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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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.



My Bible Adventure: Much More Than A Book of Children’s Bible Stories

I recently received a copy of My Bible Adventure Through God’s Word.  I anticipated being a bit underwhelmed by yet another simplified and dumbed down children’s Bible, but I was completely pleasantly surprised.  This Bible is so much more than that!

First, you actually get some Bible.  Many of these Bible books don’t actually give you any Bible.  They just give you a pre-digested version.  This one actually gives you some text.  Additionally, the book gives you an explanation or commentary on the Bible passage.  It is written on the child’s level, but does not assume the child needs things so watered down as to not be recognizable.

After the commentary, comes a prayer that you can pray with your little one.  You can either have them read it and pray it or, as we do with my 7-year old daughter, you can pray the prayer together.

Lastly, the Bible has a feature that I have not seen before.  It is a section called, “Take It With You”.  This is a short restatement of the key truth from the passage you have read that night.  This helps to make sure that you can remember and restate what you have read.

The book is broken up into 52 weekly readings, but we have used it nightly and it has not been too much.

I would say this Bible is usable and helpful for preschoolers up to about 8 or 9 years old.

I received this book from Book look in exchange for my honest review.



Lord, Teach Us to Pray!

Lord Teach Us to Pray

That was the request of the disciples one night after they had watched Jesus praying and speaking with His Father.  One of the disciples spoke up and asked Jesus to teach them how to pray just like they had seen John the Baptist teach his disciples.  Basically, they saw in Jesus a means and method of communicating with the Father that looked so much more intimate and vital than the rote prayers they were used to praying and they wanted to learn how to lean in to that kind of a relationship with the Father.

Jesus began by teaching them to call God their Father.  This was a new way of referring to God as through a personal relationship of love.  This would assume that they believe God loved them.  It would also assume that God wanted to hear from them.  Not because He did not already know what they were going to say or what was going on in their lives, but because God desired relationship with them even more than they desired the relationship with God.

Next, he told them to ask that God’s Name be hallowed.  Since we don’t use the word, hallowed, much, it would be helpful to think about what Jesus was saying.  He was saying that His disciples should make the entire basis of their prayer and their life to be the lifting up of God’s Name as holy, awesome, powerful, mighty, and wonderful.  They were to pray that people would think much of God’s Name and would want others to do the same.  This prayer is hard to pray honestly, if we are not living this day to day, so asking God is also a way of asking Him to help us to live that way.

“Your Kingdom come” was the next phrase Luke recorded in Luke 11.  This was to pray that God would come and rule the world like He rules in Heaven.  Not meaning that He is sovereign, because that is already the case everywhere you look.  God is sovereign, but what the disciples were to pray was that God’s reign would come to earth or that God’s plan for His world would be consummated.  Again, this is hard to pray if we are not living this out daily.

Jesus then taught them to pray that God would give them each day their daily bread.  While you and I know that all we have comes from God, Jesus wanted to make sure that they recognized God as the source of their sustenance.  For those of us who do not live with a lack of resources, this is even more important because we have a tendency to take for granted that what we have comes from our hard work instead of appreciating that even our ability to live, move, breathe, and work comes daily from God.

The next part of the prayer seems to come more natural for most Christians I know.  “Forgive us our sins”.  But Jesus did not stop there when teaching His disciples to pray.  He went on to teach them, “for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us”.  Jesus taught us to daily, or even periodically, to tell God that we have forgiven those who have done us wrong.  This is a tall order.  Even this week, I have experienced a hurt that I am struggling with and want to be able to put it behind me, but find myself struggling.  Jesus said in Matthew that if we did not forgive, we would not be forgiven.  This part of the prayer sends me back to my knees to beg for God’s help.

He ended with teaching them to pray that God would not lead them into temptation.  What did He mean by that?  Surely God would not lead someone to sin.  Would He?  Of course He would not.  This part of the prayer is a request that makes us aware of the times God gives us the way of escape.  It reminds us that we must lean on and follow God in order to avoid the temptations or to resist the sin to which the temptation might lead us.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray that their lives would be a constant advertisement for the awesomeness of God’s Name, as an example of His rule, as a testimony to His faithfulness, and as a surrender to his leadership.  When people look at your life, do they see any of that?  Maybe we had better start praying like we have been taught.



