Tag Archives: prayer

There is No “I” in Church

Tuesday Re-mix –

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

“‘Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.

Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  Acts 4:24-30

Church is not about me.  It is not even about my gifts or accomplishments or contributions to the mission.  I think that is one of the things I find most attractive about it.

I found this photo from the 2005 New York Yankees’ Old-timers game at the old Yankees Stadium in the Bronx.  It’s got  Whitey Ford (16), Yogi Berra (8), Reggie Jackson (44), Don Mattingly (23), Ron Guidry (49), Rich Goose Gossage (54), Paul O’Neill (21), Scott Brossius (18), Ed Figueroa (25) and Chris Chambliss (10).  I love it because these all-time great players were still wearing traditional Yankee uniforms WITHOUT their names on the backs.

Putting players’ names on the back of their jerseys was reportedly the brainchild of White Sox owner, Bill Veeck in 1960.  I am truly sorry he had that idea.  Feel free to call me a hopeless …

The Pastor Your People Love

Tuesday Re-mix –

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.  
Psalm 27:4

gaze-upon-the-lordI think I am a pretty good supporter of my pastor…I try to do the things he asks and I try not to do things I know he would frown upon…but he is going to HATE this post.  And that makes me happy.   I have learned a great deal about “shepherding” from watching my pastor.  In fact, in my work with conflicted congregations, there have been many times when I wished young pastors could just sit with my pastor for a few days and learn the balance between humility and authority, between assertive and quiet, between empowering and disciplining.  My pastor has shaped how I see many of the difficult issues pastors face today.

I am meditating this week on the 27th Psalm, and it made me consider what kind of leader David must have been in order to say these things.  Amazing and gifted in so many ways, but at the end of the day, he just loved God and wanted to spend “all the days of his life…gazing upon the beauty of the Lord.”  Those “mighty men” of his probably followed him for lots of reasons, but surely none more compelling than this.  He was a mighty warrior, a passionate leader, a visionary King, a loyal friend, and the quintessential complicated, flawed hero…lovable for so many reasons.  But all those qualities and characteristics of David boiled down to a shepherd boy who loved God above all else…”this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of

…So That We Can Comfort Those in Trouble

Tuesday Re-mix –

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we carry this message to other addicts and practice these principles in all our affairs.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

There’s a story we tell in the support group ministry I help lead:

A guy is stuck in the bottom of a hole, with no hope of getting out on his own.  The hole is just too deep.  A businessman walks by and looks down in the hole.  From the bottom, the guy yells, “Can you help me out?  I’m stuck down here.”  The businessman reaches into his pocket and finds a couple of dollar bills and drops them down into the hole and walks off.  The guy in the hole just looks up, bewildered.  Then a minister walks by and looks down into the hole.  From the bottom, the guy yells up, “Can you help me?  I’m stuck!”  The minister yells back, “I’ll pray for you!” and walks off.  The guy in the hole is quickly losing hope.  Then another man walks up and looks down into the hole.  Growing desperate now, the guy in the hole yells up, “Please!  Don’t leave!  I’m stuck and need help.”  Upon hearing this, the guy up top puts down his things and jumps …

Seeing Our Addiction Through God’s Eyes

Tuesday Re-mix –

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Step 11: We seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

About 18 months ago, my pastor started us on a new prayer journey.  For the first several months, every morning, he wrote a meditation on the model prayer (those morning meditations have since become meditations on our current Bible study and can be found at theeverydayprayer.com).  I have continued that practice, still praying the model prayer every morning.  This journey has been revealing to me.

