Monthly Archives: July 2010

What Jesus taught me about prayer

As part of our sermon series, 40 Days of Prayer for Outreach, I have been studying the prayers of people who interceded for others. I wanted to learn from their examples so that, hopefully, my prayers will become more effective and fruitful. This week, my study took me to John 17:1-26. This passage is sometimes referred to as Jesus’ high priestly prayer, or the true Lord’s Prayer.

In this passage, Jesus prayed for himself (1-5), his disciples (6-19), and future believers (20-26). He prayed that he would glorify God with his life and death (1-5). He prayed his disciples would stay faithful (11b-16) and pursue holiness (17-19). He prayed that future believers would experience unity in the present (21-23) and heaven in the future (24-26). In so doing, Jesus provided a model for intercessory prayer, or how to pray for others.

From his example, I think we can and should pray five requests on behalf of other Christ followers. We should pray that they will:

  • Accomplish God’s purpose and bring him glory
  • Remain loyal to Christ
  • Practice holiness
  • Maintain unity
  • Look forward to receiving glory in heaven
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Posted by on July 31, 2010 in Prayer, Preaching, Scripture


Misconceptions about prayer

Besides making us laugh, cartoons provide insight into the opinions and thoughts of people. Several give a glimpse of what the average person thinks about prayer.

Rather than seek forgiveness, we try to plea bargain with God.

Prayer is often self-centered.

When our prayers are not answered, we try to figure out why. Often, our reasoning is completely off base.

We only pray when we are in trouble.

Rather than rely on current opinions and human reasoning, we need to discover what Scripture really teaches about prayer.

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Posted by on July 30, 2010 in Culture, Fun, Prayer


Social Media has created “The Social Media Venn Diagram.”Creative, sarcastic cynicism at its best. I wonder where blogging fits on their diagram?

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Posted by on July 28, 2010 in Fun


What Daniel taught me about prayer

If the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:7-13 is the New Testament model for prayer, then Daniel 9:1-19 is the Old Testament model for prayer, so writes one author. I tend to agree with that assessment. I also believe that these verses in Daniel 9 provide a model for how to pray for a city. In my case, it gives me ideas how to pray for the city of Seattle and the Puget Sound region.

Verses 1-3 explain what prompted Daniel prayer. He understood the Scriptures and the time in which he lived. Together, they moved him to pray for his hometown, Jerusalem.

As Daniel read the scrolls of Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 25:8-14; 29:10-14), he discovered that the exile was to last 70 years. Comparing today’s date (Daniel 9:1; 539 B. C.) with the date he came to Babylon (Daniel 1:1; 605 B. C.), he realizes he has been in exile for 66 years.

The exile is almost over! But it won’t end until God’s people repent and turn back to God. That realization prompts him to seek God through fasting and prayer.

Daniel’s prayer (Daniel (9:4-19) consisted of three elements—Adoration (4), Confession (5-15), and Petition (16-19).

In his adoration, he praised God for being great and awesome, for being trustworthy, and for demonstrating unconditional love. The more he focused on God’s majesty, the more he was aware of his own shortcomings. This led him to confess his sins.

In his confession, Daniel identified with his people, Israel. Four times (9:5, 8, 11, 15), he said, “we have sinned.” This is significant because Daniel is one of the few people in Scripture of whom no sin is recorded. Yet he says, “WE have sinned.”

He is specific in his confession and names their transgressions. We have sinned, done wrong, acted wickedly, rebelled, turned aside, not listened, not obeyed, transgressed, refused to obey, and not entreated you. He feels so terrible that he is ashamed to admit it (9:7-8). As a result, Jerusalem is a byword, a laughingstock, the punch line for the jokes of all the surrounding nations (9:16).

After confessing the sins of his people, Daniel asks God for mercy. He asks God to turn away his anger (9:16) and to demonstrate grace and mercy (9:17). Rather than convincing God that Israel deserves forgiveness, his argument is based solely on God’s character and Daniel’s concern for Gods’ reputation (9:19)

These principles prompted me to ask, How can I pray for Seattle and the Puget Sound region?

1. Acknowledge God’s authority and majesty

2. Confess our sins—the sins of the city and the sins of the church. As I thought about this, I put together a chart of sins and how they are seen in our region.

