Learning from the Prayers of Others 

I know that we are not supposed to pray for the benefit of others, but the prayers of others can teach us so much. There are men and women of God throughout history who prayed some powerful prayers. 

I encourage you to begin with the prayers recorded in Scripture – prayers prayed by Jabez, Daniel, Nehemiah, Job, Paul, but most importantly Jesus. Study the prayer lives of others who are a little closer to our day like Charles Spurgeon, Oswald Chambers, and David Jeremiah. Their books have taught me so much on prayer. 

I want to close with this one I heard as a 15-year old in church. I’m not a fan of reading prayers publicly on a constant basis, but this and so many more can teach us how to pray the way God wants us to pray.

Asking God for More? Here are a few things to consider.

This morning, I preached on the prayer of Jabez from I Chronicles 4. For those of us who know it, our favorite part is “expand my territory”. I have prayed that many times in my life, and God has answered it in different ways. God did teach me a couple of things about territory expansion.

  • God will only give us what He can trust us with. Want more money? Are you responsible with the money you have now? Want a different job? Are you giving your best where you currently work? Why do you want more when you’re not faithful with what you have? Don’t live as if the grass is greener on the other side. Make the grass greener where you are.
  • Expect opposition. The opposition will come in various forms. The devil hates progress, especially if it is the advancement of God’s kingdom. Don’t be surprised when the devil tries to thwart God’s plan. It’s a pretty good indicator that you are headed in the right direction.

Before you ask God for more, assess yourself. Focus on personal improvement for the glory of God. Then God will expand your territory because He knows you are serious about doing it His way.

Meeting God in the “Why?”

Throughout my life, I have asked a series of whys. Today was one of those days. This morning, a tragedy that hit close to home has thrown my family for a loop. Death comes to us all, but not all of us experience it tragically. It seems so surreal. I know that those who were closer to this individual are asking more whys than I am, and I am praying that they find God in the whys.

As you read throughout Scripture, you will see many men and women of God asking that question. Don’t let some self-righteous person guilt-trip you for asking God “Why?” He delights in giving you His perspective. It is in these times that we seek Him more. 

In 2012-2013, I asked God this question often. Why am I experiencing anxiety? Why is my family falling apart? Why didn’t you let me have a hip condition instead of my son? Why is ministry as I know it about to be over? Through all this, I found God in the whys.

Maybe you are asking God “Why?” today. If you seek Him, you will find Him. May this song encourage you.

Waging War

This post will be a big strong, so you might want to put your big boy/girl pants on if you’re easily offended. Maybe you are part of a Christian denomination that downplays spiritual warfare, and this will be uncomfortable to you. If you are a true follower of Christ, some things ought to bother you. I’m not about to get political or rant on a particular sin. That is a waste of time. I do want to provoke us all to do what we are supposed to do and fight the good fight of faith.

If you are a Christian, you are a soldier. The Bible says so in 2 Timothy. So why do we “chillax” when all hell is breaking loose around us? We legislate morality to pastors and small group leaders. We let the schools raise our children while we think about ourselves and what we want when they are home, yet we wonder why society is what it has become. We talk about evil and how bad everything is, but we haven’t waged war against the enemy. We know enough Scripture to fill up 30 seconds of time if we are lucky, we pray about as long as a commercial, then we wonder why we don’t have victory over the devil. Are we figuring it out yet? God has given us all the tools we need, yet we are the most biblically illiterate society. Shame on us! Even I need to step up my game! 

Here’s the problem! We are not sick enough of it to really do something about it. If we were, we would be doing it. When people really want to lose weight, they change their eating habits and exercise. When people want financial improvement, they get a better or second job and cut costs. Don’t believe the lie that things won’t get better! We must take some initiative and watch God honor our obedience. God doesn’t work the way we work, so don’t expect it to make sense. Spend enough time in Scripture and you’ll see what I mean.

So, are you sick and tired of the way things are? There is one thing to do – WAGE WAR!

Pastor Appreciation

October is designated as Pastor Appreciation Month. The people of Overcomers honored me today since my birthday was this past Tuesday. They blessed me and always bless me more than they will ever know. That’s why I want to point out a few things.

  1. Behind every great pastor is a great church body. I could not do what I do without the labor of the people of Overcomers. They set up, tear down, faithfully participate, do anything that is needed, and make Sundays, weeknight Bible studies, and outreach events the best they can be. I am able to do what I do because of God’s power and the faithfulness of our people.
  2. Behind every great pastor is a great spouse. A spouse can make or break a ministry. I’m thankful for a wife who believes in me, encourages me, and wants me to be my absolute best. She gives me the freedom to minister as necessary, yet I do my best to make sure I give my family adequate attention. 
  3. Behind every great pastor is great children. My kids are not perfect, but they believe in the ministry and what God has called me to do. They serve, give, and tell me I preached great even if I flopped. Truthfully, they are honest if they didn’t connect with the message.

I am not saying I am a great pastor by any means. There are those who pastor much better than I do, but I am not called to be them and they are not called to be me. I operate within my area of giftedness and try to surround myself with those who possess strengths which I do not possess.

