Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bread of Life Adventures - 10-19-15

The Lord's prayer is one of the most familiar passages in the bible to most everyone.  I have recently come to understand that when Jesus prays for His daily bread, he wasn't suddenly concerned about what He was going to eat.  He tells us his food is to do the will of His Father.  Jesus is teaching us to ask for God to give us His will for today that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven in our lives this day.

Well every day becomes a wild adventure when you walk in seeking to do God's will.  While we were praying following a great day of passing out bread and praying with the people in our community something amazing happened.  We were praying that God's church would become a beacon of light that people stumbling in darkness would be drawn to.  We prayed that the cross on the front of the church would shine brighter than ever before, that the lights would be twice as bright when people look at it.  We prayed, "Lord, draw your prodigals home."

It was only a few moments later we heard a banging on the front doors of the church.  I went to see who was causing the commotion and found a pretty rough looking couple at the door.  I let them in and they said, "We met you a few weeks ago at the gas station and you prayed for us.  We were driving down the road and saw the cross on the church and knew immediately that was the church where the people prayed for us.  I stopped in the middle of the road, put the car in reverse and backed down the street.  We need help and felt the Lord leading us to you."

The man gave his life to Christ, forgiving those who had hurt him and asking forgiveness with tears for all he had done.  We were able to give some help and they went on their way.  They were visibly changed in our presence as we prayed over them.

Wow, God is growing all our faith and we continue to ask, "Lord, teach us to pray!"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When Faith Becomes An Enemy - Bread of Life Adventure 4-27-15

I had the privilege of praying over someone yesterday that was as discouraged as any I have encountered.  Her story is one where her health has failed her all at once and she finds herself all alone and is not even able to get out of her house anymore.  She feels trapped physically, and tapped financially.

In addition to these struggles her once strong faith had now become her enemy? She grew up in the Pentecostal church teaching that if you had enough faith you could see health and prosperity come to your life.  You could see healing and financial gains if you only believe strong enough.  This is called the word of faith movement that has swept through Pentecostal churches around the world.  It leaves in its wake the poor and the sick left in the margins to suffer alone in their affliction with this reality, "Their faith just wasn't enough.  If only they had more faith."

When your faith is the problem, where do you go to get help?  When every source of help demands more faith than you can muster, what are you left with?  Despair, guilt, and loneliness become the consolation prizes.  What are the answers from scripture?  Well I told her that Christ suffered and that most of the disciples did as well.  Were they lacking in faith?  That Christ ended up with nothing in the way of material possessions and the disciples didn't either.  But the words that ministered to her the most to break the chains of guilt and despair were these,  "Was Jesus faith lacking, when He asked His Father if there was any way for this cup to pass.  Followed by, not my will, but your will be done.  Did Jesus lack faith when He prayed since His request wasn't answered according to his will?"

She chuckled to herself and said emphatically, "No!"  A glimmer of relief from her self condemnation began to enter into her face.  The fresh thought that she could believe again that God still loved her even though she was still very sick.  The very thing that had been taken from her began to be restored, her faith.  What does faith in the midst of suffering look like became our discussion.  Well for one, she is in no pain, yet her condition should be producing much pain.  There was a thankfulness for this blessing in the midst of her suffering.  But there still needed to be a restoring of purpose.  This woman knew how to pray and even knew what people needed praying for, yet was disconnected from those prayers because her faith had been so damaged.  She still had the great purpose of having uninterrupted time for being a prayer warrior.  Doing battle in the spiritual realms.  Many of us are so distracted in our lives, she claimed no such distractions as she had nothing but time to pass in her day.  She was encouraged that God didn't have to restore her health and finances to restore purpose to her life.  There was a great smile on her face as we prayed over her to become a great prayer warrior in a community that needs much prayer.

There was one more piece that needed to be restored.  Had all my prayers been in vain, why hadn't God healed me?  The answer to this question brought much peace.  "Paul's words that to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ and that to live is Christ and to die is gain."  She worried about a day when her body had died and she just lay in the ground waiting.  She couldn't see that this life and this body is just temporary.  That one day God would make all things NEW!  That death is not something for Christians to fear, but that while we live our lives have purpose and when we die the culmination of our deliverance and salvation are made complete.  Scripture tells us that we are made into the likeness of Christ with new and glorified bodies! for a quick link to verses that discuss this more.

