stood on the prayer while asking God for a friend.  He added that, if God wanted to, He could make that friend be a girl.

Shortly after praying that prayer, he was driving home one day and came upon a young man who had skidded off the road and needed help digging his truck out of the snow.  He helped the young man and the young man invited him to go home with him to warm up.  The young man had an ulterior motive.  The young man was also from an abusive family and if his father found out that he had run the truck off the road, he was afraid of the beatings he would endure.  He figured that, if he had a guest with him, the father might not abuse him for fear of being found out.

As they walked into the living room of the young man’s family home, our speaker laid eyes on the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.  She is his wife today and they have been married for many, many years.

The point the man was trying to make was that it took the faith that the first prayer had generated to make him believe the second prayer would be answered.  The faith that was generated by the second prayer had emboldened him to pray the third prayer and believe it to both be the will of God and that it would be done according to the will of God.

The speaker used that example to challenge his audience, of which I was a part, with the question, “What are you standing on when you pray?”  For many of us, we pray about things we are not really sure God will answer or how.  If we are really unsure, we may even call someone and ask them to pray for us because we think that God will listen to their prayers, or our prayers, more than He will listen to my prayers.  When we pray and see God move in response to our prayers, it gives us the confidence to pray more and believe that God will move.  Now, this does not mean simply pray for whatever you desire and God is somehow obligated to deliver like a pizza delivery boy.  Far from it!  But when we pray and get to know God and listen to and get know His voice and understand His will is always contained in His Word and is always to bring Him glory among the nations, we get in tune with His desires and get to see Him move.

When have you prayed in the past and seen God answer?  Use that experience as the foundation of your future prayers.  Stand on those prayers and humble yourself before God, but pray with confidence that you know your Savior’s voice and are following His will, then you can know that you want what He wants and He will do it.  Then stand on that prayer, and that prayer, and that prayer.  Before you know it, you will be higher than the story that you thought was so big it could never be fixed.  And don’t forget it is not just prayer that God answers by the prayers of a righteous man (or woman, boy, or girl).  (James 5:16)

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Ordering Your Private World

Gordon MacDonald has revised and updated his classic book that has taken literally a million people on a journey to get serious about living.  In this revised version, MacDonald has gone even further than his original work because he is no longer just the author, but has repeatedly become the practitioner of his own methods.  Faced with hitting a wall of growth in the Christian life, Gordon MacDonald took his own advice and began to grow again.  He shares with us, once again, how this can be possible for any follower of Jesus Christ.

MacDonald uses incredibly poignant illustrations for pointing out not only the needs we all face, but also the solutions for meeting those needs.  For instance, he likens the private world, some call it heart, soul, mind, or some other label, to a potential void beneath an otherwise seemingly normal operating life.  Like the sinkholes that occasionally make the news, a person is going along doing their normal life and then wake up to find their whole life has fallen into a hole.  How did it happen?  Who is to blame?  MacDonald suggests neglecting the private world, which he would say involves all of the areas previously listed, is the cause.  With nothing to hold up the outer life, it falls into the hole where the character, life, spiritual life, and heart should have been.

Dealing with everything from confidence to trust to secret desires for recognition and appreciation, MacDonald delves into our private world in such a way as to cause every reader to wonder if he has been looking in the window to their souls.  He encourages not just an introspection, but a circumspection and a humble submission to God’s activity in one’s life.  He suggests have people around us that help us to see what we are truly like.  He further suggests establishing a routine of healthy behaviors so that, when faced with a crisis, we are able to respond like we always have.  Like the child piano player asked to play for the family picnic, there is no reason to panic or think that we need to produce a special performance, but merely that we react as we always have.

This revised and updated version of Ordering Your Private World comes with a small group discussion guide.  The questions are far from trite and require some honesty and thought, but are an excellent resource for getting a group of people together to read the book and study its implications for their lives.  It also provides an excellent framework for accountability in everything from pursuing God’s dream for my life to spiritual disciplines to taking our walk with Jesus more serious each and every day.

For the reader who thinks that this is just another guilt trip book designed to show off our shortcomings, it is far from that.  It is actually an encouragement from someone who has been there and been there and knows God can get us through.

