Archive for March, 2008

31
Mar
08

One More Thought on Prayer

Back to last Friday’s blog. Or should I say, back to the aforementioned Tuesday when God spoke so loudly to me.

I record this question in my journal:  I am not praying enough, am I Father?

You could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather.  His response was not necessary.  The silence was vociferous.  I knew the answer.  I was not nor had I been prayerful enough for a long, long time.

And what was the number one culprit to my prayerlessness?

Ouch.  Here I go.  I am hitting the transparency button.

Of the things I loved in the world, one of the biggest loves was my television combined with the surround sound system that dominated a corner of my “man room”.

  • Too much ESPN?  Guilty.  So, I repented.
  • Too much FOX NEWS?  Blameworthy.  So, I relented.
  • Too much HISTORY CHANNEL?  Culpable.  So, I apologized.
  • Too much HGTV?  Liable.  So, I surrendered.
  • Not enough time for prayer?  Convicted.  So, I said I was sorry.

Question: how much is prayer is enough prayer?

Short answer: more than I pray now!

Long answer: true prayer begins when what matters most to us is what matters most to God.

When we pray, we typically pray about stuff that matters to us.  Don’t get me wrong.  What matters to us, matters to God.  Yet can’t we agree, not everything that matters to us matters?  I am dead serious.  Not everything is worthy of prayer.

I know we are commanded to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6), but not everything is necessarily needful of prayer. I understand if someone disagrees.  All I am saying is that we can get caught up in a lot of stuff that does not count in the big picture.

There are some things I pray about, that afterwards humor me.  Do any of you ever do that?  Do you ever laugh about what you pray about?  That is not to say these things are unimportant.  It is just that not everything that I want to pray about is worth praying about.

So, what is the solution?  How do we conqueror the concern of not enough prayer?

I am so glad you asked.

This is what I am working on.

1.  I am asking God the Father to teach me how to pray. 

Luke records:

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”

Luke 14:1

Be honest.  Do we really know how to pray?  Do we know all there is to prayer?  Do we ever think we master the art and science of prayer?

2.  I pray until I have nothing else to say and then I listen for what God has to say.

It is okay to pray about anything and everything.  What matters to us, truly matters to God.  Surely not everything matters, however.  Try mentioning every need you can think of, and then wait to see what God does next.  I think God likes it when we are speechless before Him.

Do you remember what Romans 8:26 says?

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Now that is some kind of prayer partner!

3.  I practice praying during my day. 

When someone’s name or face crosses your mind, learn to for them at that moment.  When someone asks you to pray for them, stop and pray at that moment, not later.

How many of you love this little kernel of truth?

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

Now that’s a three point creed to embracing life.

There is so much more I could write.  I will stop here so as not to belabor the three remaining lessons.  By the way, have you been reading any good books lately?  Tomorrow, we tackle the question of do I read enough?  Until then, read on.

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28
Mar
08

Not Enough Prayer

[DISCLAIMER: I apologize for taking three days for delivering this next segment.  It has been a busy 72 hours.  Not too busy to pray, however.  By the way, let me give kudos to my new blog manager Jonathan Howe.  Jonathan is Beth Howe’s husband.  Beth is CrossPoint’s Children’s Minister, which means, Jonathan is now one of two CrossPoint male “staff wives”.  Ha!  I will tell you more about Jonathan in a later blog.  Jonathan is a team player.  Now back to the lessons I have learned from my television fast.]

For review, one particular morning God drops four bombs on me:

  • Heat seeking missile #1: I do not pray enough.
  • Bomb #2: I do not study enough.
  • Ballistic weapon #3: I do not read enough.
  • Rocket #4: I do not think enough.

This air raid lands on me now that I have more time away from the television.

It is a Tuesday.  Tuesdays are always full days.  Staff meetings consume the morning.  Lunch is with someone—a staff member, part of the staff, or, once a month, the entire staff.  The afternoon is full of scheduled appointments from 2:30 until 6:30 PM.  The day draws toward an end when I call CrossPoint’s first-time guests from the previous weekend.  Then it is off to home by 8:00 PM or later.  Supper awaits me, and soon thereafter I am in bed.  Tuesday is a frenetic day.

This particular Tuesday morning I have been praying and reading my Bible for more than a few minutes.  I hear the clock in my study chime 8 times.  “Didn’t it just strike 7:00?” I ask myself.  I should be leaving for the office.

I sit in silence.

The Lord calms me.  He reassures me it is okay to wait a few more minutes before I walk out the door to embrace my day. I have exhausted my requests.  Surprisingly, there is nothing else to say.  The moment is about to become salient.  Even though I am in a rush, I am compelled to stay.

I pray (and write in my journal), “Father, now that You know everything that is on my mind, what do you want to talk about?”

I wait.

I am reminded of 1 John 2:15-17.

“Why 1 John 2:15-17,” I wonder.

I shuffle the pages.

John records,

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

It has been a while since I have been here.  I read it again, only this time slower.  I read it a third and a fourth time.  I work on memorizing it from the English Standard Version.

