Five Courageous Prayers to Pray

Five Courageous Prayers to Pray:

  1. “Lord, forgive the sins of this people; but if you don’t, then write me out of your plans.  I can’t lead an unforgiven people” – Moses, Exodus 32:32
  2. “Lord, I need wisdom to lead you people.  Give me knowledge to figure out right and wrong, because I can’t do this on my own” – Solomon, 1 Kings 3:9
  3. “Lord, are you asking for a volunteer?  Because if you are, then I volunteer.  Send me.” – Isaiah, Isaiah 6:8
  4. “Father, is there any way around this?  I know the plan, but I want to ask one more time if we can find another way that will work.  But not what I want, what you want.” – Jesus, Matthew 26:42
  5. “To the God who is in control – people are threatening us.  They don’t like Jesus so they don’t like us.  So give us more courage to speak up for you.  We didn’t sign for safe;  we committed to follow.” – The friends of John and Peter, Acts 4:29

Are you brave enough to pray any of these prayers?

Trust…

Dennis Rainey tells the story of a missionary family home on furlough, staying at the lake house of a friend.

One day, Dad was messing around in the boathouse, Mom was in the kitchen, and the three children, ages four, seven, and twelve, were on the lawn.  Four year old Billy escaped his oldest sister’s watchful eye and wandered down to the wooden dock.  The shiny aluminum boat caught his eye.  He stepped toward it, but missed the boat, and fell into the eight-foot-deep water.

His oldest sister screamed.  This naturally brought Dad out of the boat house.  He quickly realized what had happened and dove into the murky lake.  Frantically, he felt for his son.   Nothing.  His lungs screamed for air.  He surfaced, and dove again.  His hands touched only liquid.  Again he broke into the air, gulped a breath, and dove.  Another fruitless search.

Time was running out.  He had no idea how much longer his son could survive under the water.  He dove again, kicked harder, went deeper.  Then his fingers touched flesh.  Billy was clinging to one of the piers of the dock.  His father pried his hands away from the wood, grasped Billy and kicked to the surface.

Once they both were safe, and breathing normally, Billy’s Dad asked him, “Billy, what were you doing down there?”

Billy, with classic four-year-old logic replied, “Just waitin’ on you Dad, just waitin’ on you.”

He knew his Father would come looking for him.  He trusted his Father’s priorities, his Father’s heart.

Do you trust your Heavenly Father’s priorities?  Do you trust your Heavenly Father’s heart?

When you pray, and you must wait for the answer, do you trust that your Heavenly Father is coming for you, at just the right moment, with exactly what you need?

Isn’t this what Isaiah 40:31 means?  “They who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

To trust is to wait, but not be passive.  To trust is to wait, and to keep living.

If You Thought God Was About to Make a Mistake, What Would you Do?

What would you do if you thought God was about to make a mistake?

I know what you are thinking:  God doesn’t make mistakes.  But in times past, people thought gods did make mistakes.  Read Greek mythology.  It is one story after another of a god who has poor judgement, just like us.

Then came this odd little folk called Israel who dared to claim that their God, the LORD, did not make mistakes.  He was perfect.  But when Israel told their story, they told it in such a way as to make it sound like there were people who stopped God from making a mistake:

  • Abraham told God that He was too good a God to destroy the righteous with the wicked at Sodom and Gomorrah.
  • Moses told God not to destroy the Israelites because it would give Him a bad reputation.  Besides, God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that they would have many descendants.  If God wiped them out, He would have to start over.
  • David pleaded with God not to let his son die.
  • Job told God He wasn’t being fair, that he had done nothing to deserve all the suffering that piled onto his life.
  • Jeremiah told God He expected too much, that he had been sent to a bunch of people who wouldn’t listen, and who put him down (sometimes literally) every chance they got.
  • Jesus, God himself, ask the Father, “Is there any way this cup can pass from me?”  He knew the plan; he just wanted to check one more time to see if there was another way.
  • Paul told God it would be lot better if his “thorn in the flesh” was removed.  When it seemed like God didn’t hear Him the first time, Paul asked again.  And again.