Should I Pray About This?
July 14, 2016, 3:59 pm
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 Pray And Act

I can’t tell you how many times I get a variation of this question.  People are facing great decisions and feel paralyzed and aren’t sure when it is time to pray and when it is time to act.  What if the answer was not either/or, but both/and?

In the book of Nehemiah, the people of Israel have returned from exile in Babylon and were being gathered from all over the world.  They had been in Jerusalem for quite some time, but had not repaired the walls of the city.  Nehemiah traveled to Jerusalem from Babylon and inspired the people to work on the wall.  Chapter three of the Book of Nehemiah tells all about the work that began on the wall.

It was not very long before opposition arose from those around Jerusalem who did not want to see the walls rebuilt, the city restored, or the Jewish people reinstated in the land.  They tried everything from discouragement to open opposition in warfare.  They did not want the walls rebuilt because that would lend legitimacy to the Jewish claims over the land and would weaken their own positions in the land.

How did Nehemiah and the people react?  Nehemiah 4:9 tells us, “But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night.”  What did they do?  They prayed.  They also took logical, prudent action.  Yes, they prayed and asked God to help, but they also realized that God would help as they worked in a way that made sense.  They set up a guard to make sure they would know when the enemy advanced on them.  So.  Why did they not just pray?  Why did they not, “Let go and let God”?

Simply put, they prayed in faith and obeyed God in that same faith.  I have talked to many people who have been looking for jobs and they say that they are praying about it as though that gets them out of having to actually go get an application, fill it out, and follow up with the employer until they get the job.  They say that they are praying about it and do not want to actually act on it because they feel that will be interpreted by God as a lack of faith.  Where do we get this idea?

Psalm 1 says that the person who meditates on God’s word is blessed.  Should we just believe God is going to bless us and forget about the whole meditating on scripture thing?  Jesus said that no one sits down to build a tower unless he first sits down to consider the cost.  They did He not say to just have enough faith to believe the tower is there and wait for God to do it?  Why did Noah actually build the Ark instead of just trusting for God to rescue him?

All of these examples involve prayer, faith, trust, and work.  James says we show our faith by the works that the faith produces in our lives.  So we work to show people that we trust God to be enough.  We pray because God is enough.  When we put the two together, then we experience the blessing of God which we want so badly.

That being said, there are some things God will just do so that we might give Him glory.  He might take care of your bill by sending you a check in the mail, but going to work to earn a paycheck is not a lack of faith, but actually an expression of it.  God might heal you, but He might also want you to go to the doctor to receive the medicine that He has allowed us to discover or invent.  God might bring you a spouse, but He might also want you to serve Him with all of your heart in a ministry in your area so you can meet someone else with the same passions you have for serving Him.

So, let’s show our faith by what we do in trusting God to provide through the mind, heart, strength, and ingenuity He has given us WHILE we are praying about everything on our heart.  Let’s not make it either pray or act, but pray AND act.



Where Do God’s Blessings Come From?

blessing

Chances are good that, if you turn on the television and tune into a religious channel, you will hear a lot about God’s blessings.  You will hear that God wants to bless you beyond your wildest imagination.  You will hear that God’s main concern is that you be happy, fulfilled, wealthy and blessed.  Actually, they are right!  But, many times, they are just as wrong.  Allow me to explain.

First, we need to understand what blessing means from God’s perspective.  The word for blessing in the Old Testament actually comes from a root word that means to prepare.  It is a word that, properly translated, means much more than just stuff.  So many times we think blessing means that we get a new car, new home, lots of money, etc.  Sometimes this is the case because God gives us those things in preparation for what He wants us to do and do with them.  This is not always the case.  God equally blesses the person that has nothing as He works in his or her life to prepare them for the ministry He has ahead of them.  Sometimes God even uses difficulty to prepare us to be useful for His Kingdom!