I was provided this book free to write this review, but would have purchased it anyway.  They did not ask me to say anything positive or negative.  Just to review it.  I highly recommend it.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 11

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see as well as changing us to become what we spend time with online.  Our phones are also making more connected when alone and more alone when we are with others.  They also give us the ability to engage in secret vices with virtually no one near us knowing what we are up to.  Our phones are also encouraging us to lose the context of meaning as well as causing us to become more insecure.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

The next area that Reinke mentions about how our phones are changing us is probably one of the first most people would think of when it comes to this issue.  Our phones are encouraging us to become harsh with one another.  By that, he means that we are quick to shame people.  We are also quick to wade into a discussion with no interest in the actual debate at hand, but only the desire to bludgeon the sender of the message with our need for attention.  We use harsh language.  We use our words to wound and not to bind up.

I teach a class at our local community college on customer service and workplace etiquette.  In this class, we talk about the use of technology to expand the reach of the business or organization and how you interact with others reflects what the other person thinks about your company of organization.  We state it strongly by stating, if your company entrusts you with a company email, they are putting the trust in you that you will represent them well.  They entrust the future of the company with that person, customer, or vendor to you.  How you treat that person will definitely affect what they think of your company.

As Christians, we represent not just a company, not just an organization, but we represent the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  Our phones are encouraging us to be harsh with people.  That causes many, or reinforces the views of many, to think that Christians are harsh, brutal people who want to beat them up and shame them publicly for any sin they have ever committed.  They think that Christians care about no one but themselves and have no time for people who aren’t perfect.

When we are unnecessarily harsh with people, we close them off to any discussions with us that might lead to the change of their eternal address.  Like Jesus said of the Pharisees, “You travel the world to make a disciple, but then you make it impossible for them to come into the Kingdom.”

Instead, we ought to, “Do unto others what we would have them to do us.”  We should, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  When we are harsh with people, we violate both of these precepts taught by Jesus Himself.  When we unleash a verbal barrage meant to embarrass, shame, or bully people online, we are hardly showing forth the character of the One we are supposed to become more like each day.

James said that we bless God and curse our fellow man with the same tongue and this should not be so…even online.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 10
September 26, 2017, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Articles, Book Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see as well as changing us to become what we spend time with online.  Our phones are also making more connected when alone and more alone when we are with others.  They also give us the ability to engage in secret vices with virtually no one near us knowing what we are up to.  Additionally, our phones are encouraging us to lose the context of meaning.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

One of the ways that our phone is changing us is that it is making us more and more insecure.  Most people have been in a group and found that the group had information that you did not have.  They have an inside joke, a shared story, a memory, a set of nicknames, anything that indicates there are some who are in and some who are out.  Most people have felt the sting of being out at some point in their life.  Our phones are amplifying this insecurity many of us face and have felt.

Before you roll your eyes and think that this is only a minor issue, we need to not only think about how this makes us feel, but why this would be dangerous.  First, our phones are becoming slave masters to us because we fear missing out on the latest news, score, game, event, outcome, or even gossip.  Yes, I did say gossip.  Believers in Jesus Christ are not immune to the allure of gossip.  This is one of the reasons we cannot stand to be without our phones.  Something might happen and we would miss it.

Now, again, this might not seem like that big of a deal to you, but it is actually a root cause of some of the other ways our phones are changing us.  For some, this means that they take their phone to bed with them so that they can check their phone in the middle of the night.  Some even will awaken several times a night and will respond to texts, emails and other notifications.  This means that they are awakened several times a night and are not getting the deep sleep needed to rewire their brains, renew their bodies, and revive their spirits.  This is dangerous.

This insecurity of being left out also encourages us to base our worth on our connectedness instead of the fact that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139), we are loved and valued by Jesus, we are children of God and He has started a work in us that He will continue and complete.  In other words, we are submitting ourselves to the idol of contemporary history over timeless truths.

Another way that insecurity over being left out of recent history is destructive is that it means that are often missing out on what is going on in our current history for the sake of what is going on someone else’s current history.  This means that we are not living the life God has given us, but are, in some cases, attempting to live someone else’s vacation, time with their kids, or trips.  We covered this in an earlier installment, but it can a subtle way of envy or jealousy or can even generate pride in our lives as we compare others to our experiences.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to take our security from knowing that we are loved by Him.  We need to know that our standing before God and others is based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and not whether or not we saw the latest cat video or viral post.  We need to learn contentment with the life God has given us to live and the blessings He has put in our lives.  Our phones can work against this by making us feel like our value comes from being up on the latest information.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 9
September 18, 2017, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Articles, Book Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see as well as changing us to become what we spend time with online.  Our phones are also making more connected when alone and more alone when we are with others.  They also give us the ability to engage in secret vices with virtually no one near us knowing what we are up to.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Another way that our phones are changing us is in the way that our phones encourage us to lose context crucial to meaning.  People post information on social media at an alarming rate.  It is amazing that there is just over 7.5 billion people in the world.  2.5 billion of these have social media accounts.  That is 1/3 of the earth’s population.  On just Facebook alone, there are 2.4 million status updates every minute.  That is 144 million an hour. 3.5 billion per day, and 1.3 trillion per year.  Yes, trillion.  And that is only Facebook!  Twitter sees 6000 tweets per second.  That is 360 thousand per minute, 21.6 million per hour, 518 million per day, nearly 190 billion per year.  Add the rest of the social media platforms, and there is a deluge of information like no other time in history.