The most convicting revelation for me thus far has been this: you and I do not really believe in prayer.  Not really.  Not the way Jesus did.  It only stands to reason that, if we really thought that prayer would change big, important things like cancer or sex trafficking or genocide or war, you and I would never stop praying.  We would be praying all day and all night, because there are issues in this world which would warrant that kind of prayer…if we really thought it would make a difference, that is.  But we don’t.  Not really.  That is why work and school and soccer games and American Idol all get larger chunks of our time and energy than does prayer.  Very sad, but very true, I …

Three Easy Steps to a Church Implosion

Tuesday Re-mix – 

I remember a couple of years back when First Baptist Church, Dallas, made the news with its simultaneous implosion of several buildings on its campus in preparation for a major building program.  The videos were all over YouTube.  Here is one of them.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0nqulYY7AM&fs=1&hl=en_US]

I’m not sure what the psychology is behind this, but I am fascinated by imploding buildings.  Feel free to comment about how twisted I am.  But even as I watched this video, I thought to myself, “There are easier ways to implode a church.”  I’ve seen it happen too many times.  So, for those who are interested in imploding your church but cannot afford the actual dynamite, here is a fairly quick and easy formula…three easy steps, and you won’t even need a fund-raising campaign to pull it off:

1.  Hold onto your pain and encourage others to do the same. This is not difficult.  In fact, it is very human.  Anytime anyone does something or fails to do something and it hurts your feelings (especially if it is a church leader…extra points for that pain), DO NOT go to them and DO NOT commit it to prayer…in fact, do not do anything at all which might actually cause you to forgive and let go of that pain.  Rather, hold onto to it with every ounce of energy you have.  Stir it regularly, just to keep it festering.  Use it however you can.  It makes a wonderful excuse for just about any kind of bad behavior in which you might care to engage.

2.  Talk to as many other people about your pain as possible. Never underestimate the value of gossip for the whole implosion process.  If you share your pain with enough people (NOT with the person who actually caused the pain, …

The Missing Piece in Gathered Worship

Tuesday Re-mix – 

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  1 Corinthians 12:27

If the goal of worship is to connect with God, then there are only two “grades” you can give a gathered worship experience: “A” or “F”.  It is pretty much a pass/fail thing.  That is because there is no such thing as connecting with God and it being anything other than amazing and wonderful…and if you are in a worship experience and you are NOT connecting with God, then, well…fail.  I had to get all that said before I take up today’s topic, just so you know that I know…because today I am giving our culture’s gathered worship experiences a grade somewhere between pass and fail.

Last year, I attended a corporate worship experience at a church in the town where my daughter goes to school.  It was well produced, but lacking in one way.  Other than my family, I did not know a single person around me.  Sadly, that was still true even as we were leaving.  That just seems wrong to me.

The truth is, it was an amazing worship atmosphere.  Very contemporary in style (I am blessed to be comfortable worshiping in almost any “style”), with a casual feel and lots of technology to help the worshiper stay focused on the message and on the theme for the day…great, introspective music, wonderful sermon, innovative communion.  To their credit, I thought the worship leaders did a fairly good job of keeping the focus OFF of them on ON the Lord.  That’s not easy to do in this consumer-oriented culture.  But there was one element missing for me…and frankly, it is missing in the vast majority of corporate worship experiences I’ve ever seen or heard about.  …

The “Star-crossed Lovers” Pastor Search Process

Tuesday Re-mix –

One of the early parenting skills I learned was how to appreciate the works of art my girls brought me.  There were plenty of times I looked at their drawings with no clue at all what they were supposed to portray.  I learned to say things like, “Wow, that is beautiful!  Tell me about it, please!”  That way, I could find out what it was supposed to be before I got myself in trouble.  But no matter what, there would never be a time or circumstance where I would ever communicate to them, “I just don’t care.”  That, for me, would be the exact opposite of love.  Of course I cared!  Any loving father would.

I believe this about God as well.  I believe that, in every difficult decision we make, in every season of searching for answers, God cares enough to guide us and direct us to specific outcomes.  I just cannot get my heart wrapped around a god who says, “I just don’t care…decide for yourself…it doesn’t matter to me.”