God doesn't have to answer our prayers in this short and temporary life to truly be good.  Sometimes he allows suffering, that it might produce a sweet bounty of joy in the midst of the suffering when we find that He is still enough.  And that there can be Joy, unexplainable Joy, even when suffering comes our way through Christ.

In fact I ask you what would make heaven sweeter for you, to be healed and blessed financially in this short life and the next, or for the trials and suffering in this life to be washed away for eternity when you meet Christ face to face and your salvation is made complete in Him?

Read Mark 5 and be blessed by the hope when we encounter Christ face to face, but don't make the mistake that many do from this passage that faith only believes for healing in the present and not also in the future.  We prayed for God to heal her, but also rested in not our will, but your will be done Lord on earth as it is in heaven;

5:21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live." 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, "If I touch even his garments, I will be made well." 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my garments?" 31 And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, 'Who touched me?'" 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease." 35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?" 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, "Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping." 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, "Talitha cumi," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Bread of Life Adventures week of 2/9/15

We started a ministry of going out into the community around the church on Mondays to give away bread and pray for everyone God puts in our path.  We pray before we go, pray while driving, pray with people living around the church, and have a prayer meeting back at the church afterwards.  It has become one of the most exciting days of the week for me.  (And I dare you to go with us and tell me if it wasn't one of the most exciting adventures you've gone on in some time!)  Every Monday noon to about 4pm (you can go for as long as you want as we are just around the corner from the church at all times.)  Ok, enough inviting you to join....Here is the adventures from this week.

3 weeks ago we gave bread to a family and prayed for them in their driveway.  This past Sunday Amanda prayed to receive Christ during the service.  After AWANA's at church we visited with her boyfriend about Christ and were able to comfort him in a real tragedy that he had been through that stood as a barrier between him and the Lord.  God so softened his heart that he wept all the way to work on Monday and came to the men's bible study on Tuesday night.

While Laurie was praying at one house with the family the little dog was barking so much you could barely hear the prayer.  I began praying for the dog to be silenced and he went silent and didn't bark again!

We were able to pray with several people that surprised us how open they were to being prayed for.

We got to share the gospel with two young men that were working on surveying for a house being sold.  We gave the bread and Jesus as they visited with us for 20 minutes or so as we were able to really talk to them about how to build trust in their relationships and ultimately trust in Christ.

We ended back at the church in prayer, but during the prayer time I felt an urgency to leave and go home.  It was awkward to leave during praying together, so I hesitated.  I sensed again the Lord impressing on me an urgency to go home.  I left and headed towards home when a wreck occurred right in front of me on Hardin Store Rd.  I sensed the Lord wanted me to pray for the lady that rolled her truck, but was unharmed.  I told her I was a minister and felt the Lord wanted me to pray for her.  She immediately asked my name, I told her, she then asked what was the name of the church, I told her, she then almost snapped at me asking where it was located, I told her, then she grabbed my arm and fell to me saying, "I've been looking for a church home!!"  I prayed for her and she broke down in tears thanking me for praying.  Her name is Stacey Spalding (guess on spelling).  She literally rolled her truck in the ditch and easily could have been killed based on the damage to the truck, but she almost didn't have a mark on her from the wreck.  I thought later sometimes God has to turn our worlds upside down in order to get our attention.  Her's literally was turned upside down.  I think mine was too!