Look up the stories.  God’s response differs:

  • God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, but spared Lot, the only semi-righteous person for miles around.
  • God listened to Moses and didn’t destroy the people of Israel, though they did deserve it.
  • God let David’s son die. Later, God gave David another son.  Still, David always had to look at the empty chair that should have been filled.
  • Job never got an answer to his question of “why,” but he did meet God. In the end, Job said that was good enough.
  • Jeremiah expressed his feelings, but God kept giving him messages no one wanted to hear.
  • Jesus took the cup, drank, and went to the cross.
  • Paul lived with his “thorn in the flesh” till the day he died.

What’s the common thread?  When all these folks in the Bible thought God was about to make a mistake, they talked to Him about it.  They even made specific requests.  Sometimes, God accommodated their requests.  Sometimes, He didn’t.  Sometimes His plan flexed.  Sometimes, it didn’t.

The lesson:  God wants to hear from you, even when you think He is about to make a mistake. He wants the conversation to happen.  So talk to Him about all the thoughts that enter your mind.  Asking God for something is holding in tension the reality that He wants to hear from us and He is in charge.

Showdown

Showdown.

If you are of a certain age, you get a picture of two cowboys facing each other, standing in a dusty street, hands twitching over pistols, ready to shoot it out.

If  you are of a certain age, you get a picture of a video game face off.

If you are of a certain age, you get a picture of  two people in a ring (now days, either males or females), circling, about to hit, kick, or inflict pain on the other.

Do you ever think about spiritual showdowns?  Do you ever see yourself  standing against forces of darkness and deceit, ready for battle?  Do you ever see yourself facing off against the forces that want to steal joy, love, and hope?  Do you ever see yourself in the moment of supreme courage, where you rely on the Spirit of God to strengthen you against all the messages that want to tell you you don’t measure up?

You and I are engaged in real battles like this everyday, showdowns.  So we need to have the mindset of a solider, ready for battle at anytime with our Savior, Jesus.

A showdown is just around the corner.

Build a Prayer List: Five Issues to Pray For

Some issues need to be regularly visited in prayer.  Let me offer you 3 C’s and 2 F’s to guide your thinking:

  • Pray for Our Country.  Don’t pray for your candidate or party to win; that’s putting your faith in something that will always disappoint you.  Instead, pray for God’s will be done.  What does that look like?  Imagine a country where people are kind and truthful, they value life, and they are less focused on themselves and more focused on the good of whole.  Wouldn’t it be great to live in a country like that?
  • Pray for Our Community.  Pray for justice to be done in our criminal justice system.  Pray for our schools, that teachers will be empowered to open young minds.  Pray for businesses to prosper, be ethical and honest, and increase employment opportunities.  Pray for government leaders to have vision for a brighter future.
  • Pray for Our Church.  Pray that we will fulfill our God given mission: To help as many people as possible take their next step toward Jesus.  Pray for God to increase our number.  Pray for God to put His power upon this congregation.  Pray for the mission efforts around the world where we have investments.  If you attend another church, pray they will love and follow Jesus.
  • Pray for Your Family.  Don’t just pray for them to be safe.  Pray for your children to fall in love with Jesus and follow Him.  Pray for them to be wise.  Pray for them to always live in the awareness of God’s grace.  The point of praying for our children is not to lessen our worries, but to ask God to guide their lives.   Pray for your spouse to be blessed.  Pray for your spouse to know grace in their failures and weaknesses.
  • Pray for Your Friends.  Pray for their healing.  But also pray they will experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.  Pray they will meet Jesus and follow Him.

So, who is on your list?