Then I ask, “What in the world do I love?”  I state one particular sentence out loud: “if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”  I write the passage in my journal.  I direct the question to my Father.  Again, I ask, “What in the world do I love?”

Again, I wait.  Strange enough, I am not in a hurry.

Something happens.  It takes me several minutes, but I arrive at a central point in prayer.  I remember how much prayer matters.  Now, instead of talking to God I am listening to God.  Instead of expressing my concerns, I am asking what concerns Him.  Prayer is no longer about me.  Prayer is about God.  What a novel thought.

And there is my lesson: prayer is not about me; prayer is about God.

Let’s pick up on one or two more thoughts next Monday.  I plan to give some application to how to know if and when you are praying enough.  I hope you have a great weekend.  Keep praying.

25
Mar
08

Not Enough

It is early.  No one else my house is awake.  I am in my study.  I am thinking.

I am making personal notes in my journal.  This I call “thinking on paper”.  My pondering includes reflections from the absence of television.

Clarity comes to mind.  So, I write “clarity” across the top of the journal page.  From that point my considering accelerates, and my hand excitedly records insights.

The result of the clarity “thinking session” produces four insights.

DISCLAIMER: I just hit the transparency button in my heart.  I realize anything I write can or will be used against me.  I trust the Lord uses these thoughts in your personal spiritual growth in Christ.

I wrestle with four judgments:

  1. I do not pray enough.
  2. I do not study enough.
  3. I do not read enough.
  4. I do not think enough.

At the bottom of the journal page I write:

Television is dumb.  It is dim-witted.  The commercials are silly.  Sitcoms are meaningless.   Reality shows are nothing but fantasy.  The news broadcasts is little more than a political propaganda industry.  Television produces imprudence in me.  The sitcoms feed my ignorance.  The reality shows add to my abysmal ignorance.  And the news makes me dense.

If you will allow me, I want to expound on each of the previously mentioned lessons.

Tomorrow we begin with not praying enough.  After that we will work our way through not studying, reading or thinking enough.  Believe me this will be more painful for me than it will be for you.  Transparency always makes me uneasy.

Until then, pray continually.

24
Mar
08

Continuing the Experiment

My hiatus from television continues.  For those of you who do not know, I gave up watching the “idiot box” more than a month ago.  A fast from the tube is one of the best decisions I have made in a long, long time.

I thought March Madness (NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament) would hoodwink me back into primetime viewing.  However, I was not the least bit interested in catching any of the games.  Football season, however, which is just over 150 days away, may be another story.

On a funny note about the NCAA tournament, Steve Parr, CrossPoint’s Executive Pastor, radioed me last Thursday evening.  Since he knew I gave up the tube he alerted me to catch the final minute of the Duke vs. Belmont basketball game.  I switched it on just in time to see the last thirty seconds.

I am sure it was an exciting game, but I just was not interested in watching it or any other game. I say that even though I consider myself a Duke Blue Devil fan.   As soon as the game clock expired, I switched off the set.  That was a good decision.

My family chided me about my new adventure during Easter lunch.  I was the brunt of their jokes.  They were convinced I was way out of the entertainment loop since all I do now is read books.  Of all things, imagine reading instead of watching TV.  I challenged them to give it up for a month.  Even with a bride, there was a lot of talking, but no taking.

My house was full of kid’s friends Sunday evening.  Some were in my man room downstairs.  Others were in our den, and still more were in the kitchen.  Restless from Resurrection Day, I retreated to our bedroom.  My mind was too fatigued to read, I clicked on the television to catch some news or sports.  Wow, was that humorous.

In less than 5 minutes I had scanned 15 different news channels, and what did my surfing produce: nothing!  Not one thing interested me.  It was so empty.  It was silly.  Most of it was mundane.  Even the commercials were purposeless.  “Why does this junk appeal to us?” I asked out loud.  And that is when the idea of this blog hit me.

This week I desire to write a little about television.  No, change that.  This week I desire to write about the benefits of not watching television.

I trust you will “tune in” tomorrow as I begin with an exercise God gave me one evening.

21
Mar
08

What about the word “church”?

There are two words in the Greek New Testament for church.

The first word is derived from kuriakos, which means “of or belonging to the Lord.”

The second word for church in the New Testament is ekklesia.  The word means “called out ones.”

So, the word church can mean “of or belonging to the Lord” or “called out ones.”

Many people refer to the church as a building.  Others think of the church as a denomination.  Some view it as just another man-made, man-centered institution.

When the bible speaks of the church it uses metaphors, or word-pictures.  In CrossPoint’s membership class we present four biblical metaphors that describe the church.

1.  The church is a FELLOWSHIP.

Acts 2:42 teaches,

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

The first-century believers were devoted to THE fellowship.  Fellowship, simply defined, is a bunch of fellows in a ship moving in the same direction.  Every individual has a job, and every job serves to keep the ship moving in one direction.

2.  The church is a BODY.

Paul instructs,

4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:

Romans 12:4-6

The church functions like a body.  Each part of the body has a different role.  No part is more important than the other.  Each part functions for the common good of the entire body, the church.