Weapons left unused in defeat

An old post that I never published.  enjoy

I had more people that appeared to be really far from the Lord have great conversations about taking steps to seek the Lord this week than I have ever before.  With everyone of them promising to come to church this past Sunday, only to see none of them come.  I had such a wonderful time Sunday hearing from Oddie and spending enjoyable time visiting and eating lunch with visitors and church family as we celebrated Memorial Day barbecue together.  But I couldn't help but be a little disappointed that none of the people I had invited had joined in the celebration that day.  I shared with my brother Brian and he had showed up at someones house to give them a ride to church, only to be turned down at the door.That spurred my brother and I to take another look at the situation.  We were talking with people that were squarely in the devil's grasp.
 Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
I was confronted by the reality that my burden to share the incredible riches of Christ, my longing to see people come to know Christ personally as their savior, was not equally matched with a willingness to bathe these individuals in prayer.  It revealed that I really had my confidence in the convincing words that "I" had spoken, that the persuasion that "I" had used to get them to agree to come to church.  My brother saw the same in his encounter.

I have not given up and God works things out in His own timetable, but I am gripped by the reality that I am trying to wage battle in the spiritual realm for men's souls, and I leave the greatest weapon relatively unused during the battle.  May God break me of such self reliance and self confidence and replace it with an utter dependence on Him and a God confidence that drives me to Him more and more.  That I might have the distinct joy of seeing those perishing in sin and destruction be snatched out of the flames.

This funny picture is funny, but only makes my thinking that my persuasive words were weapons of war that much more lame.  Let us learn to pray like we are doing battle on our knees.  Read this week that a lady in a muslim community that was seeing many convert to Christianity was seeking to train each new believer to be a prayer intercessor.  Let us do the same.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Relentless Pursuit

We held a men's retreat for the men of our church.  The theme was, "The Greatest Thrill, Becoming Fisher's of Men!"  It has stirred me with a thought that has continued to linger in my head.  It is like when we get a tiny break in the clouds and a little sunlight breaks through.  It is as if a tiny glimpse of the heart of God broke through and I can't get past it.

The ray of light that penetrated my heart began with my brother sharing out of Jeremiah 16 a passage that pointed to the Judgement and Redemption of Israel.

16 “Behold, I am sending for many fishers, declares the Lord, and they shall catch them. And afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the clefts of the rocks.
Click to read the entire chapter

In the same way God pursued men for judgement, He also pursues them for redemption.  In fact the judgement of God is nothing other than the Lord revealing to men their need for deliverance from their sins.  It is the way that God pursues men that I have not been able to escape.  He pursues with a Relentless Pursuit.  That is the character and heart of God.  This passage ends with God expressing His desire for men to know His power, His might, and to know His Name Yahweh!

When Jesus then says in Matthew 4:19 "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of of men."  He is revealing His heart of relentless pursuit of men!  And chooses men that were already in a relentless pursuit of fish.  They could fish ALL night and not catch anything without giving up and still let down their nets one more time at a strangers suggestion.

We so easily miss the heart of God in His word and in our lives.  There is a depth to Him that makes it hard for us to fathom when we love to swim at the surface and in the shallow water.  In the depth of His character we see He does have a heart that is relentless in His pursuit of men, but WHY?  He has a relentless love that manifests in a relentless pursuit of men.  It is why we see time and time again God pursuing men with His faithful and gracious love.  John 3:16 "For God so LOVED, He SENT His son."  God has a relentless love for you and me!  God has a relentless love for your neighbor and lost sinners.  Do you?

Jesus always connected love for God with love for others.  The great commandment reflects this reality with perfect clarity.  All the law and prophets hang on loving God and loving others.  Peter after being called to become a fisher of men goes back to catching fish after Jesus death.  Jesus meets him again on the very shore he called them out of their boats the first time.  He connects for Peter love for the Lord with a love for others.  He asks him "Peter do you love me?"  to which Peter proclaims he does, then Jesus commands him "Then feed my sheep." (Read passage here)  Jesus is trying to connect love for the Lord and love for others.  Peter's life is no longer marked by betrayal, but rather a relentless pursuit of men as a fisher of men.

It is such an incredible thing when a fish gets out of the fish bowl, picks up a fishing pole, and starts to fish because he loves God and others more than himself.  A little scary too!

