January 2016


Praying Expansively

We spend a lot of time talking about Luke’s version of the Great Commission as it is recorded in the book of Acts. We talk about taking up the “Acts 1:8 Challenge” and being witnesses in every arena that we can think of—from home to state to country to world. It is a good pattern that Christ lays out for His followers so that we will understand the scope of the work that has been assigned to the church until Jesus returns.

This pattern is also a good outline to follow when we pray for our world. I think that our effectiveness in prayer life will increase exponentially if we will be focused. It is important to pray for the world when we approach the throne of God. How then can we be most influential in our prayers? Try this pattern: Start praying for your world close to home. Pray for yourself and your family. Pray for the people who live, and work near you—especially those that you can call by name. Then, remembering that God is concerned for all the world, expand the boarders of your prayer to include the village, town or city in which you live. Pray for local and state leaders. Pray for missionaries who are working to reach lostness in the United States.

Then expand again. Pray for world leaders, for economic stability, for the end of wars. Pray for God’s children who are taking the gospel throughout the known world—for their safety, for their clarity in sharing, and for their desire to serve God to grow daily.

Pray for the world—the world close at hand, and the world far away. Let your heart for God and His work increase in size.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” –Jesus, to the His Disciples (Acts 1:8)

 

The Start of Good Work

Mr. Vela was a really good boss. He would ask you to do a task—always related to your job in the store. If he knew that you had never done the job before, he would show you how to do it. If it was simply moving merchandise from one place in the store to another, he would make clear which items were to be moved, from where, and to where—he would also indicate if you needed to change the pricing on moved items.

This communication was difficult for him because English was not his first language. But he never repeated himself, and more than once he would say in his heavy accent, “I wan’ you to take dese ones over here an’ put dem over dere.” And workers would do it, willingly and correctly.

Sometimes it is difficult to understand the task that God has for us because we just aren’t listening closely enough—perhaps we are even forgetting to start at the beginning of Good Work: communication with the Boss through prayer. God has a good work for us to do. Let’s listen carefully, pray diligently, and work heartily to accomplish the task.

 

“[P]ray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” –Jesus, to the His Disciples (Luke 10:2b)

Life, A Matter of Importance

(Article for Bulletin of FBC Mulberry Grove 1/17/2016)

Each year we are encouraged to celebrate “Sanctity of Life” Sunday. Today is that day. Why focus on the sanctity of human life?

First of all, the world in which we live has so de-valued life that the ending of life has become the arena for debate and argument. Abortion has been added to the list of items that grows in the area of politics. The aged are cordoned away where we don’t have to be bothered with them.

Add to the above reason for such a focus, we must remember that God has placed a premium value on human life. Jesus “suffered the little children to come.” God, upon creation of man, declared it good. Jesus’ purpose in becoming a man was to provide a bridge for lost man to return to the Maker.

Since life is important, I would like to challenge us all on this “Sanctity of Life” Sunday to provide support for those individuals and institutions who specifically raise the level of human life. Support them with prayer. If able, support them with a generous gift. Support them by volunteering time and presence. (Here are a few possibilities: Baptist Children’s Home & Family Services, Lighthouse Pregnancy Center, a local nursing home or care center, GuideStone’s Mission:Dignity ministry. Feel free to add links to Life-supporting organizations in the comments section.)

So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. (Genesis 1:27)

Standing on My Knees

(Originally printed in 1/10/16 bulletin for FBC Mulberry Grove)

One can learn volumes of information in a church history class. Most of it true, some of it legend, all of it made interesting by the teacher who has a profound talent for turning dry history into exciting adventure. It was in just such a class that I learned that the prophet Elisha was sometimes called “old camel knees” because his knees were so calloused from a posture of prayer that they bulged to greater size.

Another interesting story was told of some nameless saint of a preacher who garnered criticism from some of the ladies of his congregation. One was overheard to say of the preacher’s wife, “If that was my husband I would never let him go out in public with such worn knees on his suit pants.” Little did the woman know that he had worn out the knees of his trousers from constantly being on his knees in prayer for just such as she.

If we are to make any kind of difference in this world in which we live, we must start by standing on our knees and presenting ourselves and our community before God in prayer. This is the tallest a man or woman can be—when he/she is standing on his/her knees.

“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” –Jesus, to the His Disciples (Luke 22:40b)

“Facing Forward”

(Originally printed in the 1/3/2016 bulletin of FBC Mulberry Grove)

Who wouldn’t like a clean slate to work with? Never before chalked, and ready to receive the first strokes of a fresh message. In a sense, this is the promise of a new year. It is a moment when we can face our reality with fresh eyes, fresh feelings, fresh attitude.

Our goal for 2016 can bring hop and encouragement in the midst of living life. We can do this through the promise and goal of a focus on Jesus Christ.

With the promise of Jesus, we leave behind the disappointments of the past. While the scars and wrinkles are still there, the lessons learned help us to move on. And the prospect of something fresh and new can bring the encouragement that lifts us to the heavens.

With Jesus as our goal, we have a future that is bright and uplifting. For the new year, I propose that we resolve to keep facing forward, looking into the face–the eyes and the heart–of Jesus. He is our goal, which is our comfort and our strength.

Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.                        –Paul (Philippians 3:13-14)

“Finishing Well”

(originally printed in 12/27/2015 bulletin FBC Mulberry Grove)

The wrapping paper is removed and disposed of. The tree looks a little sadder for the lack of bounty beneath its branches. And the Christmas feast has run its course. Some would say that, now that Christmas is done, the year is all but over.

What would it mean if we take a look at the last few days of 2015 and determine to make even a handful of hours mean more? It might mean that one more soul meets Jesus before the end of the year. It might mean that I (or one of my friends or family) am able to walk more closely with the Lord because I haven’t placed the rest of the year on hold. It might mean that I can choose to have a new beginning even in the midst of all of the closings down.

Who says that the last moments of one thing should be any less spectacular than the first? Not our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. According to His opinion, all of our moments count. So when we consider the countdown minutes of 2015 (just past) think: “Did I finish the year well?”

 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  –Paul (2 Timothy 4:7)