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Most of you that follow this blog have figured out that I am something of a throw back to a different time, even a bit old fashioned in some ways. As far as ministry is concerned, I am more closely aligned with those of the past who eschewed the latest fads and techniques in favor of simply proclaiming the word of God.

I can truthfully say that I have never attempted to follow anyone’s prescribed methodology of ministry. That’s not to say there haven’t been a few who have attempted to get me to follow in their footsteps, because there have been.

How well I recall the minister who told me to “just do what I do”. Thankfully, I chose not to do follow his advice because it wasn’t long before that particular individual was never heard from again.

Instead, I have held to the belief that if we pray and seek God He will produce the desired outcome. His desired outcome.

Like many of you, I have learned through the years that whatever is born out of prayer will stand the test of time. Likewise, that which comes from the heart of man will eventually falter no matter how much effort is put into shoring it up.

It is with this background that I approach the subject of prayer in the church. I’m referring to a specific time or season of prayer here, not merely saying a prayer. Perhaps you have heard of such a season referred to as ‘the prayer meeting’, or more simply ‘a time of prayer’.

Many church goers today are unaware that there was a time when the prayer meeting was the single most important meeting of the week. It was given far more emphasis than even the Sunday morning services. It was deemed so important that the great British pastor C.H.Spurgeon had this to say about it:

“The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings. So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people. If God be near a church, it must pray. And if He be not there, one of the first tokens of His absence will be a sloth-fullness in prayer”. [1]

This is an incredibly powerful commentary on prayer in the church. Written by Spurgeon well over 100 years ago, it describes perfectly the relationship between God and His church and the effects a lack of prayer has upon her.

God has always called His people to pray. Going all the way back to the 4th chapter of Genesis we are told that after the birth of Enos (grandson of Adam and Eve), men began to call upon the name of the Lord. [2]

This ‘calling upon the Lord’ carried into the New Testament where we find Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray. [3]. The record we have of the early church gives us no less than four examples of how prayer should be made “without ceasing”. [4]

Starting to see a pattern here? Sounds like prayer is a really important part of man’s  relationship with his Creator, wouldn’t you agree?

This leads me to a question for us all: how much emphasis is being placed on prayer in our churches? A little? A lot? Hardly any? None? Sadly, I know exactly how I must answer this.

If Spurgeon was right in saying that the church may be gauged by its prayer meetings, what does that say about us today? What does this say about our relationship with our Heavenly Father if we have forsaken prayer?

I was discussing this issue with my wife and we started talking about all of the different metrics the church uses today to determine it’s effectiveness, or success. Things like attendance and offerings seem to be two of the most popular metrics, with ministry involvement and the number of conversions following close behind them.

One item you won’t find on any church’s flow chart however is the % of its congregation that is committed to regular prayer, whether at home or in a scheduled time of corporate prayer at the church. I’ll leave you to figure out for yourself why that is.

The result of what Spurgeon deemed “slothfulness in prayer” is the absence of the greatest church metric there is. I’m speaking of lives that have been transformed by the power of the gospel. Seriously, If we need to count something, why don’t we count something that really matters, like lives forever changed by the power of the gospel?

How hard can that be? Wait…maybe that’s the problem!

I see it all the time, and I’m sure that you do as well. Church services that are filled with hurting, desperate people all filing out at the end of the service exactly as they filed in. Unchanged, unmoved, and unregenerate. And we wonder why so few wish to join us. Why would they?

“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof”. [5] Do you suppose the Apostle Paul was looking into the future to our day when he said those very words?

As I look upon the landscape of the Church today, I see a famine of unprecedented magnitude. To be sure, we have preachers a plenty. And there is certainly no shortage of singers and musicians in God’s house. We have programs designed to meet nearly every need imaginable, yet fail to recognize that we now mirror the church of Laodicea that was “rich and increased with goods”, but did not know she “was poor, and blind, and naked”. [6]

Yet for all of these, the Church is starving to death for the Presence of God. When we do not pray, He will not come. Why would he show up uninvited, even in His own house?

I speak only for myself, but I cannot abide such an environment for even one more Sunday. I can no longer be content with another church service where we repeat the same tired, worn out routine again. I am desperate for the power and the Presence of God!

A form of godliness emanating from a man-centered, manufactured service does nothing for me or anyone else. And how are we to know that it is only a ‘form of godliness’? Because there is no transformation taking place.

