Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Praying Big

“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Eph. 6:10-20).

Think about the things Paul did not ask people to pray for. He didn’t want prayer for his release. He didn’t ask for deliverance from further punishment. He wasn’t worried about execution. He didn’t talk about how hard it was to be alone far away from home.

Rather, he was single-minded in his desire to get the job done. He wanted to be part of God’s work more than anything else, including his comfort and safety.

Most of my prayer life consists of my asking God to spare me discomfort and protect my loved ones. I pray for healing and help and solutions to my problems. In truth, I rarely ask for him to help me to be good at doing his work.

I think whole churches can do this, too. We focus on each other’s health and loss, and we’ll express concern about our church growth because we want don’t want to lose what we’ve accomplished. We reach out to people so they can help us maintain our church.

Our prayer life reveals our priorities and it dictates our direction. What would happen if we prayed more earnestly for God’s kingdom to be expanded? What if we prayed to be more effective for His glory (rather than ours)? What if we remembered that His will is more important than our comfort and concerns?

I predict it would revitalize our souls and our churches.

It might not do a thing for our comforts, but since that isn’t as big a priority as accomplishing God’s will, perhaps our comfort is not so important.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reaching Our Destiny

It's not a new concept but I was thinking about this the other day as I spoke at the funeral of a grand old gentleman.

You have to be brave to get old. I admire those that do it. They persevere while the body diminishes and the mind slows down, compensating with experience and maturity of the spirit.

However, it doesn’t seem fair. Many people have asked me over the years, “Why am I still here if I can’t do anything productive? If all I am is a burden for others to bear, what’s the point of existing?”

The question assumes that life can only be evaluated by what we do and then simply grinds to a halt. The saying goes: “Life is hard and then you die.”

But we don’t believe that, do we?

Christ teaches that this life is preparation for the next one. I think of the metaphor of the caterpillar that shuts down, wraps itself in a cocoon, and then breaks out to be the butterfly that celebrates its new life by taking flight. Christ didn’t look forward to his death but he consoled himself by thinking of how the seed has to die before it can become what it was meant to be, and so he had to die in order to become truly glorified.

He died quite suddenly, but some of us take a while to reach that point. Whether it comes sooner or later, whether it is quick or gradual, we all have the moment when the body dies so we can become the person we were destined to be.

We call it resurrection.

We become less so we can be more. We get old so we can be new. We die so we can live.

It’s hard to grasp until you look at the butterfly and the tree.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Church Picnic

I admit it. I was nervous about the church picnic.
What if nobody came? What if everybody came but we didn’t have enough food? What if the music we planned with the old foot stomping songs fell flat and nobody sang or stomped?

The day didn’t start out promising. I woke up early to the sound of rain. Great, I thought. Now all we need are some ants for later. I drove the supply laden van to the park and only when I arrived did I notice that I left the back doors open. My bad mood was getting worse.

However, the rains stopped, the sun came out, and nothing fell out of the van. The people came—kids, parents, and grandparents. We filled every seat and then some. The music had foot stomping, handclapping, and the beautiful voices of the congregation.

And the food! We had chicken, brisket, ham, baked beans, green bean salad, corn, salad, and desserts including homemade ice cream.

No one was duly appointed but plenty of people helped set up lunch and plenty of people helped clean up afterwards.

Someone just came into my office to share this with me: “You may not realize that my husband and I don’t get around as well as we used to (chuckle). But when we got there, a little girl approached me and asked if she could help me up the steps. A young lady helped my husband carry his plate to the table. Those picnic tables are hard for us to navigate but there were others who helped us get seated. Just thought you should know, Pastor.”

The church is very much like the Sunday picnic. You never know who’s going to show and what they’ll bring to the table, but it’s usually more than enough. How good it is depends on how much the people as a whole put into it.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

In the newspaper ad about our church picnic, this blog site was also included. You're always welcome here but perhaps you would like to visit our church website at:

And remember our worship and picnic this Sunday a.m. at Boiling Springs State Park. 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fending Off the Arrows

“Take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16).

Paul uses this vivid image to describe our defense against Satan. When the evil one wishes to harm us, we can protect ourselves with our faith.

Sounds great, but faith doesn’t seem to shield us from much. We still endure grief, loss, physical pain, financial reversals, embarrassing failure, family conflict, and sickness. Even Paul, with his great faith, suffered these things.

I’ve decided these painful events are not really Satan’s weapons. But he will use them to create doubt and disillusionment, which are his flaming arrows.

The doubts come when God disappoints us. When he doesn’t protect us from painful things after we’ve been loyal to him, we feel like he has not lived up to his end of the bargain. And it’s tempting to abandon our faith and go our own way.

Faith is the commitment to God’s standards even when they don’t seem to be “paying off.” It is belief in God’s integrity when we can’t see it, much less prove it. Faith is a firm grip on the promise of resurrection. This commitment is the choice we make. And this choice fends off our doubts and helps us persevere.

Faith does not spare us from pain. It is what helps us endure it.