  City Church
PrideArrogance We take pride in our technology (airplanes, software), our education (UW, SPU, Seattle U), and our financial resources. We are self-sufficient and think we can solve any problem. As a church and Christian community, we take pride in our intelligence and financial resources, as well as the size of our churches. We too consider ourselves to be self-sufficient and able to solve our problems.
Tolerance We have made tolerance the ultimate virtue. We pride ourselves on accepting any and every lifestyle. We are open minded and do not pass judgment. In an effort to avoid offending anyone or being perceived as judgmental, the church has stopped talking about sin.
Disrespect We distrust authority. We believe we have the right to criticize elected officials. We demand a “voice” in every choice. This distrust of leadership has crept into the church. We won’t follow leaders. We also demand a “voice” in every choice.
Pervert sexuality   Marriage is not permanent. Divorce rate are climbing. Rape is prevalent. We promote and accept alternative lifestyles. Our entertainment objectifies women and makes us laugh at what used to be considered private matters. The divorce rate is climbing in the Christian community and is not much better than the secular community. Not wanting to appear judgmental, we accept alternative lifestyles, or at least don’t speak out about them. We laugh just as hard at movies, TV, and theater.
Ignore the needy When it comes to the homeless, AIDS, education, or other social issues, we would rather throw $$ at issues than get involved. The church takes the attitude of, “Let the government do it.” We are too busy with “church” to get involved.
Self-centered We pursue personal affluence and comfort. My private life is no one else’s business. The church has bought into consumerism. I go where they will meet my needs. Churches divide over personal preferences.
Reject God 49% of the population in the Puget Sound has no faith involvement at all. Churches have become Bible-based, not Bible teaching. Christians easily become hearers of the Scriptures but not doers. We no longer practice what we preach. Many Christians lives as functional atheists.
Laughingstock Over the past decade, Seattle has become the punch line of national jokes—the WTO protests, suspending the Millennium celebration out of fear, “Nicklesville”–the homeless tent city no one wants, the inability to make a decision of replacing the viaduct, the Fremont Solstice Day Parade, and many others. Evangelicals have been labeled as “haters” and “right wing” fanatics. Christians are known more for what they are against rather than what they are for. Truth be told, we are no long evangelical because we have made sharing the good news of salvation an optional exercise.

This exercise revealed to me that the church is guilty of the same sins as the city. Rather than acting smug and “holier than thou,” we need to confess, “WE HAVE SINNED!”

3. Seek forgiveness and revival


Leadership is like a train

 “Leadership is like a train.” So begins On-Track Leadership: Mastering what leaders actually do, by John Kramp. The author uses the metaphor of the various cars of a train to explain the many and varied tasks of leadership. The following chart (p. 104) illustrates his model.

The Leadership Train Model

The Car The Tasks The Question
The Engine Vision “What do I see?”
Personal Planning “How do I get to what I see?”
The Passenger Car Enlisting “Would you like to go there with me?”
Team Building “How will we get there?”
The Fuel Car Communication “What do you see?”
Delegation “What’s your responsibility?”
The Equipment Car Motivation “Why did you say ‘yes’?”
Correction “Is something wrong here?”
The Caboose Celebration “Doesn’t that look great?”

While I liked his metaphor, I can’t say that I found the book that helpful. It struck me as a very simplified version of Kouzes & Posner’s Leadership Challenge. Kramp’s book is based on the lessons he learned while trying to plant a church in Portland, OR. Kouzes & Posner’s book is based on dozens of case studies, both good and bad.

My opinion of the book was obviously slanted from the beginning because I disagreed with his definition of vision. He defines “visioning” as seeing the unseen, including needs, opportunities, and strategies. While vision certainly includes that, I believe it is much more forward looking. I prefer the definition of “seeing a preferable future.” I think Kramp’s definition tends to negate or lower leadership vision.

I think Kramp would benefit from having more and broader illustrations. Since his illustrations all come from his church-planting experience, they are of limited value to a corporate setting. You have to work harder to make them transferable. Again, I think Kouzes & Posner’s contribution is more valuable because it includes a wide range of illustrations from several different companies and organizations.

In summary, Kramp provides a good model, but it needs to be redefined and illustrated more broadly.

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Posted by on July 22, 2010 in Books, Leadership, Quotes


Random thoughts for a Monday morning

A little humor to start the week, courtesy of Jack F. I can identify with several of these observations.

1) I think part of a best friend’s job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.
2) Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you’re wrong.
3) I totally take back all those times I didn’t want to nap when I was younger.
4) There is great need for a sarcasm font.
5) How in the world are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?
6) Was learning cursive really necessary?
7) Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5.  Pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
8) Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
9) I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t at least kind of tired.
10) Bad decisions make good stories.
11) You never know when it will strike.  But there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren’t going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.
12) Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray?   I don’t want to have to restart my collection…again.
13) I’m always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten page research paper that I swear I did not make any changes to.
14) “Do not machine wash or tumble dry” means I will never wash this — ever.
15) I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello?), but when I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voicemail. What’d you do after I didn’t answer? Drop the phone and run away?
16) I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.
17) I keep some people’s phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
18) I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

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Posted by on July 19, 2010 in Fun


The power of the gospel

God can use any part of Scripture to accomplish his plan and purpose. He can use any verse to communicate the gospel. I was reminded of that truth this week as I was preparing a message on prayer from James 5:13-20.