Prayers That Change History…

 

 

Can something as simple as prayer, change anything?  Too often we hear that it can, but our skeptical side wonders.  Ponder then, this true story:

In April 2011, the staff of The International Justice Mission (or IJM), a Christian organization that works to rescue victims of slavery and sexual exploitation, heard some incredible news. In a village near Chennai, India, a local official identified as S. Kandaswamy, summoned the courage to rescue the captives in his own community. He organized a raid against a brick kiln where 143 families, a total of 522 people, had been kept as slaves. Police under his direction freed the laborers, commandeered a local high school to provide them with health care, and arrested the owner of the brick kiln. On that day hundreds of men, women, and children who had been robbed of their God-given dignity had been set free.

Where did S. Kandaswamy get the courage to initiate the raid? Just a few weeks before the raid and the bold actions of this local official, one thousand staff and friends of IJM gathered in a Washington, D.C., hotel ballroom for a weekend of prayer for IJM’s most urgent needs. They spent an agonizing, energizing night praying specifically for the end of bonded labor in the countries where it persists—countries like India. It seemed like an audacious and impossible thing to pray for—and it was, because to pray for the end of bonded labor is to pray for nothing less than an institutional revolution. And yet everyone in the room that night dared to ask God for that bonded labor might be eradicated. The Spirit came with extraordinary power, pouring out on that group of believers the willingness to ask something none of them could possibly bring about with their own resources or power.

Is it only a coincidence that four weeks later, this local official, who had not acted with courage before, took up the image-bearing power granted him by his position and dared to set free 522 slaves?

  • (Adapted from Andy Crouch, Playing God (InterVarsity Press, 2013), pp. 208-209)

What could happen if we prayed?  Not just a casual sentence or two, but prayed with an open heart, ask God to be our partner so the world could be changed for His glory.  Maybe, just maybe, we could see history changed, lives saved, prisoners set free, countries turned around?

 

I want to invite you to join with me and let’s start praying prayers that change history.

 

Seven Common Mistakes Churches Make When They Think about Building

(One of an occasional series of posts about church life)

I was invited recently to speak to a group of church leaders who are thinking about building a building.  They need to, but like most teams put together for this purpose, they have quickly shifted to what before they think about the why.

Preparing for my time with them, I thought about common mistakes Churches make when they are thinking about building:

  1. They make money the main deciding factor in every decision.  Money is a critical issue and must be a factor, but it cannot be the factor.  When money becomes the driving issue, decisions are rooted in fear, not in vision.
  2. They build rooms that can only be used for one thing.  The era of single use rooms is over.  The only rooms in a church building that need to be designed for single use are bathrooms and preschool rooms.  Even offices can be used for Adult classroom space if they are designed large enough.  For fifteen years, my office was used a classroom.  Never once was my desk messed with.  Because of the cost of building and the reluctance of people to support capital projects, multi use space helps people see good stewardship by church leadership.  Never build a room so everyone can be in worship at one time.  It limits growth and is poor stewardship.
  3. Churches build monuments, not tools.  A building is a tool, not a monument.  The quality of the tool you buy is based on how long you plan to use it.  Monuments, on the other hand, are created to make statements.  I’ve never seen a church that was built to make a statement that didn’t have a long list a deferred maintenance items.  Thought must be given about how the tool is to be used.  For example, one of the mistakes we made when we built our building was we forgot everyone would drive to church.  Our architect designed the building so all parking was at least 50 feet away.  He wanted everyone to admire his monument.   We all forgot that people wanted to get close, drop off senior adults and children.  It cost us $400,000 to fix that design flaw and get better accessibility to the building.
  4. Designers, builders, and leaders forget the inter-dependence of spaces.  For example, code might a require a certain width in the hallways.  The width is fine, if all the people in the building aren’t trying to move at once.  But most churches will have narrow windows of time when they are trying move everyone on campus from one place to another.  The question is not what code calls for, but how the space will be used.  I remember sitting in meeting with the Heating/Air engineer and contractor.  I pressed them to make sure the system had enough capacity (hot Baptists are grumpy Baptists).  They assured me it did.  I pressed a little harder: “You are saying the building will stay cool in July, when we have three services in a row from 8:30 to 12; and the building is full of children and adults in educational space?”  Silence.  Then the engineer spoke up:  “You mean you have more than one service on Sunday?  The system isn’t designed for that.”  Pause.  Engineer:  “I think I need to redesign the system.”  Things like hallways, bathrooms (everyone at church needs to use the facilities in a 15 minute window),  and parking (1 space for 2 people) all inter-relate.
  5. Churches get in a hurry.  They want to solve the space problem now.  As a result, they don’t see problems new space can create or new costs it can incur.  One church I know launched out with a large relocation project, wanted to build in a hurry, started with incomplete drawings, built in a million dollar contingency fund and wound up with a functional building.  They also wound up with a poorly designed site plan, with one way in and out.  Every Sunday there was a traffic jam.  You’ve got to slow down and imagine how an average Sunday will go, how Easter will be, what it will be like for a new mom.
  6. Churches build to solve problems instead of building for mission.  If buildings are tools we use, the question arises:  Are we solving problems or are we acquiring a tool that will help us advance our mission?  This means they must first clarify the mission of the church and the mission the building will accomplish.  To build a tool for a mission means if something in the building doesn’t fit the mission, it doesn’t go in.  Likewise, if something in the design does fit the mission, it stays in.  Our building came in a million dollars over budget.  Cutting a million dollars out of the building was excruciating.  We needed one last cut of $10,000.  Our stage was designed to have steps all the way around the front.  I sensed the steps would also function as a place to come and pray.  If we cut the steps, we could save the $10,000.  I thought the steps were essential to our mission.  I dug in, and thanks be to God, we kept the steps (and did away with the dishwasher in the kitchen).  In the over 15 years we’ve been in the building, that decision has been validated many times.  The steps fit the mission; the dishwasher didn’t.
  7. Churches must pay attention to the size dynamics to come.  If a church is growing and must build because they are at the 200 barrier, it is essential to recognize once the building is built, there is a high probability that growth will resume.  Therefore, the church must begin to think about how to be a church of 400.  How will the role of the pastor change?  How will the role of the lay leaders change?  Too often, church build the space they need and fail to staff the space.  They also fail to change governance and expectations to match what is coming.

So what mistakes have you see churches make when it comes to building?

Why You Really Want there to be a Judgment, Believe it or Not

Most people don’t want to be held accountable.  Yet most people want to hold other people accountable.  This is why people don’t like the idea of God judging us, yet they are perfectly comfortable judging someone who commits an act of terrorism.

The whole idea behind a judgment is our conduct really matters.  It matter how we live in this world, how we treat people, how we deal with the weak and powerless, and how we respond to our enemies – it really matters.

Innately we know this.  Otherwise we would not care about how others treat us or how we treat others.  All sense of fairness, of right and wrong would disappear.  Yet every culture has some standard of what is right, wrong, and fair.

Judgment means those who sin will be held accountable.  And that’s the catch, isn’t it?  I want you to be held accountable; but I don’t want to be held accountable.

For Jesus followers, judgment means that we are counting on the great grace of Jesus, who will step forward at our trial, as we plead “guilty,” and declare that he has paid the price for our sins.  On that day, you will know completely how deep the grace of Jesus is.

Which means the most important question for you and me is, “Are you ready for that day?”

Well?

Ten Reasons NOT to Give Generously to the Open Door Offering…

10 reasons for you NOT to give to the Open Door Offering:

  1. If you give even a dollar to the Open Door Offering, you will die of hunger.
  2. You feel ADBC should stick to taking care of our own members and not reach out across the world. After all, Jesus loves us, this we know.  Good luck to everyone else.
  3. You think people in Honduras and Haiti should find the gospel on their own; there is no need for us to send mission teams. And certainly none of the people who go on mission trips from ADBC really need that kind of mission experience to deepen their walk with Jesus.
  4. You don’t want to see ADBC go through doors God is opening for us to become a multisite church. You think everyone should just drive to 1305 Loring Mill Road, even if it means a long drive, with screaming children.  Or maybe they should just go to a sick, unhealthy church that will only tolerate them, not love them.
  5. Children in Corona, Queens, New York, in your opinion, don’t need to know they are loved by people from South Carolina who love Jesus. Let them grow up without Jesus and be at risk for a defeated life and an eternity away from God.
  6. As long as you and your children can get health care, that’s all that matters. For the kids in Honduras and Haiti, tough luck.  You should have been born in America.  No need to provide medicine, dental care, or doctor care.
  7. The chance to help start a church on Long Island and in the Bronx in New York doesn’t really excite you. If you cared too much, it might take you away from another YouTube cat video you need to watch.
  8. Over 70% of the people in Sumter County don’t attend church, not even on Christmas or Easter. You’re okay with that because if they did, you might have trouble finding a parking spot.  After all, if more people followed Jesus in Sumter County, it wouldn’t really make this a better place to live, would it?
  9. People who were helped by United Ministries during the flood ought to pay back all the help they received. That way United Ministries wouldn’t need any help from ADBC.  If their house flooded, it must have been their fault, right?
  10. For you, Operation Inasmuch is just a day when a bunch of do-gooders go out and try to do something so they feel better about themselves. No need to provide funds to help people and show people the love of Jesus.  If people need to see the love of Jesus, they can come anytime, right?

I never said these were good reasons.

What I do know is they sound ugly.  I wouldn’t want to be the person who said any of those things.  And I sure wouldn’t want to be married to anyone with this kind of attitude.  I hope none of my children ever think this way.

So maybe there aren’t really good reasons not to give to the Open Door Offering.  Maybe there is a really good reason to give to the Open Door Offering – so people around the world can take a next step toward Jesus.

We’ve received 52% of our goal of $255,000.  That means we need to receive 48% by June 30.  Pray.  Give.  Share the Light of Jesus around the world.

I Wanted Them to Win One for My Girl

I sent a child to Duke and I sent a child to UNC- Chapel Hill.  Just like a love both children, I love both schools.  Being in debt to both places creates loyalty.

Basketball season is tough at my house.  I like Coach K and I like Roy Williams – two different coaches with different styles, both successful.

I thought Duke did pretty well this season, considering the injuries and lack of depth.  Carolina clearly got better deeper into the season.

I was pulling hard for the Tar Heels last night.  Villanova was in the zone, which is tough to maintain after a game like they played against Oklahoma.

Truth be told, I was hoping my daughter Hannah would get the thrill of her team winning the National Championship, just like Abram had the thrill when Duke won.  Carolina won their last championship the year before Hannah started school at Chapel Hill.  I wanted it for her.  This is the girl who went from not knowing anything about basketball to being able to discuss the advantages of zone vs. man to man.  She learned a lot at Chapel Hill.  I wanted it for her.

I knew Carolina could battle back.  They did.  All night their defense was intense. Villanova was definitely a tough defensive team, yet the Tar Heels kept battling to get inside, and shot the lights out on three’s (64.7%).

Then came the moment I had waited for – Marcus Paige, who has not had the season many expected, launched an off balance shot that will forever live in memory.  Like the hunter who wildly shoots at the bird and hits it, his shot swished through the hoop to tie the game.

Four point seven seconds left.  Watching the game, my mind went to Christian Laettner, Duke v. Kentucky in 1992.  I lived in Kentucky at the time.  I remember that heartbreaking shot.  Please, not a repeat.  Don’t let my girl have her heart broken.

In 4.7 seconds, the unbelievable happened again.  Villanova ran a play they simply call, “Nova.”  The ball is brought up court, then flipped off to the trailing player, Kris Jenkins.  He shoots the three with under a second left.  Swish.

Heartbreak.

I wanted Carolina to win one for my girl.

My heart hurts for her.  This is something Daddy can’t fix.

Maybe next year.  Please Carolina, win one next year for my girl.