Tag Archives: prayer

Ministry is Hard

Ministry is hard, sometimes.

Often, people see the fun things that ministers get to do. They get to visit with families and laugh and play. They get invited to hunt and fish. They get to set their own hours. They eat with people, a lot.

Some people think that preachers only work Sundays and Wednesdays. This is NOT true. Most weeks, ministers work some part of every day. Not because they choose to, but because they are needed, and unless they are deep in the backwoods somewhere, they are reachable. And, because ministers are in it to serve God and others, they say, “Yes!”, even on their days off, and in many ways, they enjoy serving in this way.

But sometimes ministry is hard.

When you live a long way from home, and your loved one is dying, and you have to choose whether or not to go see him before he dies, ministry is hard.

When you invest time upon time into the life of another, only to see them turn from the ways of Jesus, ministry is hard.

When your friend dies, and you are called upon to do his funeral, ministry is hard.

When someone in the community asks you to do a funeral for someone who didn’t have a relationship with Jesus, ministry is hard.

When you show people the ways of the scripture, but they choose to continue in their traditions instead of with freedom in Christ, ministry is hard.

When you watch children spending time with their extended family who lives nearby, while yours only see their extended family during vacation time, ministry is hard.

When your job security is a certain as the emotional state of the church, ministry is hard.

But ministry is fulfilling.

It is wonderful to see lives change. It brings great joy to help others understand the love of Christ in the Scriptures. It is wonderful to have forever family that you can lean on in hard times and in celebratory times. It is great to have the freedom to do ministry when needed and not be confined to an office.

There are many perks to being in full-time ministry, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Pray for your minister. I know this may sound selfish since I’m a minister, but encourage him. Let him know he’s wanted. Let him know his place is secure. Treat him like your brother, and not as an outsider or hired hand. Invite him and his family to lunch or dinner or an outing instead of waiting for him to invite you. Get to know him.

Encourage his family. Often, his wife and kids are left to fend for themselves while he serves everyone else. The preacher’s kid syndrome is real, and many ministers lose their kids to the world because of how the kids grow up seeing the church treat their dad. Let the family of your minister know how valuable they are, not as helpers for the church, but as brothers and sisters who are beloved.

When you treat your minister well, you will find he has renewed strength to soar in the Spirit as he works to serve and teach and lead in the church.

I’m glad to be a minister, working for the LORD, and serving the church and community.

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God Doesn’t Care…UNLESS…

Have you every talked to your children about their future?

When I’ve talked to my kids, or even youth group members for which I was the youth minister (these are still ‘my kids”), I have been encouraging in my discussion with them. There are the obvious warnings, like staying away from drugs, keeping yourself pure for marriage, and staying away from credit cards. But in every conversation, I usually get around to saying, “it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as your relationship with God is strong and your guiding force.”

Have you ever said something like this? Has anyone ever said that to you?

The basic premise of this concept is that no matter what happens, as long as your relationship with God is intact, you will be OK.

I believe this concept wholeheartedly.

However, our culture regarding God has treated that relationship as if it is different than it truly is. We treat our relationship with God as if God cares tremendously about what job we pick, what school we go to, or whether or not we have a cold.

In trivial, temporal matters, God doesn’t care.

Before you throw me out, hear me out. I’m not saying God doesn’t care about us. God cares tremendously about each and every one of us. God wants us to care about Him and Our relationship with Him. But in this relationship, our perspective of what is important is often different than God’s perspective.

If you’re praying to God about what job you should choose or what career path you should travel, God cares more about the Kingdom and your contentment. Will you rely on and follow God in whatever career you choose? If the answer is “yes”, then it doesn’t matter to God which path you choose.

If you’re praying to God about what school to attend or what to name your child or who to marry, the question God seems to be asking instead is “will you honor Me no matter what?”

God is much more concerned with how you treat others and your involvement in the Kingdom and connection to Him forever than about some temporary thing…UNLESS…

UNLESS you are overcome with anger because of your own pride.