What does this deluge of information produce in the hearts and minds of consumers?  First, it contributes to a desensitizing of our hearts.  We talked about this in a previous article, but it causes us to lose our ability to empathize because we simply don’t have the time.  We have to move on to the next article, post, tweet, snap chat, or pin.

Additionally, sense most of what we read on social media is not mentally nutritional, it affects our desire for deeper, more complex, or mentally stretching information.  When given the choice between reading about what celebrities of our day look like now and reading about the newest technology for more efficient delivery of clean drinking water to East Africa, most consumers follow the stars.  While this is not an absolute statement, the statistics show us that this is the behavioral choice for most in this situation.

A corollary to this is the fact that most information is accept at face value with no thought of context, truthfulness, or even applicability.  When the consumer consumes hours of product commercials, kid videos, cat videos, or other such input, there is no thought as to if this is a true representation of a product, life, or pet behavior.  There is also no thought as to how God might call one to act to help in a situation.  For instance, you read a post about girls being sold into sexual slavery right here in Liberal, Kansas.  You read the article, shake your head for a moment and then move on to the next post about the football team, weather, or something else unrelated.  Rather than contemplating what God might be saying about the establishment of a new ministry, or your personal involvement in a new issue, we move on without feeling what we should.

News outlets realize this and capitalize on it for their own profitability.  For instance, a story is run with some unverified aspects of the story because we have to get the information out there.  In years gone by, there would have been people on the ground.  They would have been verifying facts, getting names, dates, and other pertinent data before presenting the story.  If there were facts that we errant, they would have come back at a later date and apologized for the mistake.  Now, the information is broadcast immediately because it has to be.  There is no checking of facts, or very little.  When there is a mistake, there is no mention or it is blamed on some other issue.  Combine this with the hapless consumer and you have a dangerous situation that teaches us to either not trust or not care.

The only counterbalance I know to this effect is to follow Proverbs 1 and seek for wisdom and treasure wisdom and choose to be selective on what and when we read.  We need to pray and ask God for discernment and wisdom and submit our ways to Him.



Cry Out America

This coming Monday, we will remember the horrific terror attack on our nation.  Terrorists flew hijacked airplanes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and presumably wanted to fly one into the White House, but were prevented by heroic passengers who gave their lives to save countless others.  Cottonwood Elementary School will host their annual Patriot Day Celebration at 9:30 AM to thank veterans, servicemen and women, law enforcement officials, firefighters, and emergency services personnel.

Another event that will happen is a corporate prayer time at the County Courthouse at Noon.  18 churches from the Liberal area will join together to pray for our nation.  All are invited to take an hour out of their lives to pray for our nation.

As I think about this gathering, I am mindful of how Paul prayed for those with whom he worked.  Read the following list and see if some of these prayers might be appropriate for us to pray over our churches and over our nation.

Paul’s prayer for the Corinthians was (2 Cor 13:7-10): they would do no wrong, they would do right, they would be made complete in their faith in Christ.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was (Ephesians 1:15-19): God would give them a Spirit of wisdom, God would reveal Himself to them, God would reveal to them how to live for Him, God would enlighten their eyes to see all He is doing, they would know the hope that comes with being called His kids, they would know the riches of the glory of their future inheritance, they would know and experience the surpassing greatness of God’s power towards them.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippians was (Phil 1:9-11): that their love would abound more and more, that their love would be based in knowledge of God and discernment of what is right and wrong, that they would approve what is excellent, that they would be sincere and blameless until Christ’s return, they would be filled with the fruit of righteousness, they would live to the glory and praise of God.
Paul’s prayer for the Colossians was (Col 1:9-12): they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, they would have all spiritual wisdom and understanding, they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, they would please the Lord in all aspects of their lives, they would bear fruit in every good work, they would increase in the knowledge of God, they would be strengthened by God, they would attain steadfastness and patience
Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians (2 Thess 1:11, 3:5): That God would count them worthy of His calling, that God would fulfill their desire for goodness, God would fulfill their desire for the work of faith, with power, that Jesus’ Name would be glorified in them, that the would be glorified in Him, God would lead them into greater love for God, God would lead them into the steadfastness of Christ.