If God were in our midst like we pretend that he is, I can assure you that lives would be changed on a regular basis. Needs would be met. Addictions would be broken. Diseases would be instantaneously healed. Marriages would be restored and families reunited. Those who handle the Word of God would cast aside their haughtiness and pride, finding themselves broken and prostrate before Him.

Maybe, just maybe what is needed is a return to the ‘Old Paths’ where “if my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” [7will once again become the battle cry of the redeemed.

Who can tell if the Lord will reveal himself anew if only we would call upon Him in earnest and sincere prayer?

Actually, I believe that that is precisely what he is waiting on.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

[1] Spurgeon at His Best(Grand Rapids:Baker)

[2] Genesis 4:26

[3] Luke 11

[4] Acts 12:5, Romans 1:9, 1 Thess. 5:17, 2 Tim. 1:3

[5] 2 Tim. 3:5

[6] Revelation 3:17

[7] 2nd Chronicles 7:14

 

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Five traits you never want to see in your pastor

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There are few occupations that can rival that of being the pastor of a church. Pastor’s are expected to be all things to all people, and no matter how good of a job they do it is a guarantee that someone will not be happy.

Depending on the size of the congregation, a pastor is called upon to do everything from visiting the sick and shut-ins to mowing the lawn and cleaning the restrooms. In very large congregations they also serve as a type of CEO, overseeing all manner of programs and activities.

Did you also know that a pastor is expected to be a mind reader? That’s right, they’re supposed to be able discern what you’re thinking and whether or not you’re having a good day or a terrible day.

Sounds like a carefree, fun, and exciting occupation doesn’t’ it?

The word “pastor” is derived from the Latin noun pastor which means shepherd and is derived from the verb pascere – “to lead to pasture, set to grazing, cause to eat”. [1]

Pastors, or shepherds have the grave responsibility of feeding and protecting their flock. They have been entrusted with a holy calling from God to defend their sheep from all predators, and have been divinely equipped to do so.

I trust that your pastor is fulfilling his calling and is watching over you with the careful eye of one who understands that he will give an account to God one day as to how well he performed his sacred duties.

Noted pastor, teacher, author, and theologian John MacArthur gives what I believe to be one of the best descriptions of what a pastor’s responsibilities are. Check out the video below. Please Note: this is not an endorsement of all of John Macarthur’s teachings or of his “Grace To You” ministry. I am simply including his remarks here because I happen to believe with them regarding the primary role of pastors.

How wonderful it would be if every pastor fit the description offered by MacArthur.

Sadly, we live in a time now when there are numerous ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ filling the nation’s pulpits. The Bible refers to them as “hirelings”, meaning they are simply there to pick up a paycheck. In other words, to a hireling being a pastor is just a job. [2]

With this in mind, here are five traits you never want to see in your pastor.

  1. Your pastor is never broken before the Lord. True shepherds are humble and possess a servants heart and attitude. They live to serve others, not themselves. If your pastor is loud, proud, self-serving and arrogant you can be sure that his heart is far from the Lord.
  2. The pastor never mentions that the Lord has been dealing with him privately about spiritual matters. God always works through the leadership of the church. The shepherd is His conduit to reach the people. If the pastor isn’t hearing from the Lord either through the word or his own private prayer time, something is horribly wrong.
  3. The pastor never calls your church to a season of consecrated prayer. Prayer is the lifeblood of a church. It is the means by which God’s people express themselves to their Creator. A church that is not drawn together in unified prayer is a church on the downgrade.
  4. The pastor fails to hold himself accountable to the biblical standards of a shepherd. There are strict moral and spiritual character requirements for the position. This is necessary because not just anyone should be placed in such an important leadership role in Christ’s Church. When a pastor fails to meet the standards as set forth by the Bible, he is in effect degrading the office. [3]
  5. The pastor sees his role as primarily that of a cheerleader rather than one who faithfully proclaims the whole counsel of God. Being a faithful pastor is not for the faint of heart or those who lack the willingness to confront ‘sin in the camp’. At times a pastor must employ biblical correction of wayward behavior among the sheep. A pastor who only wants to be a cheerleader and never impose discipline is not fulfilling the role as intended. [4]

As I said earlier, I sincerely trust that your pastor is fulfilling his duties and watching over you with love, care, and concern. By the same token, all of us should be praying for our pastors that the Lord will guide, strengthen, and encourage them daily.