UNLESS you are overcome with a disgruntled spirit because you cannot find contentment in God.

UNLESS you stop loving those around you and yourself because you allow others to overshadow your relationship with God.

UNLESS you are in danger of leaving God altogether.

In these cases, God cares very much. He has sent His Spirit to live in us to help us overcome these temptations in ourselves and in our brothers and sisters around us.

If you want to know what God cares about, look at the kinds of prayers the church prayed in the Bible. Look at the answers given.

God cares about your boldness in the Holy Spirit to spread the message about His love for all people.

God cares about your love for others that drives away fear in spite of intimidating circumstances.

God cares about your salvation and theirs too.

God cares about the growth of His Kingdom of love.

Your cold? Only if it keeps you from doing His work. Your cancer? Only if it distracts you from the great promise you’ve been given in Jesus. Your job? Only if it has the potential of enticing you to leave Him.

When we begin to pray for things that God is concerned about, then we will see God use us in ways we never dreamed. Until then, we may get disgruntled when we pray for some temporal thing unrelated to the Kingdom, and God seemingly doesn’t answer. It’s all a matter of perspective. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and stop worrying about temporal things (Matthew 6) for godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6).


Prayer is Not the Answer

Lately there have been several news outlets and celebrities giving people a hard time for sending “thoughts and prayers” to victims of tragedies and friends who are undergoing hard times. Just this week I saw that Chris Pratt was being ridiculed for praying for another celebrity who was overcoming a heart attack. People have been ridiculing Christians for saying they are praying for the victims of the school shootings. They claim prayer doesn’t work.

And they’re right.

Sometimes.

For many Christians, there is a desire to do something, or there is a call for change, and the immediate reaction is to pray. This is a great response!! Who better to go to in times of need than the one who created the universe?!

But, it seems there are three types of people in the camp of those who send well wishes through touted prayer.

1. The person who says they will pray but doesn’t.

I don’t blame them.

There are a lot of things going on every day. Sometimes it’s hard to pray. What if God isn’t pleased with me? Will my prayers even matter? I don’t have the right words. I’m a weak pray-er.

Really? These excuses do not come from the Spirit of God who lives in you who have devoted your life to Christ. These excuses come from your adversary, the accuser (Satan).

However, if you’re not praying regularly, you will never get better at praying, and it will continue to be easy to say “I’ll pray for you” and never actually do it.

Of course this kind of prayer is not the answer.

2. The person who says they will pray and does.

This group is devoted to trying to help another person through prayer. They are genuine in their statement that they will pray. This group is actively trying to do what is right, but even this group is divided in results.

2a. The person who prays that God will do something.

This is a common prayer, right? “God, please do something about violence in school, or my dying grandmother, or my upcoming test.” We pray to God for many things, and we wonder why those things are not being resolved as quickly as we think they should.

There was once a man who wanted to win the lottery. He prayed and prayed to God to let him win the lottery. The lottery came and went, and he was just as broke, so he prayed once more, “Why didn’t you let me win the lottery?” Then he heard a voice from heaven saying, “You have to buy a ticket first.”

When we pray for God to do something, He wants to act, but the way in which God acts most frequently is through us, people, His children. So many people want God to fix our society, and they hope He’ll use someone else to do it. Many people say “something should be done about this” while looking around the room for someone else to do it.

Perhaps God isn’t moving, and the prayers aren’t working, because He wants to use you, but you aren’t willing to be used.

2b. The person who prays for God to use them to do something.

Much less comfortable than the regular “God, do something” prayer is the one that expects God to use the pray-er through whom He will answer the prayer. If we are praying for God to change the moral culture of our society, we need to look for how God wants to use us to do it. If we pray for someone to be comforted, we should be willing to go comfort.

When we have the attitude of surrender to God for Him to work through us to resolve the issues about which we pray, we will find God working in mighty and effective ways to do just that.

So, prayer is not the answer, entirely. Prayer is the medium through which we seek God’s will for how He wants to use us to be the answer to the very prayers we pray.