One of the privileges God has given our ministry is training Pastor Search teams.  Training those teams to use a prayerful process for searching for a shepherd for their congregation is one of my favorite ways to help churches.  It gives me an opportunity to draw from and reflect on my own experience serving on the pastor search committee of my home church…easily one of the spiritual highlights of my life.  For me it was 18 months of weekly praying and meeting together with eight of the most spiritually mature Christians I have ever known.  It was at times emotionally grueling and at times spiritually invigorating.  It was an intensive season of discerning the hand of God as a group.  In short, it was amazing.…

We, the Brood of Vipers

Tuesday Re-mix –

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.  John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”  Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”  “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”   He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” Luke 3:8-14 [selections]

John the Baptist was given the assignment of preparing a people to receive a savior.  God would use John to help the people see that, beyond a political hero, what they needed most was a spiritual savior.  So, in fulfillment of this calling, what do you suppose are the first words out of his mouth in issuance of this “wake-up call”?

“You brood of vipers!”

That’s just mean.  Right?  Those words are just harsh.  But they seem to have gotten the people’s attention.  It wasn’t long before they were asking John, “What do we need to do?”  He then started rattling off impossibly inflexible rules for them…bad conduct that was the most deeply ingrained in their culture, things it would have been extremely difficult to change.  It would have required a huge shift in how they thought about other people.  It would have caused them to think, “Wow, that’s nearly impossible!”  And that, of course, is exactly the right response.  John would have said, “And THAT is why you need a savior!”

So, it got me thinking.  If John were to come to the church today in order to get us ready for Jesus to return, what would he say to us?  Assuming we too are a “brood of vipers” and …

Christian Peacocks and God’s Presence: Lessons in Humility

Tuesday Re-mix –

Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Job 38:2-3

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness… II Corinthians 3:18

Driving to work recently, I pulled up behind a truck literally covered in bumper stickers.  I mean, there had to be 50 of them all over the truck.  Many of them were Christian.  Others were political.  Some were rather personal.  But the collective “message” was clear: this truck owner was screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!”  This truck was like the vehicular version of a peacock, with its feathers spread wide, and its pride featured front and center.  And I thought, there is something not quite right with that picture.

Do you know any professing Christians who seem to know a lot about God and the Bible and Jesus and who talk a lot about all that they know, but who just don’t seem to ring “true” for some reason?  They wax eloquently all day long about this doctrine or that doctrine, or they can impress you with their stories of “conquest” from the mission field, or they can show you the sacrifices they have made on their church’s behalf.  But when it comes right down to it, something about their attitude, something about the way they carry themselves just doesn’t add up.  They simply do not exhibit the humility which naturally comes from being in the presence of God.  And before you get too wrapped up accusing that person, let me ask you this: is it possible that person has ever been you?  You see, having that “Jesus is the Answer” bumper sticker on the back of …

From South Africa with Love – Week 2

I am currently in South Africa with a team of trainer/facilitators from my ministry. For the names of the team members and our respective schedules, click here.  Please pray for us!

For my Thursday posts during this time away, I am featuring thoughts and writings from one of my favorite South African pastors/writers, Andrew Murray, who pastored churches in South Africa from 1850 – 1917.  Two of his works which I have loved are Abide in Christ and With Christ in the School of Prayer.

So You Will Have Power in Prayer

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” John 15:7

“Prayer is both one of the means and one of the fruits of union with Christ.  As a means it is of unspeakable importance.  All the things of faith, all the pleadings of desire, all the yearnings after a fuller surrender, all the confessions of shortcoming and of sin, all the exercises in which the soul gives up self and clings to Christ, find their utterance in prayer.  In each meditation on abiding in Christ, as some new feature of what Scripture teaches concerning this blessed life is apprehended, the first impulse of the believer is at once to look up to the Father and pour out the heart into His, and ask from Him the full understanding and the full possession of what he has been shown in the Word.  And it is the believer, who is not content with this spontaneous expression of his hope, but who takes time in secret prayer to wait until he has received and laid hold of what he has seen, who will really grow strong in Christ.”  A. Murray, Abide in Christ

In the mid-1980’s,