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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“Is This Really What Jesus Told You Guys to Be Doing?”
May 19, 2017, 2:55 pm
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This is the question that Matt Casper asked Jim Henderson in the book, Jim and Casper Go To Church.  Casper is an atheist and was traveling to visit churches with Jim Henderson, a retired pastor.  The purpose of their visits was to get the reaction of the atheist to what the churches were doing.  At the end of their visits, and prior to writing the book, Casper asked Jim this very question, “Is This Really What Jesus Told You Guys to Be Doing?”  While I certainly do not agree with many of the ideas contained in the book, this question has not left me.

For many of us today, we have gotten to the point that church is somewhere we go to pay someone (or many someones) to do something to us.  It is basically seen by many as simply another service we seek (no pun intended).  We look at our weekend errands and see things like:  1.  Go grocery shopping.  2.  Drop off the dry cleaning.  3.  Get the computer worked on.  4.  Wash the car.  5.  Go to church.  But isn’t the Christian life supposed to be much more than just being able to check a block off of a list of duties?  If it is, then what are we supposed to be doing?  Isn’t it good enough to just go to church and give our money?  Isn’t it enough to endure a sermon that is longer than I would prefer (and even without complaining!)?  Isn’t it enough to say I was there?  I mean, many people don’t go to church at all!  I have to be better than them, right?

While some people might be able to get away with looking at Christianity like this, I simply am not able.  When I think about what God sacrificed to make salvation available to me, I can’t help but thinking there must be more than just Sunday services.  What about living a life that shows how grateful I am to Him for doing so?  Like Paul in Romans 7, I think, “Wretched man that I am!  Who can set me free from the body of this death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Romans 7:24-25a)  What about learning to live free of the entanglements of sin?  What about developing in intimacy with Him?  What about seeing Him transform all areas of my life right down to the thoughts and intentions of my heart?

As important as even these thoughts are, there has to be even more, right?  I mean, doesn’t God want me to make a difference in His world so that others can know Him as well?  Yes, I need to give to support His work, but what about telling my story to people so they can hear about life with Him?  What about taking actions to correct wrong?  What about alleviating suffering, meeting needs and lifting people up?  What about letting my light shine before men so that they give glory to God (Matthew 5:16)?  What about making an actual difference (James 2:14-16)?

With all of this in mind, I am challenged to think about the summer that is already upon us.  For many of us, this is a time of turmoil and uncertainty as we step away from the routine of school, work and civic activity, but this does not mean that we should shut our hearts down or put our hearts on hold from God.  This can be a time when we have additional time to invest in God’s activity in our world.  This can be a time that we spend with friends at cookouts and ball games and can provide an excellent opportunity to get to know them and their struggles and do something to help.  This can be a time that we can involve ourselves in ministry more than normal.  It can be a time when we spend more time in prayer, bible study and devotion to God.  Why not take the time, this summer, to make a list of ways you would like to grow in your relationship with Christ and begin now to take steps towards that growth.  Who knows?  You just might find yourself where you would like to be.  And if you are looking for a place to plug in and serve, just ask.  There is plenty of ministry for everyone!



Passing of Saints
March 3, 2016, 11:12 am
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Dawn After the Dark

Just this week, I have watched as a friend said goodbye to his father.  His father was married for 70 years and was a deacon in his church for most of that time.  He was a hard worker, a great father, an amazing husband, and a friend to his pastor.

Later this week, I will say goodbye to a friend that was a stalwart in our church.  Her husband was the pastor at our church in its history for about 10 years and helped us to move to our current location.  My friend, Edith Scruggs, was a delightful lady that always had a kind word for me, no matter how much I fumbled through my sermon.  She was always complimentary of her church and a friend to those who were here.  She was generous, helpful, and faithful.

As I reflect on these two saints, and many more that I have had the privilege to pastor over the years, I am encouraged by their example, amazed by their legacy, and a little envious that they get to see Jesus before me.  I am encouraged by their example because they are proof that God is still at work around me.  Both of these saints mentioned above were well into their 90’s and were still as faithful as their bodies would allow.  They prayed when they could not attend.  They gave when they could not go.  They lifted others up when they needed someone to lift them out of bed.

Can I say that I want to be like them?  I think I can say this and be okay because they emulate the Apostle Paul when he said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)  They have shown a life dedicated to the display of the glory of God.  They have taken seriously the call to put others before themselves and lay down their lives for their friends.  They have shown what it means to be dedicated to their Lord and to love His Bride, the Church.

As I meditate on the legacy they have left behind, I have to admit to being a little intimidated.  They both seemed to live for God seemingly effortlessly.  They were so convinced of the reality of the presence and pleasure of God that they could do nothing but speak of Him often, share Him readily, serve Him humbly, love Him wholeheartedly, and represent Him faithfully.  They have shown what it takes to be wholly His.  As I struggle with managing a home, a church, trying to be all things to all people, I wonder if I will ever be grown into the stature they reached under the direction of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

All that being said, I realize they were not perfect.  I realize that Edith and Dillan were not flawless.  I think that gives me hope, but also challenges me at the same time.  It is a comfort because it means that God can use me as He used them for His glory.  It is a challenge because it means that I have no excuse for not submitting my life to God with the same abandon.  It further challenges me to ask, “Am I follow Christ like they did?”

As I think about these two, and many other, saints that have gone on to glory, I am reminded of the words of Psalm 116:12-19:

“What shall I render to the Lord For all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation And call upon the name of the Lord. I shall pay my vows to the Lord, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones. O Lord, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds. To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, And call upon the name of the Lord. I shall pay my vows to the Lord, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people, In the courts of the Lord’s house, In the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!”

Thank you, friends, for the reminder to give God all that I am and all that I have!