Consider the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4:1-7.  Her husband has died, the food is gone, and the creditors are going to take her two sons away as payment for her husband’s debts.  She is at the absolute end of her rope.  She has nowhere to turn; however, she does have one last desperate choice.  She goes to Elisha, the prophet, and asks for his help.  With the desperation that we can only see in a mother that trying to keep her family together and her home intact, she cries out to God through His prophet.  Much to her chagrin, the prophet asks what she wants him to do?  She has no answer.  He asks what she has left in her house.  She replies that she only has a little bit of oil and that is it.

This is the chance where she has a choice to make.  She has presented her request to God and He has responded by asking her to give up the little she has.  That would probably not make for a successful television ministry, but it was what God wanted.  Faced with this call to action, the widow had a chance to obey or not obey.  By not obeying, she could protect the little she had and continue to find a way out that was more appealing or popular.  If she obeyed, she would have to trust that God knew what He was doing and would take care of her.  She chose to obey even though it made no sense from a human standpoint.  What did she receive?  God’s blessing.  In this case it was stuff, but it was not the stuff that mattered.  It was her obedience that taught her to trust God and provided her example for us that mattered and still does.  Her difficult circumstance was the blessing!

What are you facing right now that is tempting you to question the goodness of God?  What are you going through right now that is not what you wish it would be?  What difficulty is threatening to crush you?  Perhaps, just perhaps, this might be God blessing you, not with stuff, but with the opportunity to obey and learn about Him, grow closer to Him and be used more by and for Him.  Maybe instead of searching the television channels for a person to make you feel guilty and inferior because of what you are going through, you should spend that time talking to the One in charge of your circumstances and ask for Him to guide you through it.



Thanking God for 2015

thank-god_t-300x225

Many people in our church are praying for the world through a resource, Pray for the World:  A New Prayer Resource from Operation World.  Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of our world or a different country and give information on how to pray for the spread of the gospel in that country.  As I was reading the introductory information on the world in the first few days’ entries, I noticed a number of things for which we can thank God as we start a new year.

  1. There is an amazing harvest of new believers throughout the Majority World. If you are not familiar with this term, it is a term that means the parts of the world where most of the population lives.  There is a mighty movement of God throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America.  There are now very few countries that don’t have at least some Christians.
  2. Evangelical Christianity has grown faster in the last 60 years than any other world religion. It is up from 2.9% of the world’s population to 7.9%.
  3. We are down to only about 200 million people (out of 6.9 billion) who do not have at least some scripture in their heart language. Bible translation work is ongoing and this number should be drastically reduced even by the end of 2016.
  4. Social media, the internet, and mobile technologies have enabled a growing network of prayer support and connectedness around the world like never before.
  5. The Great Commission has become globalized. There are actually more missionaries being sent around the world from the Majority World countries than the Western World.  This is great because it means that churches throughout the world are enabling gospel witness instead of waiting for it to be done for them.
  6. Areas that have been in the news for war, catastrophes, etc., have actually become places of great gospel witness as the desperation of the governments and the people have opened the doors to disaster relief from various evangelical denominations. The groups have come with material support, but more importantly have come sharing the gospel.

Consider this quote from the book:

Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), we need Jesus to open our eyes to the hidden truth.  God is answering prayers, and doing wonderful things in the world!  This has been a remarkable generation in church history.  Who among us, 30 years ago, could have imagined more than 300 (my correction) million Chinese Christians, or massive people movements to Christ in Iran and Algeria, or breakthrough in Cambodia and Nepal?  Only God!  So we begin with answers to prayer, with all gratitude and praise to our Lord.  And we persist in prayer for the things that to our eyes seem impossible, because nothing is impossible with God.

Would you join me this year in praying that the Great Commission will be fulfilled in our lifetime?  In this year?  Will you join me in praying for the believers scattered around the world?  Will you give to missions, go on missions, and ask God to make missions successful like no other time in your life?

Let’s believe, pray, stand, go, give, weep, laugh, and celebrate what God is doing…TOGETHER!  And let us start by thanking God for all He has done as we look forward to what He is going to do.