I remembered an event that took place almost 40 years ago when I was in high school. I had been sharing the gospel with Renee, a friend in our high school band. She had come to church with me on a couple of occasions. One evening, she went home and read through the book of James. When she got to 4:13-14, she was struck by the shortness of life.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

She kept reading and got to the end of the letter in 5:19-20.

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

She stopped reading and asked God to forgive her sins and to save her.

Not exactly the Four Spiritual Laws or the Roman Road, but God used his word to bring Renee into the kingdom of God.

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Posted by on July 17, 2010 in Evangelism, Scripture


What James & Elijah taught me about prayer

In one of his sermons, Dr. Howard Hendricks tells the story of a drought in Texas. Things got so bad that someone suggested holding a day of prayer asking God to send rain. The editorial pages in the newspapers had letters and columns where people asked incredulously, “My God, has it come to that?”

In many cases, prayer is viewed as “the last resort.” You work hard, try your best, search the internet, ask friends for help, whine and complain, try again, and if all else fails, then you pray. Either that or prayer is viewed as the practice of the SuperChristian, the spiritually elite.

In contrast to that, the apostle James includes an interesting phrase in James 5:17, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed . . .” The emphasis is not on Elijah being a prophet. The emphasis is on the fact that Elijah prayed. Instead of merely talking about prayer, he did it. In that sense, average people can be prayer warriors. Ordinary people can have powerful prayer lives.

Studying James 5:13-20 this week, I was struck by three facts. The first is the one I just wrote–Ordinary people can have powerful prayer lives, provided they pray. The second fact was that James explains that all of life is to be bathed in prayer. When we suffer, we should pray (13a). When we are satisfied, we should pray/praise (13b). When we are sick or struggling, we should call for the elders to pray for us (14-15). When we struggle with sin, we should confess it and pray for one another (16). When someone strays from the truth, we should pray that God directs them back to the right path (19-20). All of life should be bathed in prayer.

The third truth that stood out in this passage is that powerful prayer comes from godly lives. There are three elements in verse 16-18 which contribute powerful prayer: purity, passion, and persistence.

  • Purity: Verse 16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” If we want to see results in prayer, we need to confess our sins and make sure we are right with God.
  • Passion: In describing Elijah’s practice, verse 17 says, “he prayed fervently.” Literally, it says “he prayed with prayer.” It is a Hebrew idiom which stresses intensity. He didn’t just pray, he REALLY prayed.
  • Persistence: Elijah prayed for three and a half years that it would not rain. When he prayed for rain, he prayed at least seven times before the first drop fell. He didn’t pray once and call it good. He prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and . . .

These principles are ones you cannot overthink. They are pretty basic. And yet, the promise of Scripture is that if we pray about everything, if we make sure our lives are pure, if we pray and keep on praying, we can see results. If we practice these principles, we can have a powerful prayer life.

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Posted by on July 16, 2010 in Prayer, Preaching, Scripture


A sense of holy curiosity

“Eternity won’t be long enough to discover all that God is or praise Him for all that He has done.”

Quote attributed to A. W. Tozer, cited in Primal: A quest for the lost soul of Christianity, by Mark Batterson

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Posted by on July 10, 2010 in Books, Quotes, Theology


The Junky Car Club

“Living with less so you can give more” is the motto of the Junky Car Club. I was introduced to this movement through Mark Batterson’s latest book, Primal: A quest for the lost soul of Christianity. The movement encourages folks to recognize that cars are merely tools for transportation, not status symbols. Rather than spend a huge chunk of your paycheck on a depreciating item, they encourage driving something old and paid for, and then using the funds you save on something significant–like helping someone in need, fighting poverty, or other social causes that are making a difference such as adopting a child through Compassion International.

After cruising their website, I feel much  better about our family’s fleet of cars. Between five adults, we have four cars, all of which are paid for. The newest is six years old with 89K miles and the oldest is 10 years old with 143K miles.

I do not take pride in driving old cars, nor am I against having a new cars. Two of ours started out as new. What I do like is making an intentional decision to live simply so that you can invest more in the kingdom of God. I like the idea of making a conscious decision to live at a certain level and lifestyle and then staying there. It is far too easy to buy into the lie of upward mobility–when you get more, you should spend more. Intentional living says, when I get more than I need, I give it away, rather than buying more stuff for me.

I do not necessarily advocate pouring all your extra money into social causes either. What I do like is investing your extra funds in causes that advance the kingdom of God. That may involve compassion ministries. It may also involve supporting career missionaries or short-term  ministry teams. It may involve supporting a national pastor or church in another country. There is a wide range of opportunities where you can use your resources to make a difference in the world.

The key is making an intentional choice about how much is really enough. Anything beyond can and should be used for ministry purposes. Live with less so that you can give more.

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Posted by on July 9, 2010 in Finances, Ministry