If however you see any of these traits frequently on display in your pastor, especially if these traits have been discussed with him by those he is accountable to, it may be time to start looking for a new one because your current pastor is no longer hearing from the Lord.

Yes…it is that serious.

Be blessed in Jesus name,

Ron

[1] Wikipedia

[2] Matthew 7:15, John 10:12-13

[3] 1st Timothy 3

[4] Joshua 7:20

When God is your only option

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This past Sunday morning in my home church, I delivered a message about the undefiled and incorruptible inheritance that awaits us. I made several points about how short this life really is, and how that if our only hope was in what we can amass in this life, then our hope was not only misplaced, but also futile.

I tried very hard to drive home the point that in this life, while there will be seasons of hurt and disappointment that will severely test our faith, such testing is much more precious than gold which is purified in the fire. [1]

At the close of the message, as is the custom in our church, I invited anyone in need of special prayer to come forward. Our church makes this time of prayer a priority, and every week there are usually several people that come forward.

On this particular Sunday, a young lady who had only recently started attending our church came forward. Having met and spoken with her on her first visit, I was aware of some serious physical challenges she had been facing, so it was no great surprise to see her ask for prayer.

I listened as she shared with me that the disease that was supposed to be in remission had now spread to another part of her body. If that wasn’t horrific enough, she told me how fearful she was of what might become of her small children should the unthinkable happen to her.

As I prayed for her, she collapsed into my chest, sobbing uncontrollably and unashamedly. In short, she was broken. Broken in spirit and broken in body. And who wouldn’t be?

I have no doubt that some of you understand this level of desperation. You too have had to face death head on, with no guarantee of the outcome. Can life get any more real than this?

As I continued praying with her, she held on to me, unable or unwilling to let go. All I could think about was how this is what real ministry is supposed to be: bearing one another’s burdens in our most desperate moments.

That’s why we’re here, to express the love of Christ to all who need it. You and I are the hands and feet of the Master, and I believe with all that’s within me that no one is too hurt, too sick, too lost, or too desperate that God cannot get to them. He can reach anyone in any situation. He is our helper in the time of trouble. [2]

It may seem like God is this young lady’s only option at this point, but really…

Sometimes I wonder…is that so bad?

Please join with me in praying for Mary, and if you would, please share this with someone else that believes in the power of prayer.

Ron

 

[1] 1st Peter 1:3-9

[2[ Psalm 46:1

Putting in our order

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Who doesn’t like the occasional fast food take out vs. the work of preparing and cooking a big meal at home? Just the other night for example, my Princess decided she wanted Chinese take out, so Chinese it was.

And yes….it was very good!!

The convenience of fast food is pretty awesome if you ask me. Simply pick up the phone and call it in, or even better do it all online. Within a few minutes of placing our order, we’re sitting down to eat!

Of course, you know what they say about too much of a good thing. Simply putting in an order comes at a high cost if done frequently. Whether it’s spending extra money on top of the weeks grocery budget, or the ever expanding waist line, convenience isn’t cheap.

That being said, I think we’ve gotten quite comfortable with the ease and simplicity of putting in our order, and when you think about it, this mindset carries over into many parts of our lives.

We want maximum benefit while exerting minimum effort. Place a call, click a mouse, or speak into a device and things appear on our doorstep almost magically. Technology at its finest!

So it is sometimes in our walk with the Lord. Have you noticed that when we are facing difficult circumstances, our initial thoughts are often to try the “call, click a mouse, or speak into a device” approach when searching for a solution?

That’s called Human nature 101. Who doesn’t like easy?

Unfortunately, all too often the issues we are facing today seem to turn into giants before our very eyes. When that happens, ‘easy’ rarely works because it takes far more than simply putting in our order to send those same giants packing.

I have been guilty of this, and more times than not I didn’t even realize it until it was brought to my attention. That’s because I can get so caught up in the ‘what’s wrong’ that instead of immediately turning to the Lord, I search everywhere else, looking for that easy solution.

Do you ever do this?

The point I’m trying to make with this is that while we all have needs, and we’re all dealing with something, we also have to understand that more often than not, the solutions to today’s complex issues are not easy.

We can’t just “put in our order”, walk away, and be done with it while expecting that things will work out somehow or another. If we’re going to overcome and have the victory, we need to pray.

We might think of prayer as optional, or even a last resort thing to do when we’re out of options, but the reality of it is we are expected to pray. Jesus didn’t say ‘if you pray’, but rather when you pray.

