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Monthly Archives: August 2010

Back to school prayer walk

This afternoon, several people from our church met to do a prayer walk around the elementary, middle, and senior high schools that serve our local community. After eating lunch, we divided up into small groups. We then drove to our respective schools. As we walked around the campus,  here are some of the items we prayed for.

Physical

  • Good health for students & teachers
  • Safety of playgrounds, sports fields, and street crossings
  • Needy students and families to be identified and given help

Mental

  • Teachers have adequate prep-time
  • Students come eager to learn
  • Accurate information presented
  • Students encouraged to become lifelong learners

Emotional

  • No teasing or bullying
  • Teachers and staff have compassion for student’s worries and problems
  • Respect for others taught and modeled

Spiritual

  • Protection from evil
  • Christian teachers and students allowed to speak of their faith
  • Principals and teachers not be overbearing on religious issues
  • Moms in Touch groups to have an influence for Christ
  • All may come to know the truth of the gospel

Why not take the list and do a prayer walk around your local school? You will be surprised at what God might do.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Church, Prayer

 

I love to go, but I hate to leave

“I love to go, but I hate to leave” are the sentiments of Decker Hawthorn, a character in James BeauSeigneur’s novel, In His Image, Book 1 of the Christ Clone Trilogy. Decker is a newspaper editor who loves to travel to pursue a story, but hates to leave home and say, “Goodbye,” to his wife to do so.

That phrase sums up my feelings about short-term ministry trips. I love to minister in other churches, cities, and countries. But I hate to leave home to do so, especially when it means leaving my wife and family behind.

I was reminded of those sentiments this week as I accepted an invitation to minister at the House of Grace in Russia in February 2011. The House of Grace is a guest house for pastors operated by John & Naomi Musgrave. It is a place of refuge where Russian pastors and their families can go for rest, renewal, and encouragement. Located in Tsibanobalka, near Anapa on the northern coast of the Black Sea, they offer several 3-day concentrated courses during the winter months for pastors and emerging leaders on different books of the Bible. I will be teaching a course on the book of Joshua, highlighting the principles of leadership found in the book.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with old friends and to help encourage and equip pastors in Russia. I only wish I didn’t have to leave home to do it.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2010 in Ministry, Missions, Passion, Personal growth

 

Multiple choice questions – Few choice answers

My mind is filled with questions these days. Some are asked by other people, some I ask myself. Some come from firsthand experience, some from observing others. Some are life altering issues, others are trivial and lightweight. Some are hair-raising, others are hair-pulling. What ties them all together is my inability to decide how to respond. I have a hard time just understanding the question, let alone choosing an appropriate answer.

1. Why do people sleep when I preach?

  • They work nights, and are normally in bed at this time
  • They have health/age issues which make them susceptible to dozing off
  • The room is too warm
  • They work so hard during the week that when they stop and sit, they doze off
  • They are apathetic about God and spiritual things
  • Spiritual warfare is at work; it’s a battle
  • The preacher (me) is boring

2. How should I react/respond when someone criticizes a program or activity held at church?

  • The complaint is legitimate
  • The complaint smacks of legalism
  • This is a weaker brother/sister we should accommodate
  • This is a legalist we should confront
  • Don’t worry about it; some people are merely cranky and never satisfied

3. How should I respond when given the opportunity to minister in another church or country?

  • Consider the opportunity
  • See it as God’s direction and leading
  • Treat it as a distraction and ignore it

4. Why is my hair falling out? & What do I do about it?

  • It’s an auto-immune reaction to an illness
  • It’s a reaction to stress
  • All of the above
  • Quit my job and move to Tahiti
  • Find a stress free life (yeah, right)
  • See a doctor
  • Live with it
  • Wonder if I will have any left
  • Shave my head
  • Memorize 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

5. Observations about how churches conduct a search for a new pastor

  • Why does each church do it differently?
  • Why don’t churches communicate with prospective candidates?
  • Why does it take so long?
  • Considering how search committees operate, why is the church still in business?

6. Questions about churches

  • Why do people/churches constantly drift towards comfort and complacency?
  • Why does one ministry or program work in one church but not another?
  • Why can your efforts and prayers be consistent, and yet your fruit and results vary from day to day?
  • How can you do a “soil analysis” of your church or ministry context?

7. Me, Me, Me!

  • Will my balance ever return to normal?
  • Why is Scripture memory so hard?
  • Will I ever dunk a basketball?
  • How can my prayers be more effective?
  • How can I encourage my wife and children?
  • How can I be more effective in preaching? leading? equipping?
  • How can I accomplish God’s purpose in my generation (Acts 13:36)?

After all that thinking, it’s time for a nap.

 
 

Evangelism Resources

I am teaching a five week series on evangelism. The first week I provided the class with a list of resources I have found helpful. It is not a complete list by any stretch, but simply resources I have read, studied, used, and found beneficial in recent years. Perhaps they can encourage you as well.

Books

Becoming a Contagious Christian, by Bill Hybels & Mark Mittelberg. Provides an action plan for making an effective difference in the spiritual lives of others. The most helpful part was the section on discovering your natural style of evangelism.

Just Walk Across the Room: Simple Steps Pointing People to Faith, by Bill Hybels. Follow-up book to Becoming a Contagious Christian. Helpful principles on how to develop relationships with non-Christians and begin conversations about spiritual things.