Thoughts on Thievery 


Twice this week our church building has been broken into. I’m frustrated.

I talk week in and week out about love, but when times like these come they test our resolve to love.

What should our response be in times like these? Should we seek justice? Should we roll over like a rug mat?

It’s hard to think straight. I feel violated having someone in my office, uninvited, rifling through my desk. Fortunately nothing of high value was stolen. Fortunately no one was hurt. But now there’s this uneasiness I feel in the area. I felt this same way years ago when my car was broken into in California.

It seems so cliche, but how would Jesus respond?

Things are things. People are created in the image of God. They are loved by Him. Their lives are valuable to Him. He yearns for their salvation.

Jesus would pray first. He wouldn’t verbally try to process things and get worked into a froth first like I often tend to do. He would pray first to find his source of strength and center.

He would pray for the salvation of the thieves. He would pray for love to abound in himself that they might know God through the undeserved love of the Son. He would pray for an opportunity to love them directly in word and deed.

Would He seek justice? Only if that would lead to their repentance.

Would he spend money on surveillance and security systems? It’s hard to tell. I’m not sure Jesus would be very concerned about a church building at all. Sometimes ownership of stuff distracts from the more meaningful purposes in life.

Are church buildings a good investment? In this culture they seem to be. We are much more urbanized than in centuries past. The closer the people are together, the larger the gatherings tend to be. The larger the gatherings, the greater the need for a gathering place. And it’s cold outside. Very cold. I’m thankful for a warm place to get together with my forever family.

Jesus came to this earth and functioned within the current religious and social culture of the day. I think he would do the same today – church buildings and all.

So, what is our response when we who are striving to live for Christ are violated in such a way? Pray. Pray for the people who broke in to find love and freedom from sin in Christ. Pray for ourselves that we may find peace and lose our need for vindication. Pray to see through the eyes of Christ and love with His heart and His Spirit within us.

May God bring life-change to those who broke into our building. May God bring a forgiving Spirit to our hearts and allow us to be an example to the rest of our community and the world. May God be glorified in all things.

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.


You Get What You Ask For

Be careful what you pray for. You might just get it. 

When we pray, we are encouraged to pray for what we want and to be willing to follow the will of God whatever the outcome. But what if the will of God isn’t what He gives us? What if He gives us what we wanted even if that means he has to work a different outcome?

God had a plan for Israel, but they wanted a king, so he gave them one. It wasn’t exactly pleasant for the Israelites, but they got what they wanted, and eventually God worked out His will for them anyway. 

We just voted in a new president. Many churches prayed for the outcome of his election. Many Christians prayed specifically for Trump to win, but is that what the church needed? 

The American church is weak. The American church largely functions like a 40 year old bible nerd that still lives in his mom’s basement. 

Where is evangelism? Where are wonderful works of the Holy Spirit? Where are those strong in the faith who are able to speak truth without fear of their fellow man? Where are the “greater things than these” that Jesus promised we’d do?

Yes, there are preachers and some Christians who function this way, but this is not the norm. 

If the American church functions largely to put on Sunday morning bible classes and worship assemblies, then she has missed the call of the New Testament. 

The American church is full of people who claim to be Christians but don’t even know what Christ said about how to live. They look just like the world and cower at the concept of being blunt enough to tell others about the dangers of sin and the need for a savior. They don’t want to be seen as religious “nuts” and work hard to be cool according to the world’s standards. 

When has the church been strong? The church was strong under the persecution of the Jews, Pagans, and Romans in the first three centuries. The church is still strong in places where persecution is more than just a hateful glance or derogatory comment. The church is strong where there are threats of prison and death. 

Why? Because if you’re still going to choose the way of Christ in such circumstances, you’re going to have to be truly filled with faith and the Holy Spirit. There are no partial Christians in places like that. There are no “Sunday morning only” Christians in that culture. 

Perhaps what the American church needs is some persecution. Maybe she needs to lose some of her rights in this nation. Maybe her members need to be threatened in order to separate the wheat from the chaff. God has done it before. One day, He will do it again. 