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.   Matthew 6:6

Prayer cements our relationship with our Heavenly Father. It is an open line of communication that each of us has with Him, and provides the means in which we may cast our cares upon Him instead of carrying them ourselves.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.   1st Peter 5:6,7

I can think of no greater need in the body of Christ today than the need for regular prayer. The kind of praying I’m talking about is not merely putting in our order, it is personally communicating with the Almighty. Not just when we are facing giants, but every single day!

Prayer is a critical component of our relationship with the Father.

One I need to desperately rekindle.

How about you?

If you’re tired of seeing no results from simply ‘placing your order’, I believe sincere prayer will be a game changer.

Be blessed everyone!

Ron

 

 

 

Is there a mountain in your life that needs removed?

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Have you ever driven through the mountains? If you have, you have no doubt marveled at how the road was seemingly carved out of solid rock.

It’s interesting to see how the engineers overcame certain obstacles in the building of these roads. Some roads go right through the mountain in elaborately constructed tunnels, while others wind all the way around the outside of the mountain.

However the method, one thing is certain: it took a lot of very hard work to move that mountain in order to construct safe roadways in its place.

Much like those roadways, all of us have mountains in our lives that serve as giant obstacles to us. These mountains come in many shapes and sizes, and all of them have one thing in common: they are in our way, and we must find a way around them.

Fortunately for us, Jesus gave His disciples an important lesson in removing these mountains from their lives.

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.    Mark 11:22-24

Knowing that we are children of faith, all of us can say that we have been given a certain measure of faith. Understanding this, it should be easy enough to follow Jesus’ instructions, agree?

Except that when we look at our own circumstances in light of the verses above, we question just what kind of faith we actually have. After all, Jesus makes it sound pretty easy, doesn’t he? Just say the words and POOF!, it’s done!

Yet when we say to our own mountain “be removed”, it doesn’t budge. What gives?

The key to understanding this is when Jesus says if we do not doubt in our hearts, we shall have what we ask.

Talk about a mountain! DOUBT is the biggest mountain in all of our lives. Well, at least it is in my life. If we are to have the faith to remove these mountains from our lives, DOUBT has to go.

How do we accomplish this?

The answer my friends is found in our hearts. The only way to remove the mountains from our lives is to assume a fighting position, and for a Christian that means to humble our heart before God and pray.

You see, it is only when we pray that we bring God into the battle. Merely reciting a repeat after me prayer that someone else prayed is not believing in your heart.

This must be personal!

I have found that having ‘mountain moving faith’ is a process. A very long and arduous process. It’s a process built upon one small victory after another until eventually you have the faith to say to those mountains in your life “be removed”, and they will obey you.

If you have a mountain in your life that needs to be removed, I suggest the starting point is simply humbling our heart before the Lord.

Self needs to disappear into the background, while the Lord needs to come to the forefront. When we are diminished, He is exalted. Less of us…more of Him.

That is the foundation of ‘mountain moving faith’. When we build upon it daily, we will begin to see those impassable mountains begin to crumble before our eyes.

Have a blessed day!

Ron

 

 

 

Sizzling For Jesus?

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About a month ago, my wife and I were discussing some different areas of ministry, and in particular the area of preparedness. In other words, how we might approach the different ways in which we minister to people.

Now, as regular readers may know, my wife is extremely adept at getting to the crux of the matter. In other words, she doesn’t mince words but gets right to the point.

So it was on this occasion as we were discussing the study time necessary in order to prepare and deliver a sermon. Her exact quote is as follows:

”If the only time we push the pan close to the fire is when we are scheduled to preach (teach, sing, pray, etc), then we are not being faithful. We should be as close to the fire as possible at all times!” Of course, she was correct in her assessment.

To use her as an example, she is a gifted soloist and is often asked to sing at our church. To many, she’s just a pretty face standing up there singing her beautiful songs. And I’m just as certain that there are a few who see her as merely the “entertainment”.

I, on the other hand, know differently. When she is scheduled to sing, the first thing she does is to pray about what song to sing. This isn’t a quick thought like “well Lord, what’s it going to be this time?” Not at all!

She will pray until she believes she has heard from the Lord about the song He wants her to sing. Do you know why she does that? It’s because her song is her ministry gift from the Lord, and she takes that very seriously.