Share Jesus Without Fear, by William Fay with Linda Evans Shepherd. An expanded treatment of Bill Fay’s seminar and booklet. Makes evangelism natural and non-threatening.

I’m Glad You Asked: In-depth answers to difficult questions about Christianity, by Ken Boa & Larry Moody. Helpful resource on apologetics.

Out of the Saltshaker & into the World: Evangelism as a way of life, by Rebecca Manley Pippert. Classic book on lifestyle evangelism. Rather than focus on techniques and methods, the author focuses on Jesus and the quality of life he calls us to live.

Booklets

How Can I Share My Faith Without an Argument? Condensed version of Bill Fay’s method of evangelism. Extremely practical and helpful.

Audio CDs

Share Jesus Without Fear: An audio presentation based on the book by William Fay. – 70 minute seminar; helpful review.

The Search for Meaning: Two friends discuss honest questions about God, by Bill Kraftson & Lamar Smith. – Six audio CDs produced by Search Ministries in which two friends dialogue about the 12 questions most asked by non-Christians about spiritual things. Natural dialogue, conversational form.

Websites

Probe Ministries – A Christian worldview and apologetics ministry offering resources to help you think biblically about a wide range of topics.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2010 in Books, Evangelism

 

Bird in the hand theology

A friend of mine recently tweeted,

Just released a “bird in hand” back to the wild. Dumb? I’ll have to take a nap b4 thinking about it. Then on to another bird in the bush.

My friend is a pastor who is currently in between ministries. One church was interested in him serving as their executive pastor. While it matched his skills and experience, it did not match his passion and direction. It was structured in such a way to make it extremely difficult to succeed. Some of his advisors said, “You need a job. Take the job. It’s a sure thing.” Others suggested, “While you could do it and be successful, I’m not sure you will be satisfied. I think you’d be more fulfilled as a senior pastor.” Hence his tweet. He said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” to a sure job offer and instead started to fill out another application for a senior pastor position.

His tweet got me thinking about “bird in the hand” theology. We often counsel people to take the sure thing, the risk free approach, the guaranteed path, the most convenient, the one of least resistance. So what if there might be two birds in the bush. Who cares if those birds might be brighter and bigger? You’ve already got one bird in your hand. Don’t be greedy. Settle for what you already have. Take the easy way. Don’t take a chance. After all, the ones in the bush might not be there at all.

While bird in the hand theology is normal equipment for everyone born in the human race, it flies in the face of how God has called us to live. Doesn’t Christ promise that if we leave father or mother for the sake of the kingdom we will receive back many times over (Matthew 19:29)? Doesn’t Paul call us to walk by faith rather than by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)? Isn’t Hebrews 11 packed with the lives of those who rejected the bird in their hand and who reached out for the ones in the bush?

Bird in the hand theology is counter cultural to how God has called us to live. Holding on to the bird in our hand and forsaking the two in the bush means we sometimes settle for the good rather than waiting for the best. It means we rely on what is easy rather than asking God for the strength to do what is harder, namely, trusting him for the best.

How often do I settle for the good rather than pursue the best? How often do I painstakingly hold on to, caress, and protect the bird in my hand rather than take a chance on the two, three, or dozens more in the bush? How often do I not even ask, “God, what would honor you more? What do you want me to do? How can I trust you today?”

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2010 in Character, Culture, Personal growth, Scripture

 

A life of prayer

In an essay entitled, “God has everything to do with prayer,” E. M. Bounds provided the following insights into prayer:

Prayer is God’s business to which men can attend. Prayer is God’s necessary business, which men only can do, and that men must do. Men who belong to God are obliged to pray. They are not obliged to grow rich, nor to make money. They are not obliged to have large success in business. These are incidental, occasional, merely nominal, as far as integrity to heaven and loyalty to God are concerned. Material successes are immaterial to God. Men are neither better nor worse with those things or without them. They are not sources of reputation nor elements of character in the heavenly estimates. But to pray, to really pray, is the source of revenue, the basis of reputation, and the element of character in the estimation of God. Men are obliged to pray as they are obliged to be religious. Prayer is loyalty to God. Non-praying is to reject Christ and to abandon heaven. A life of prayer is the only life which heaven counts.

The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2010 in Books, Prayer, Quotes

 

Intercession goes beyond “God bless so & so”

Over the past six weeks, I have been preaching a series on intercessory prayer during our 40  Days of Prayer for Outreach. It has been quite revealing. I used the example of several people in both the Old & New Testaments who prayed for others. Here’s a summary of the principles I learned.

  • Abraham (Genesis 18:16-33) – Prayer is a conversation where God reveals his plans to us and invites us to intercede for those who need mercy
  • Jacob (Genesis 32:22-31) – God cannot bless us until we stop wrestling him for control of our lives
  • Elijah (James 5:13-20) – Average people can have powerful prayer lives, but they must pray
  • Daniel (Daniel 9:1-19) – To intercede for a city, begin with confession and identify with the people you are praying for
  • Jesus (John 17:1-26) – Pray that other believers will accomplish God’s purpose and bring him glory
  • Paul (Ephesians 1:15-23 & 3:14-21) – Pray that others will understand who they are in Christ and become stronger spiritually
  • Paul (Colossians 1:9-14) – Pray that others will be controlled by what God desires and live their faith
 
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Posted by on August 13, 2010 in Prayer, Preaching, Scripture