I pray for President-Elect Trump and his staff. I pray for our nation. I pray especially for the church – that she begins to pray prayers more like Acts 4 – prayers of boldness and not protection; prayers of courage in the Spirit of Christ.

It’s well past time for Christians in this nation to come back to the Christ they claim with their lips but deny with their lifestyle. It’s time for the church to be a bastion of love in a world gone mad with fear and hatred. It’s time for the church to stop being “of convenience” and start being actually “of Christ”. 

What are you going to do to help the church be what Jesus calls her to be? Change starts with me, and it starts with you. 


What is the church of Christ?

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For over a hundred years there have been churches that refer to themselves as the Church of Christ. These churches have that sign on the door or out by the street, and many people recognize that there are certain things that make these churches unique.

However, the name that is used was never meant to be a name. It is and has always been a description of the people. The people are the church that belongs to Jesus, the Christ (Romans 16:16).

So what does the church that belongs to Jesus look like? The following is a list of ideas that Jesus presented which should be attributes of his followers. I encourage you to read this with your bible open following along with the passages referred to.

What is the church of Christ?

The church that belongs to Christ understands its need for forgiveness and is anxious to be able to extend that forgiveness to others. It is not a church that holds grudges. (Matthew 6:14-15)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks the Holy Spirit in the lives of each believer. They follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their lives as they live each day – not just on Sunday. This creates within them a fire, a passion, as they experience life in the presence of God who lives within them. (John 14:15-17, 26-27)

The church that belongs to Christ understands that belief in Jesus and connection with Him in baptism (immersion) are essential to salvation. They don’t try to argue this away. They accept it and are willing and eager to follow Jesus’ instructions and example in this manner. (Mark 16:15-16)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that unity with one another is essential to life in Him. They believe that this unity is key to their ability to evangelize to the world. They are not known for their division. (John 17:20-21)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that faith is essential to a person’s ability to follow Jesus. They recognize where their faith is weak and ask Jesus to strengthen their faith through the Spirit at work within them. They understand that without this faith it is impossible to please God. (Luke 17:5-6)

The church that belongs to Christ is a praying church. Prayer is seen as powerful and necessary to the connection and relationship between the church and God. They understand that it is through prayer that much of the power of Christ is released upon the world around them. They follow Jesus’ example of being constantly in prayer. (Luke 5:16; 11:1-13)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that He has called each one of us, no matter our past, to evangelism – to tell others about Him. This is not just the preacher’s job, but it is the role of each follower. A follower excited about his or her Savior cannot help but tell others about Him. (Mark 5:19)

The church that belongs to Christ believes that communion – partaking of the body and blood of Jesus – is essential to the life of the believer. They believe it is in communion with Jesus that relationship with Him is fostered as often as it is taken. (John 6:53-56)

The church that belongs to Christ doesn’t make it a practice to stand in judgment of others. They are accepting of all people because they recognize that all have sinned, and everyone has need for the same Savior. (Matthew 7:3-5)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks the reign of God, His kingdom, in their lives each day. This is not relegated to once or twice a week in a certain building but is shown by a lifestyle devoted to following God in every decision and action daily. (Matthew 6:33)

The church that belongs to Christ is full of flawed people who haven’t got it all figured out. They are broken people who are trying their best to allow God to change them, but it is a daily process, and some days are better than others. This creates an atmosphere of equality among all people regardless of race, age, gender, or class. (Matthew 9:12-13)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks to obey Him in all things. They see their obedience as part of their faith. (John 14:15)

The church that belongs to Christ seeks to show mercy and grace to all whom they come in contact with. They understand that they have been shown mercy and grace by Jesus and seek to reflect Him to others. (Matthew 5:7; 9:13)

The church that belongs to Christ is in the business of disciple-making. They aren’t interested in merely inviting someone to a weekend service. They want to help one another grow in their understanding and ability to follow the teachings of Jesus. (Matthew 28:18-20)

The church that belongs to Christ is compassionate. They seek to show that compassion in the world around them and seek nothing in return. (Luke 10:33-37)

