Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Five Dangerous Prayers

A few years back I was challenged to pray more "dangerous prayers." Out of that spiritual discipline, grew a sermon of a couple of years ago. As I move into 2009, I am again seeking to pray some dangerous prayers. I think God loves to hear dangerous prayers—the kind of prayers that help us grow as Christians. If you've been keeping God at a safe distance in your prayer life, try praying one of the following “dangerous” prayers—and see how God in His wisdom will answer.

1. SEARCH ME (Psalm 139:23-24).

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, NIV).

Do you want to know the truth about yourself? Jesus taught that the truth will set you free. Ask God to search you…to show you what He needs to do in life to grow and mature you. You’ll never know real holiness or usefulness for God and the kingdom until you embrace this prayer.

2. TEACH ME (Psalm 25:4).

“Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths” (Psalm 25:4, NIV).

It is first an acknowledgement that you don’t know everything there is to know about God and how He does things. For most people who have been believers for over 10 years…that would be stepping into new territory. We get to a growth plateau somewhere around 10 years as a Christian where we have worked out our systems and understandings and we think we have God all figured out.

3. LEAD ME (Psalm 119:133).

“Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me” (Psalm 119:133, NIV).

When you say, “God, here's my life. I'll follow your promptings; I'll listen for the tugs of your Spirit…I’m putting up my sail and asking that the winds of your Spirit blow my life where they will”—you'll be surprised what can happen.

4. BLESS ME (1 Chronicles 4:10, NIV).

“Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request” (1 Chronicles 4:10, NIV). Jesus gives us a New Testament equivalent, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7, NIV).

God doesn’t bless you to be a reservoir. He blesses that you might be a conduit of His blessing to others. The gifts God gives are meant to be shared…not hoarded for ourselves.

5. USE ME (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, “…not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39, NIV). It’s the dangerous prayer of signing a blank check for your life and handing it over to God. This is a prayer of surrender. It says, “God…I am giving up all rights to my life.” It’s the prayer of the disciple who follows by taking up his cross daily and following unquestioningly.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

If Your Life Were a Song...

I enjoyed this video and I think you will too. It shows a little girl singing the song, "The Lord's Prayer." I thought of my life as a song to be sung. It is true that too many people come to the end of their lives with the song still in them. From this presentation, if your life is a song to be sung, here are some principles I thought about for singing your "song":

  • If you're going to sing - sing your song to the Lord.
  • If you're going to sing - sing your song with passion.
  • If you're going to sing - sing your song for as many people as possible.
  • If you're going to sing - finish big and strong

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

Today is our wedding anniversary. Rhonda and I have been married for 23 years. Clearly Rhonda hasn’t changed that much through these years. It is also obvious that I was only about fifteen years old when we got married.

We met at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. We were around each other but didn’t start dating until the Fall of 1983. The first time I asked Rhonda out…at church on a Wednesday night (what a great girl for a young guy who felt called to ministry…as a college student she was in church on a Wednesday night…she could also sing and play the piano) she said “yes” and then called back to say “no.” It took another month but I wore her down.

I while back Rhonda grabbed on to one of those teachable moments with our kids. It was all about dating and choosing someone to spend your life with. Rhonda waxed eloquent regarding the process she followed when dating. As a teenager she wrote down the qualities she was looking for in a husband and stood her ground until God led us together and she found those things she had set as standards (people have told her since she should have had much higher standards). The kids asked me, “How did you choose Mom? What attracted you to her?” I told them it was because she was hot. As it turns out…I’m not a very good parent.

We were married at First Baptist Church in Beeville, Texas. It was Rhonda’s hometown. Her father was the long-time minister of music at First Beeville. On a clear, cool Saturday afternoon in South Texas in 1985, we stood before a pastor on the platform of that church and committed our lives to each other before God, family, and friends.

There are plenty of choices I have made in my life. That is a choice I have never regretted. I said, “I do” and on this day…twenty-three years later… “I still do.” She is my wife and I love her more than ever. We are in this thing together. Being married to me takes a special portion of grace. Rhonda carries this burden well. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY RHONDA!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Joy Stealers

This afternoon our dog came walking into the living room with wet feet. We thought at first she had managed to get back into the house after the morning rain without getting her feet dried. Then we realized she hadn't been outside. The water was inside. One of our toilets had been running over...for a couple of hours.