So seriously that she wouldn’t think of not being prepared to deliver her gift. That includes much prayer as well as a lot of practice time in her “studio”( it’s actually our garage, but she refers to it as her studio). Her gifting is in worship, and when she sings she is singing as if Jesus was sitting on the front row.

She does not “perform”, rather what she does is worship the King of Kings.

It’s no different then when I am asked to speak in one of the services. I have to know that I’ve heard from the Lord before I will ever step behind the pulpit. To do so knowing that I was unprepared would be an insult to the Lord, and you can believe me when I say that isn’t going to happen.

This takes many hours of study and prayer, because just like my wife, my calling is very serious to me. I understand that many do not take this approach, in fact, I have had my share of people tell me I am far too serious about this. Imagine that!

For me, however, there is no other way.

I’m that serious because it’s very personal to me. It’s like a covenant between the Lord and me, and I don’t ever want to break that covenant. So I endeavor to be as prepared as I possibly can be when I’m called upon.

Whatever area the Lord has gifted you in, I trust that you also take it seriously. Whatever gifts and callings we may have, use them to your fullest capability. They were given to you for a purpose, and that purpose is to use them to bring glory and honor to God.

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.   Romans 11:29

That’s how important and serious this is.

My Princess had one final thought on the matter of preparedness, and I will leave you with that.

You can’t sizzle for Jesus unless your pan is on the fire!

That’s right my love, and we’re going to keep right on sizzling together for Him!

Be blessed on this wonderful Lord’s day!

Ron

Too stubborn for God

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If you had to name the one attribute of YOU that you wish you could change, it’s likely that stubbornness would be at or near the top of your list. Seriously, read the definition below, and for a real eye-opener read the synonyms as well. Do you see yourself in any of these words?

Having or showing dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good arguments or reasons to do so.
synonyms: obstinateheadstrongwillfulstrong-willedpigheadedobduratedifficultcontraryperverserecalcitrantinflexibleiron-willeduncompromisingunbending.

See what I mean? Not a very flattering picture, is it? Yet I must confess that my name should be written right alongside the definition of ‘stubborn’. Might I find yours there as well?

There was a man in the Bible that also wore the moniker of stubborn. His name was Saul, the very 1st king of Israel.

King Saul was given a very specific assignment to attack the armies of the Amalekites, a people who had dealt treacherously with Israel by ambushing them when Israel came out of Egypt. Per the word of the Lord, it was now payback time.

The problem was that king Saul only partially obeyed God. Instructed to utterly destroy every trace of the Amalekites, Saul and his men instead kept for themselves the best of the spoil.

But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed1st Samuel 15:9

There is a key word here that you don’t want to miss: unwilling. Saul and his men were unwilling to fully obey the command of God. Do you know that when someone is unwilling to do something, that the decision not to do it is a choice?

Think about it this way; if you are willing to do a thing, you don’t think twice about it. You just do it. Being unwilling however means you had to make a conscious choice not to do it. See the difference?

That’s what Saul did on that fateful day. He knew what he was told to do, what he was supposed to do. He was simply unwilling to obey once he saw all of the good things that were his for the taking. Only they weren’t his for the taking!

All of this incurred the wrath of God. So angry was the Lord over this, that he sent the prophet Samuel to go and confront king Saul and tell him that because of his disobedience, God would take the throne from him and give it to someone better than he.

Here are the words that Samuel spoke to Saul.

Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.”  1st Samuel 15:22,23

What Samuel was telling Saul here was that God placed a much higher value on obedience to His word than any burnt offering or sacrifice. He then calls out two traits of Saul that God hates: rebellion and stubbornness, equating the sins of witchcraft and idolatry to them. In case you’re wondering, those two sins were about as bad is it could get. In fact, either of them could cause you to be put to death.

Saul was too stubborn to be used of God. All the Lord wanted him to do was simply complete the assignment he had been given. Saul, however, thought he had a better plan. Isn’t that the hallmark of stubborn people? They (we) always have a better way of doing things, or so it would seem.

How many of us can look in the rear-view mirror and say ‘if only I had listened to the word of God’….? This should cause all of us to take a look inward and see if stubbornness has taken root in us.

Stubbornness is actually an outward expression of an inward rebellion that is at work in our hearts, and it must be defeated if we are going to move forward in our walk with God. Prayer, the study of God’s word, and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit are the weapons God has given us to defeat this enemy called stubbornness.

Let’s use them, in Jesus name!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

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