Lord help us to love you and others enough to pursue you and others with a relentless love that causes us to pick up the fishing pole and proclaim the greatness of your love this week....Amen!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Why do I Doubt God

There is a tea house atop one of the world's most daunting trails to reach it.  I can only imagine someone being led to embark on that trail by a friend without them telling them how long the trail was or what surprise awaited them at the top.  "Just trust me it will be worth it!", might not be enough to get some to go the distance.  I think this is really the issue between us and God.  His promise is not enough for us because we struggle to really trust Him.  We need way more details.  Like how long is this going to take?  How safe is it?  What exactly is up there..."Oh really, well what flavors do the serve?"  We fundamentally struggle to trust anyone but ourselves and that is why we think we need way more than the beautiful promise of Romans 8:28.  Actually it is not a promise....It is something we KNOW already!

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I find that if everything does not go my way right away, then I don't believe that God is really going to work this out for my good.  Yet so many times, God has to bring me to the point of it being out of my hands before He is willing to step into the situations of my life.  I can't imagine how much despair and a sense of everything being wrong that the disciples and followers of Christ must have felt seeing Jesus arrested, then beaten, then seeing the sentencing of execution, then actually seeing Him nailed on the cross.  I can only imagine how hard it would have been to believe that God was in complete control and that the greatest work God had ever done was being done right in front of their eyes.

I just have a hard time admitting how little faith I have, and slow to recognize how little I have sought for God to give me the gift of greater faith and trust in Him.  To my shame I am all too often content with little faith and a much too small view of God.  So here is to all those out there like me that long to draw in a full breath of Christ's trust in His Father and see our fears fade like distant thunder.  If you are seeing things go different than you would have ever written the script, take heart it is in these moments when He takes us down paths that none of us would choose that He does what none of us can, so we can taste what we have never tasted before.  Tea Anyone?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Praying prayers that are scary

I was trying to explain something the other evening and it has been still clinking around in my head like a rock in a tin can.  It rattles around in there but won't quite come out.  The thought is this: What do prayers of real faith actually look like?  Do you only pray prayers that feel safe or is there an element of risk, yet you press in harder?  I often find myself praying in such a way that I "leave room for God to answer however He wants"  It sounds spiritual and holy, yet often all I have done is leave room for Me to save face.  I don't want to send a prayer up that gets shot down and comes crashing back moments after it is sent up.

I get the point that Jesus asked if there was any way for this cup to pass from Him, but not His will be done.  He yielded to the Fathers will.  That was still a daring prayer knowing what was about to happen immediately after he finished praying.  I see many times of Jesus engaging with much bolder prayers than I would ever pray and with a much greater quickness of answer than I could imagine.

To tell the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the dead to rise would bring me to a crisis of belief to utter such words over a person in any of those conditions even if I sensed the Lord wanted me to.

Back in December I was challenged by a friend that prayed for a need in our church to be met today.  He kept asking for it to be done...Today....Today Lord!  I didn't know what to think about it.  Was it brash and arrogant, or was it a greater picture of what faith really looks like.  Well it was Christmas Eve and as many of you know one of the needs of the church was to have paved parking places for some of the members who are a little less sure footed to have a safer exiting of their cars than the rock parking lot we had could provide.  Well, that very day a whole crew of pavers pulled into the parking lot unsolicited to meet up with the owner of the company and it worked out that they poured the first section of our parking lot on Christmas Eve.  Today was answered on a day I was not really believing God was going to do anything significant.

The passage we read in our Life Group this past Sunday was Mark 5:35-43
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

It struck me how bold Christ was to speak such words believing the Father was going to do just that, at just that moment.  He put all of the people out of the house that was covered with grief!  I have trouble praying prayers for healing when death seems more eminent than life and I don't even fathom praying for the dead to come back to life.  Yet Jesus just speaks the words, Little girl I say to you, Arise, not affected one bit by the reality that had dried up everyone else's faith in that moment.  If it is impossible to please God without faith, then I pray that God would help me to pray more of those white-nuckled, God pleasing prayers that leave me no out but to rely on Him and trust in Him completely.  May we see God do things that resemble more of what we read in the early church in Acts.  May we see God inhabit the prayers of his people.  May I see the Lord teach me to pray with more faith....Today

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