1 Corinthians 12 describes a more detailed explanation of the church as a body:

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.  14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

1 Corinthians 12:12-20

3.  The church is a FAMILY.

Check out this instruction to the church:

1 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father. Treat younger men like brothers, 2 older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity.

1 Timothy 5:1-2

Did you catch the four family members listed—father, brothers, mothers and sisters. We are the family of God.

One of the requirements for me to serve as your pastor is as follows:

4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

1 Timothy 3:4-5

We are the family of God, and the pastor of a church must be a family man in order to effectively lead the church.

4.  The church is FLOCK.

This was Jesus’ favorite term for the church.  He was fond of calling us sheep.

Check out what Jesus instructed Peter to do after He restored Peter to the ministry:

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”  16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

John 21:15-17

Feed my lambs…Tend my sheep…Feed my sheep…the church is the flock of God.  We are sheep being led by the Good Shepherd.

By the way, “sheep” is not a very flattering term.  Sheep are stupid.  Sheep stink.  Perhaps the message is until we are born-again in Christ, we are stupid and we stink.  That is another message for another time.

Here is the bottom line of today’s entry: the church is not what we make it to be, the church is what God’s Word says it is.  How much healthier would the church be today if it followed God’s instructions instead of man’s?

19
Mar
08

what is the church

If we are going to discuss the church, then first we must ask is, “What is the church?”

To adequately answer that question, we must examine what Jesus said in Matthew’s Gospel account:

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Matthew 16:13-20

This is the first time Jesus mentions the church during His earthly ministry. The only other time is a few sentences later in Matthew 18. Through this conversation Jesus sets into motion the birth of His church.

Let me identify three simple observations about this birth announcement.

First, Jesus is the OWNER of the church. He tells Peter, “…and on this rock I will build MY church” (emphasis added).

I know you have heard me say this one thousand times. Now for one thousand and one: this is not your church, the church belongs to Jesus. Jesus is the Author, Founder and Sustainer of the church. He died for the church. He was buried for the church. He came back to life for the church. The church belongs to Jesus Christ.

Second, Jesus is the BUILDER of the church.

Again, Jesus tells Peter, “…and on this rock I will BUILD my church” (emphasis added).

Cultural relevance, novelty or innovation is not the secret to church growth. It is the Lord who causes the church to grow. There are plenty of creative people in this world, with new, imaginative and sometimes distorted thoughts or ideas about the church. Creativity or ingenuity, however, is not the mark of a true church. Neither is a crowd or big buildings or a lot of money the mark of a true church. And let me add, just because a “church” is drawing a crowd does not necessarily mean the church is growing. You can get a crowd to show up for a circus. The true church grows because the Lord Jesus decides for the church to grow.

Third, the church is built on a COMMON CONFESSION.

Notice what Peter said in response to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16).

There are all kinds of people in the church. There are seekers. There are sneakers. There are lost people. There are saved people. There are disobedient people. There are obedient people. The church is full of different kinds of people. Yet those who are really a part of the church are those who CONFESS Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

Jesus explains how Peter, and for that matter, how anyone else arrives at that confession:

And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 16:17

There is something supernatural that must take place in the life of a believer in order for them to become a member of God’s church. That supernatural act is not a matter of joining the church, walking an aisle, praying a prayer or being baptized. The supernatural event is act performed by God, and it includes being born-again. Only a born-again, blood-blood, Spirit-filled believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ can be a member of God’s family known as the church.

Tomorrow we pick up the word CHURCH and how it is used in Scripture.

18
Mar
08

inviting people to church

In talking church yesterday we learned that Barna concluded:

“The best chance of getting the Unattached to a church is when someone they know and trust personally invites them, offers to accompany them, and they believe the service will address an issue or need they are struggling with at that moment.”

I tested the waters on two UNATTACHED friends. I invited them to CrossPoint for Resurrection Day. I conduct business with them periodically and they know I am a pastor. That is, they know now that I am a pastor. Both people knew me for almost a year before they discovered my profession. You would be amazed how people clam up when they learn I am a preacher of the Gospel. Thankfully these two had aired so much dirty laundry before me they remained transparent.

The invitation was simple. I started the conversation by asking, “Where do you plan to go to church for Easter?”

The conversation lasted thirty minutes. My UNATTACHED friends provided every excuse in the book as to why they would not attend. By the end of the conversation, however, they were promising me they would be there on Sunday.
I wonder what would happen if every CrossPointer invited just one person a week to worship with us.

Last evening I called our first-time guest from Sunday. I enjoy making these calls because I learn a lot in my conversations.

One guest said something that really pleased me. When I asked, “What brought you to CrossPoint?” she mentioned two CrossPointers from work who have continued to invite her.

She said, “They talk so much about your church I decided to see if what they said was true.” When I asked what she thought of CrossPoint, she said, “My husband and I loved it, and we will be back.”

Now that is a good conversation.

I have found this to be true. One, it is simple and easy to invite someone to church. Two, no one has yet to reject me when I invite them. Three, most people open up and speak more about church once you’ve invited them. Finally, I make you this pledge: if you invite someone to CrossPoint they will definitely be exposed to the Gospel no matter what.

As we talk about CHURCH the next few days let’s think and pray about who we should invite to CHURCH.