In addition, Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for him (2 Thess 3:1-2): that the word of God would spread rapidly, that the word of God would be glorified in them, that they would be rescued from evil and perverse men, in the church.

How many situations and people in your life could benefit from these prayers?

As you pray for others, keep these things in mind and plan to join us the Liberal Ministerial Alliance for a prayer time on Monday, September 11th, at noon, at the County Courthouse.



Where Is God?
September 7, 2017, 11:58 am
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This last week, I have been saddened, horrified, and greatly disturbed and drawn to prayer for the state of Texas and the Houston area as Hurricane Harvey has devastated the area.  Over 300,000 homes without power.  Over a trillion gallons of water have fallen.  People have had to be rescued from their houses with air mattresses floating down rivers where streets once were walked.  The devastation from the storm is perhaps even greater than Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans and its surrounding area in recent history.

As I have thought about this storm and its terror, I have been drawn to scripture to consider God’s perspective.  I certainly don’t want to be flippant or trite in my approach to this question, but I was drawn to another storm in scripture to find comfort.

In Acts 27, Paul had been arrested, jailed, threatened, and had to appeal to Caesar to keep from being turned over to an angry mob that wanted him dead because he was telling people Jesus is the only way to Heaven.  As he was traveling to Rome, he advised not to try to travel by ship because of the weather, but was ignored.

As they were traveling, they ran into a storm.  The ship couldn’t possibly make it to their intended port.  They were battered for over 14 days and went without food out of desperation.  They finally found land and headed for it only to run aground on a sandbar.  The storm was so ferocious that the stern of the ship was literally being torn apart by the force of the waves.  The soldiers were going to kill the prisoners, but were prevented by the office in charge.  The entire group of 276 jumped over the side of the ship and swan or floated ashore.  When they got there, it started to rain and the temperature dropped.  The natives built a fire to make them warm.  As Paul gathered sticks for the fire, a snake crawled out and bit him.  The people assumed he was a murderer and that fate was getting even.  When nothing happened to him, they changed their minds and thought he was a god.  Eventually, Paul traveled on to Rome where he was imprisoned until his execution.

As I thought about this story, I realized a few things that apply to the current situation in Texas and in many of our lives.  First, Christians are not immune to the storms of life.  Contrary to prosperity doctrine, suffering does not only come to those who do not have sufficient faith.  Storms come on everyone.  Some of them are more severe than others, but we are not immune.

When storms come, we also realize that God is with us.  It might not feel like it.  It might not seem like it.  We might not see Him.  We might not hear Him.  We might not feel Him, but He is there.  He sent an angel to comfort Paul.  He told Paul they shouldn’t take the trip.  He sent an angel to tell Paul they would survive.  He was there when Paul was bit by the snake and protected him from losing his life.

God was there for Paul and God is there in your storm as well.  I know that the future will display stories of God at work rescuing people, protecting people, and providing for people in Houston.  Sometimes it is hard to see God until the dark skies of the storm adjust our eyes to be able to see His glory.

If God is in the storm, then there is always hope.  When God told Paul they would survive, Paul was able to pass this along to the others.  They ate food, were encouraged, and were able to go on.  Why?  Because of hope.  Because they could believe that there was a better future ahead of them.

For those who are in Christ, the future is bright.  No, we might not be delivered in this life.  We might not be promised to survive the storms we face, but when we close our eyes in this life, we open them to see Jesus.  That is a bright future.  This isn’t home, but heaven will be forever.  Sometimes we need to be reminded of this.  Especially in the storms of life that hurt the most.

Lastly, we see that God had a plan.  God had a purpose in what He allowed.  This is the hard part with storms like Hurricane Harvey.  I can’t imagine any scenario that would allow God to have a plan in the devastation that He is allowing.  For those who have lost every, I can’t imagine any feeling but loss and frustration, fear and anger, hopelessness and gloom.  But that does not change the fact that God is good, sovereign, and still saves.  Did God bring the storm?  Some will say that.  I am not sure.  But what I do know is that no storm, however big, can overcome God’s position on the throne.

If you are facing a storm right now, cling to the reality that you are not being punished for not having enough faith.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you still face storms.  God is there.  There is hope.  God has a plan to get you out.  It might not be realized this side of heaven, but you will not stay in the storm forever.  It might not seem like it, but you won’t.  Look up to God and hold on to Him for He is certainly holding on to you.