Water went everywhere and ran along and under walls. The house will survive. It's nothing water extraction experts couldn't handle for a nice payday. Right now we have 10 blowers and two dehumidifiers running like jet engines in one end of our house. As a result, we've had to cancel our holiday plans to travel to see family.

In times like these, I find my joy reservoir leaking badly. I think about family travel plans for this week sidelined; schedules rearranged and now scrambled to make those family plans possible; the cost of repairs coming right after Christmas expenses; the inconvenience and still unknown impact of the damage. My joy begins to drain away.

I arrived at my office to prepare for Sunday morning preaching and worship with all these things pounding through my head. I took a deep breath and prayed a "soul-settling" prayer and asked the question, "What is your joy worth? Would you give it up for a calendar change? Would you give it up for some dollar amount? What is joy worth and what would you give it up for?"

My joy is too valuable to give up for any of these things. My Savior purchased my joy at too high a price for me to give it up so easily. Don't yield your joy to lesser things. It is a gift from God. "Be joyful always" (1 Thessalonians 5:16, NIV).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In this week of Christmas and looking on toward the new year, there are a good many things that inspire fear. Things like the uncertain economy, a new presidential administration and the change it will bring, personal and family struggles, hurts, and questions...all these things work to bring fear, worry, anxiety, stress to our already complicated lives. The Christmas season seems to magnify the troubles that already trouble us.

Into such a world, the Christmas story comes with a great word of hope and help. The Bible's consistent and resounding message is "fear not." In the biblical Christmas story, there are several “fear not’s” worth noting as well:

1. The “fear not” of salvation: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings...which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10,11).
2. The “fear not” of the humanly impossible: “Fear not, Mary, … the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: …For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:30, 35, 37).
3. The “fear not” of unanswered prayer: “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John” (Luke 1:13).
4. The “fear not” of immediate obedience: “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife. … Then Joseph … did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him” (Matthew 1:20,24 NPS).

To the shepherds on the night of Jesus' birth the angel said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11, NIV). Have a blessed Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Cats and Me

I have shared several times that I do not like cats. I believe they are evil. A friend sent me this link which gives reason for my feelings regarding felines. Also, worth noting is cats are not mentioned in the Bible (because they don't rate mentioning). Lions are acceptable and biblical.

Christmas Thoughts

Sunday in worship I told the traditional Christmas story and introduced the traditional Christmas characters found in most nativity scenes. There was Mary and Joseph, angels, shepherds, and wise men. We had a scene set up on stage of a stable and manger. As I told the story and introduced each key character or set of characters I invited (drafted) actors to come up on the stage. We used costumes from our Christmas musical to dress the characters and then they were positioned in the manger scene.

I sat on the platform as people were coming in for each service and wrote down names of potential "actors." None of them knew they would be asked to come up. There were nine people in our scene at each service. They were all good sports and came up to be costumed and positioned. Hopefully, they will all some day find it in their hearts to forgive me.

Reflecting on the day, the original "actors" in God's great drama of the birth of Christ didn't seek out their roles either. They were recruited/drafted into the story God was telling. Like my actors yesterday, they took steps of faith, not knowing where exactly the journey would lead. What the original set of nativity characters believed was that God was trustworthy. He still is.

When Mary was told by the angel that she would conceive and bear a son and she was to give Him the name, Jesus...even though she was still a virgin...Mary's response is amazing, especially for a teenage girl. She said, "I am the Lord's servants...May it be to me as you have said" (Luke 1:38, NIV). She just gave God a blank check for her life and signed it.

This Christmas I pray that as Christ-followers we would be as ready as the original actors in God's great drama to give God our "yes" and follow Him in faith. He deserves our all.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


One of the toughest things for me is keeping balance in my life. My tendency is to think too much about work at the church. I don't take my days off and vacation time allotted. Ultimately, I know it takes a toll on my effectiveness in my work and ministry.