Bottom line – I am honored to be used of God the way He uses me. Pastors, you are privileged. Not because you deserve it but because God chose to do something through a weak vessel like you and me. While I am encouraging churches to express appreciation to their pastors and families regularly, I encourage pastors to express appreciation to their people regularly. We are co-laborers and could not pull this off alone.

Three. Simple. Words.

By the title, our minds could go a million placing trying to guess which three words I may address. I am actually going to address two sets of three words. We do not often hear these from others. These phrases are “I am sorry” and “I was wrong”. Both phrases are necessary in all relationships of life.

  1. Say them to your spouse. If you truly mean it and follow through with behavior change, these words will tear down walls that destroy many marriages.
  2. Say them to your children. You might think that that is a sign of weakness. I have had to tell my kids I was wrong and ask their forgiveness. I had their respect more than I would have by pretending I was right in my error.
  3. Say them to your coworkers. I had to do this as the leader of music ministries and as a pastor. The people under my leadership were quicker to follow my leadership when I owned up to my error or lack of leadership in a particular scenario. If you offend a coworker or mess up, get it right. You often spend more time with them than you do your own family. If you strut around like you do no wrong, you will kill workplace morale. Don’t compromise the future of your employment or the company by letting pride get in the way. 

I have dealt with people who admitted their wrongs and those who did not. Do you know who I respected? The ones who pointed their fingers back at themselves rather than pass the buck. Bigger than that, who do you think honors God more? Think about that one for a minute.

Cherish the Little Things

Due to years of living in various places and pouring my life into the churches where I served, I never really found a place to call home. It wasn’t until 2014 that I realized I would plant in Upstate South Carolina. I am an only child, so I began to invite my parents to live in the area. My mom took me up on it. My dad visits a few times a year. In fact, he is here until Monday night. With changes in their health, I try to cherish the memories of the past and make good memories now. 

Many of us rush through life. If you’re like me, you worry through it. You worry about your finances. You worry about your family. You know God will take care of it, but you worry anyway.

While you are worrying, the devil is robbing you of moments when you could be enjoying your children and spouse, friends, other family, and most importantly enjoying the Lord and recognizing His blessings.

Jesus reminded the crowd who was listening to the sermon on the mount that God takes care of the flowers and birds. Will He not take care of human beings who are created in His image?

When you are tempted to worry, stop and remember that God has always been faithful. He will always take care of your needs. Cherish every little thing, because you may not have it tomorrow.

Which Way Do I Go?

As I announced to our congregation last week that we would be meeting at a different location beginning in November, I knew that God is in this. Today, I drove around looking at potential meeting places. At the end of the day, I have a few leads but nothing concrete. The one thing I had to do was pray as I drove around. I kept asking God where to turn. He showed me every turn and revealed to me the radius where we are supposed to stay. It was an exercise of dependence upon God.

What did I learn from it? I realized I do not depend upon God enough. I discovered that I walk in my own knowledge and strength frequently when I need to be praying and seeking God’s direction through the Scriptures and by His Spirit.

Maybe you are asking which way you need to go in life. You’re faced with decisions such as who to marry, which house to buy, where to go to college, or which investments you should or should not make. God guides these decisions as much as He does anything else. These things matter to Him. 

Romans 12:1-2 give some guidance in discerning God’s will. First, we must present ourselves as living sacrifices that are holy and acceptable to Him. We must come to Him in complete surrender as if we are handing God a blank sheet of paper. In the process, we are to be holy and acceptable to Him. Sin keeps us from discerning God’s will. Holiness helps us be in good fellowship with Him.

The second thing God says is to stop conforming to the ways of the world. The world tries to figure things out without God. The world’s “wisdom” is not wisdom. It is misguided direction that will lead you astray.

The third thing He says is to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. God must change the way you think to align with His ways. When you do these three things and test it, you will know the will of God.

Are you wondering which way to go? He will show you. But you must discover it His way.

I’ll close with this clip. It’s from an old cartoon. The question in the clip is “Which way did he go?” The Truth is that God doesn’t move. We do. We must seek Him.

Birthday Pondering

As I wrap up this 37th anniversary of my birth, I have contemplated many things. I don’t want to glory in past accomplishments but rather look ahead to a bright and glorious future. My life has been less than perfect, but God uses all kinds of people in His big redemption story.

Earlier this evening, I watched a message from the late John Osteen who founded Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. When I was very hardened toward evangelical Christianity around 1996, I saw the old Lakewood telecast and saw the truth preached passionately yet lovingly. I didn’t realize until many years ago that he, like I, went through a divorce. It was even more taboo back then. He married Dodie Osteen, and they ministered beautifully together until his death in 1999. In the message I watched, he was preaching about his 75th birthday and how he would consecrate himself anew in some areas.

I am only about halfway to 75, but I want to consecrate myself afresh and anew in these areas. If you can set aside some time to watch this message, I encourage you to watch and consecrate yourself anew to the Lord and His purpose for your life.