The church that belongs to Christ is generous because it understands that everything it has has been given by the One who owns everything. It understands that the money and possessions it acquires are to be used to glorify God by helping others. It gives generously as an act of worship. (Mark 12:42-44)

The church that belongs to Christ focuses on what Jesus said are the most important ideas: Love God and Love your neighbor. This church is recognized by its love. The world all around knows there is something different about the church that belongs to Jesus because it loves like no other entity does – masses of followers banding together to be an example of love to everyone around them. (Matthew 22:35-40)

The church that belongs to Christ doesn’t worry about names on building or denominational association. This church is boundless. It has no borders. It is found in every church as people claim allegiance to the Savior who died and rose again. (John 10:16)

The church that belongs to Christ follows Jesus. No. Matter. What. (Matthew 10:38; 16:24-26)

This is the church of Christ. It’s not a name on a building but a way of life. It is all people who choose to follow Jesus – his examples and his teachings. Are you a part of that church?


On the Border of Response

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The world is a tumultuous place. Wars are raging and beginning all over the place. Innocent people are being killed for any and every reason. Laws are being broken in every nation. Nations are rising up against nations. Governments are being overthrown. How are we to act?

In our nation alone there is controversy on every front. From the Hobby Lobby fight to the flood at the border, our nation is becoming increasingly divided. Everyone has opinions on the hot-button topics like gun control, common core, abortion, immigration reform, military action on foreign soil, etc.

How are we, Christians, to respond to a world as conflicted as the one in which we live?

The first place we should be is on our knees in prayer. If you believe that God is not distant and that He cares for us and the rest of His creation, then you need to be asking Him to intervene.

2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

This is, I believe, our first response to a world as broken as ours. We need healing. We need forgiveness – not just as individuals but as a nation. We need repentance from all people including those (maybe especially those) in our governmental leadership.

The next thing we need to do is become aware. I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, but it doesn’t take a smart man to tell that the news sources from which we get most of our news are NOT unbiased. In fact, it is hard to find truly unbiased news from any source these days. If I tell you a bit of news then it is important to me because of my political or moral views on a particular issue. I am not unbiased. Therefore the news I share is not unbiased.

That being said we still need to know what is going on around us. These days we have the ability to read news information from a wide variety of sources. Our Twitter and Facebook feeds are inundated with the latest news from around the world. If we don’t know what is going on around us then how can we know how to engage the culture or influence change as needed? If we aren’t knowledgable then it is easy for us to be duped by the first wind of teaching to come by.

This includes your ability to know what your Father in Heaven has planned for you. The world is constantly trying to convince you of things that are contrary to the word of God. It is trying to teach you that these commands are barbaric and can’t have come from a god but from mere men. Search within the scriptures. Do not be ignorant of the world around you. You will find that those who love according to the Word of God have a life of fulfillment in this world and in the world to come.

Finally we are to be people of action. We need to be sharing the good news of grace and forgiveness through Jesus to all our friends and contacts. We need to be working daily to change the world by bringing one person at a time to Jesus. Don’t wait for the preacher. This is your calling. Matthew 28:18-20 is for you as well as me.

We also need to be people of action in how we influence our government. One of the greatest things about living in the USA is our ability to vote on almost everything. If you like what is going on then vote for more of the same. If you are disgruntled then vote to change things. You have been given a voice. As Christians this is a great opportunity for us to influence our nation. If we aren’t vocal with our votes then we are allowing the darkness to rule all around. Sometimes voting also happens with out participation or lack thereof. I’m not telling you which political way to vote, but you need to vote.

If this nation does decline – if the darkness grows and Christians are persecuted – then we still have hope in the fact that we are part of a bigger kingdom. The kingdom of God has no physical borders. It is not a matter of here or there but is within you. Live like kingdom citizens wherever you are no matter the outcome of your physical country.

So, change the world. And if it changes for the worse, then have hope in knowing that no one can ever take away your citizenship in the kingdom of God.


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