For 2009, I am sharing some of my resolutions that strive toward better balance in my life. Here are a few things I am working toward in the New Year:

  • Take all my vacation time.

  • Develop better systems to protect my day off (Friday)

  • Establish a regular date night with Rhonda.

  • Spend alone time with each of my kids - breakfasts, trips, etc.

  • Do two personal retreats in 2009 for planning and spiritual focus.

  • Make at least two extra trips to see my parents in addition to family trips for such.

  • Go on fishing trip with friends this Spring.

  • Exercise six days a week (early).

  • Watch less TV and read more books outside work related stuff.

  • Read through the Bible in 2009 - NIV.

  • Journal consistently through the year.

  • Go to bed earlier and eat better (the second is a tough one).

Matthew 11:29 - Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rick Warren at Obama Inauguration

Pastor Rick Warren has been announced on the podium to pray for President-elect Barak Obama at his inaguration in January. This places Warren in a firestorm of conflict. he is up to the challenge but could certainly use our prayers. The following article by Al Mohler is an excellent presentation of the issues.

BBC NEWS | Americas | Shoes hurled at President Bush

BBC NEWS Americas Shoes hurled at President Bush

Dodging Shoes

It was an attempt at significant insult. To throw a shoe at a person and hit them for this reporter was to say, “You are beneath my shoe…and the filth it walks on.” I was also amazed by the guy’s rapid fire delivery of two shoes in such a short time. I was also proud of President Bush’s quick response time. It was a close call.

In different cultures there are different ways to insult your enemies. For most of us, insults can be delivered with more subtlety than a thrown shoe. We insult and demean people by ignoring them…as if they didn’t exist. We insult by sarcasm and criticism, mostly behind their backs, to influence negatively how others feel about them. For those closest to us, we know how best to inflict pain with our words. We know where the weak areas of their armor make them vulnerable. With surgical precision, we deliver our blows, one small cut at a time.

In a world where insult is the norm and is taken to great extremes Paul’s advice seems best for Christ-followers, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32, NIV).

Thankful for our Church Staff Team

Last night we had our staff Christmas party. It’s a large group of staff members and spouses these days. We had a fun evening. I arrived having come from a funeral home. It was family visitation night, prior to the funeral today. I walked through family and friends gathered in the funeral home and made my way to the son and then the daughter of our church member who had died. I visited with them and then made my way to the husband. He is a believer but was not a member of our church. All three of them told me the same thing I hear often at such gatherings, “Thank you for all you have done and are doing.”

I am the “front guy” for a lot of things that happen at our church. I hear those “thank you” words often from people. I told each of those folks last night the same thing I say in response often, “WE are glad to help…be of ministry…serve.” I say “We” because today I thank the Lord for our church staff team and all they do. Coming off of Christmas Celebration or Vacation Bible School or any given Sunday…it is a team effort – a “we” effort. Thank you God for the church staff team You have assembled to accomplish Your purposes at First Baptist Church.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Is Jesus the Only Way?

In USA Today this morning, the article began, "Most American religious believers, including most Christians, say eternal life is not exclusively for those who accept Christ as their savior, a new survey finds. Of the 65% of people who held this open view of heaven's gates, 80% named at least one non-Christian group — Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists or people with no religion at all — who may also be saved, according to a new survey released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life."
One of the clearly defining issues of our time is the exclusivity of Christ...the idea that Jesus is the only way of salvation. This view has become particularly offensive to many in our pluralistic culture. So many wish to believe truth is relative and regardless of what people believe, if they believe, or choose to disbelieve - everyone will go to heaven.
There are certain arguments for those who do not claim to believe or trust the Bible. God's truth still stands and there are issues to discuss with this group. The other group is made up of those who say they believe the Bible yet deny what it teaches clearly. Those are the ones who most disturb me in the USA Today article. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me" (John 14:6). A person either believes the Bible is true or that it is not. In the Bible, Jesus is the only way of salvation - forgiveness of sin, relationship to God and eternal life.
Such exclusive claims make us uncomfortable. In the Bible we find that most contact with Almighty God makes people uncomfortable. It also makes them what God created them to be. God is good. He has made a way. He only asks that we follow His Way - Jesus.