Monthly Archives: March 2011

What If I Prayed?

Nothing is so easy to talk about as is prayer, and yet we pray so little.

Do you pray with biblical intensity? Do you pray like Jesus? Like Elijah (James 5:16-18)? Do you pray like Paul? Do you really pray and pray for God’s glory and the good of others (Matthew 22:36-40)?

See if you are brave enough to ask yourself these “what ifs” to determine if you really pray.

What if……..

I prayed as much as I watch TV?

I prayed as much as I look at Facebook?

I prayed as much as I drive to and from places?

I prayed as much as I read the newspaper?

I prayed as much for someone as I do worrying about them?

I prayed as much for God’s strength and energy as I do trying to muster up my own?

I prayed as much for the nations as I do hearing about them in the news?

I prayed as much for His Kingdom Come as I do working on my own kingdom?

I prayed as much for people who irritate me as I do thinking about how they irritate me?

I prayed like God was more important than sleep by praying the first 30 minutes of the day?

I prayed without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)?

I prayed as much to God as I do thinking about God?

I prayed like Christ made me and is speaking me into existence even as I type these words and you are reading them (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3)?

I prayed like life matters because eternity looms?

I prayed like life is short (James 4:14)? Because it is.

I prayed as though I really needed Christ, for without Him I can do nothing (John 15:5)?

Nothing is so easy to talk about as is prayer, and yet is done so little. No doubt because we love to depend on ourselves even though we cannot depend on ourselves for we are nothing without the God who created us, speaks us into being, and loves us with the death of His son.

E.M. Bounds (1835-1913) has been teaching me how prayerless I am and how much I need to pray and depend on the LORD God. If you think that you have cornered the market on praying, I suggest you pick up Power Through Prayer and test yourself. Here are a few quotes from his challenging and inspiring book on prayer.

“Our laziness after God in prayer is our crying sin.” E.M. Bounds

Prayer is the creator as well as the channel of devotion. The spirit of devotion is the spirit of prayer. Prayer and devotion are united as soul and body are united, as life and hearts are united. There is no real prayer without devotion, no devotion without prayer. People must be surrendered to God in the holiest devotion. Our aim, aspirations, ambition are for God and to God, and to such prayer is essential as food is to life. E.M. Bounds

Do you depend on God in prayer? What if you did?

Monday Pastor – Jettisoning the Sermon

After Two Years, I Am Obviously Still Learning To Preach

Yesterday,  I ambitiously tried to do too much. I tried to preach Acts 6:8 through 7:60. That is 71 verses. Am I crazy? Probably, but my intention was sane. I wanted to give the whole story of Stephen’s trial and speech so not to shred the context and muddy the argumentation. I wanted people to see the whole story of the Holy Spirit working in the life of Stephen to be a gospel witness for sake of Jesus.

Do to the amount of text I took on I also had to  jettison several parts of the sermon to be able to finish. When I got to 7:44, I essentially hit overdrive to finish. I looked at the clock and thought about stopping, but there was no rest place at that point in our journey. I wanted to finish and I wanted to finish it all.

But in the process  of lightening the sermon to expedite its conclusion, I had to gut the strongest part of the sermon. I had to remove explanation and illustration and application. So what will I do? I am going to go back  and pick up at verse 44 and go through 60 and drill down on that which I treated superficially. There is too much goodness and help not to treat the text as thoroughly as it deserves. All scripture is God-breathed and useful.

So what’s the takeaway? I am learning a hard lesson about preaching: “I can’t say everything.” I have a tendency to often want to over-explain things, and what sometimes happens is a loss of clarity.

Reflecting on Acts 6:8-7:60

Here are some applications and questions  from the sermon as I reflected on the text for my own edification:

  • It is sometimes the most devout and pious religious people who really reject God and His word (The Law). The fathers rejected God and so now their “religious” children are doing the same. The Law (Torah) points to Jesus (Eph. 1:10).

o   How am I guilty of being so religious and rigid that I reject Jesus?

  • God blesses people not places. If it looks like He blesses places it is because He blesses people in a place, but not because of the place. Almost every instance sighted by Stephen of God blessing those in the Old Testament is away from the “Promised Land.” The temple became and idol. A relic. A charm. Jesus said in John 4 that true worshipers will worship in Spirit and In Truth, not in this place or that.

o   Have I idolized a building or thing that God meant as a means to point me to Him through Jesus?

  • God is a patient pursuer of people and He will eventually give them what they want – even themselves and their sin.

o   Do I really want to worship myself? Romans 1:24-25

  • Stephen is full of the Spirit. He is bold, calm, respectful, biblical, wise, opposed. He is like Jesus, with his eyes fixed on Jesus, right up until his death.

o   Am I like Stephen? Or am I like the religious leaders?

  • People make disciples. It is impossible not to pass ourselves on to others – whether good or bad. Acts 7:51

o   Am I passing on to those I love, Spirit-empowered obedience or Spirit-resisting idolatry?

What’s Your Exit Strategy?

Few people, if any, plan on dying tomorrow. I have never heard any mentally and emotionally stable person say and mean, “I plan on dying tomorrow.” Rather they plan on living and plan on doing it for a long time. Innately woven within the fabric of our being is desire to live and live forever. Just as we hunger for food because we need food to live, so also this desire to live and live without end because we were made for eternal life. Unfortunately immortal life is not an option on this broken planet, in this mortal body. It is statistical certainty everyone will breathe a last breath.

We need an exit strategy.We need a plan to get ready to leave this earth.

Yes, we need to give our lives to the “I Am the Resurrection and the Life.” That’s the utmost priority and the rest of life should be sourced in Christ.

But will we plan to die well? Will we prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally so as to show that we are going to meet Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Or will we cling to this life with great fear as though our eternal destination is not as certain as we claim to believe? By clinging to this life and hating death will we show that this life is more desirable than Jesus Christ?

I’m not saying we should treat this life like anything less than the precious gift that it is, but I am saying that when death comes for us, if we cling to this life like this is the only life there is, then we will be saying something about Christ and it won’t be: “to be with Christ is very much better.” (Philippians 1:21-23) Is Christ gain or isn’t He?

We all want to go on living, and I think that desire is an indication that we were made for life eternal that won’t be realized on this earth in these dying bodies. God has put eternity in our being, but for some people it won’t be a pleasant eternity because they have made this broken life their heaven; their best life now. My hope for those of us who are in Christ, is that we will live like Christ has made the way for us to enjoy eternal life with Christ. God works all things for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose; even death (Romans 8:28). I hope we all will live and speak like that is true.