September 24, 2013

Careful What You Ask For… You Might Get It

“Simple Prayer involves ordinary people bringing ordinary concerns to a loving and compassionate Father. There is no pretense in Simple Prayer. We do not pretend to be more holy, more pure, or more saintly than we actually are. We do not try to conceal our conflicting and contradictory motives from God—or ourselves. And in this posture we pour out our heart to the God who is greater than our heart and who knows all things
(1 John 3:20).”      Richard Foster, Prayer
Prayer is an integral part of helping to lead people into a growing relationship with Christ in every area of our church. It’s also vital to building the kind of community that supports spiritual growth.
During the worship service this past Sunday I explained that Jesus is actively fulfilling God’s purposes of the church’s mission through His followers (AKA: disciples).  I explained Acts 1:8 describes what Jesus’ believers empowered by the Holy Spirit, were expected to do.
Next I shared the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch found in Acts 8:26-40, as an example of a new disciple hearing and obeying the guidance of the Holy Spirit which eventually leads to the expansion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Ethiopia (thought to some to be the “ends of the earth” in that day).  It is a powerful story that shows not only is God concerned about “quantity” (Phillip, earlier in Acts: 8, hearing and obeying the Holy Spirit, was responsible for large numbers of believers from several cities and villages in Samaria) but also “quality” (Phillip worked one on one with the Ethiopian Eunuch).
At this point, before I knew it, I went “off Script”… meaning I deviated from the sermon notes I had prepared, and I challenged the congregation to pray that the Holy Spirit would lay a person, persons, family, or situation on their heart that God wanted them to share the “Good News” of Jesus, be an encouragement to, meet a need of, or whatever they felt God was leading them to do.  I reminded everyone that you can’t stay “here” and get to “there”.  It would require each of us to listen, obey, and “GO”.
I also reminded everyone that sharing the Good News of Jesus
-         Can disrupt their normal routines
-         Will require them hearing AND obeying God’s prompting (through the Holy Spirit)
-         Acknowledges God is always at work, and is asking them to join Him
-         Will transform coincidences into Divine appointments.
-         Many times makes you the answer to someone else’s prayer.
At the conclusion of the service, I asked people to send me some of the stories later this week, of how God answered their prayers.  These stories would be a personal “witness” of God’s activity in their lives and in the lives of others, which they spoke to. 
Weird how even a preacher, who has prepared all week for a message, can sense (hear) “something” from the Holy Spirit in the midst of his “normal routine” of speaking on Sunday mornings, and “deviate” or “Go” to a different place than what he had originally planned.  What my congregation didn’t know at the time… they were witnessing Acts 1:8 being lived out right in front of them, and many of them didn’t realize it, until they read about it here in the previous sentence!
By the way, after the service, as I spoke individually with several people, I realized God had just transformed the coincidences of the LifeSpring congregation worshiping together on a rainy Sunday morning in September, to a Divine Appointment.
I hope to share some of these stories later in my blog.  If you have any personal stories that might be your witness for Jesus, feel free to share them with me too.

September 5, 2013

It's too early to give up

Have you every just felt like quitting?

Balancing being a church planter, pastor, spouse, father, son, friend, and disciple of Jesus is difficult to say the least.  Any one of these carry with it responsibilities and pressures that easily could cause me to be consumed with frustrations.

Combine these responsibilities and pressures with my past or current failures as I attempt to improve in each area (becoming a better church planter, pastor, spouse, etc), and you have a perfect storm that leads to many emotions, beating myself up, feeling down and deflated to the point I just want to quit.

Satan uses our “failures” as heavy bricks that are placed in our backpacks of life.  He convinces us that our “failure bricks” are weighing us down and are such a burden to carry that we would be better off to just quit trying to get better. This way, we eliminate the chances of creating more “failure bricks” in the future, because we’ve quit trying to improve.

Jesus teaches us something different about how to handle failure. 

In Luke 9:1-5, Jesus sent His disciples to go out and preach the Good News (God is with us: hope for those who have all but lost hope) and to perform miracles.  

Jesus tells his disciples, “If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.” 

Jesus wanted these disciples to model themselves after Him.  He gave them power and authority over demons and even the power to heal the sick, yet he also prepared them for rejection and failure. 

Jesus knew that not everyone was going to receive the truth about Him, and these disciples might be tempted to let this failure stop them from continuing.  He wanted them not to take the “failure brick” and put it in their backpack and weight them down to the point of quitting.  Rather, Jesus wanted them to use their failures as fuel to fire them up and so they could continue on and not quit.

Matt Emmons, an Olympic medalist in rifle shooting knows this all to well.

In the 2004 Olympics, he was leading the 50-meter rifle three positions when he shot at the wrong target on his last shot.

That zero scored dropped him from first to eighth. In the same event in Beijing in 2008, Emmons had a misfire on his final shot to drop from first to fourth.

Emmons could have easily quit. He probably thought, “Why fail again on a public stage such as the Olympics?  I’m not going to put any more ‘failure bricks’ in my life’s backpack. I quit.”

But he didn’t!  In 2012 Olympics, Matt Emmons took the bronze medal!  He decided not to quit, and put his past failures behind him. 

Next time Satan uses your failures to weigh you down to the point you want to quit getting better at being a spouse, parent, employee, friend, a disciple of Jesus…remember the words of Norman Vincent Peale

“It’s too early to quit”