Friday, February 28, 2014

Strengthen the Things that Remain: Human Dignity, Human Rights, and Human Flourishing in a Dangerous Age — An Address at Brigham Young University


An address delivered as a Forum Lecture in the Marriott Center Arena at Brigham Young University by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on Tuesday, February 25, 2014.

I am honored once again to visit Brigham Young University and to address both faculty and students at this great institution of higher learning. When I visited last October to speak in a different BYU context, I had the honor of meeting with members of your faculty and administrative leadership and I deeply appreciated the conversation we shared.  I also had the privilege of spending time with some of the General Authorities of your church, including Elder Tom Perry, Elder Quentin Cook, Elder Dallin Oaks, and several others. I am glad to know these men as friends. We face many challenges, and we face many of those challenges together. As always, BYU has extended the most gracious hospitality and welcome, and I am very thankful for the honor of being with you once again.

The presence of the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary behind the podium at Brigham Young University requires some explanation. I come as an evangelical Christian, committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the trinitarian beliefs of the historic Christian faith. I come as one who does not share your theology and who has long been involved in urgent discussions about the distinctions between the faith of the Latter Day Saints and the faith of the historic Christian church. I come as who I am, and your leaders invited me to come knowing who I am. I have come knowing who you are and what you believe and my presence here does not mean that the distance between our beliefs has been reduced. It does mean, however, that we now know something that we did not know before. We need to talk. We can and must take the risk of responsible, respectful, and honest conversation. We owe this to each other, and we owe this to the faiths we represent. And we had better talk with candor and urgency, for the times demand it.

My presence here is indicative of one of the strangest and most ironic truths of all — that the people who can have the most important and the most honest conversations are those who hold the deepest beliefs and who hold those beliefs with candor and engage one another with the most substantial discussion of the issues that are of most crucial importance to us. And thus the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is thankful to be among you at Brigham Young University. You are a university that stands, as all great universities stand, for the importance of ideas and the honor of seeking after the truth. I come to honor the importance of ideas and the centrality of the search for truth with you.

Read the entire address by Albert Mohler here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Journal: A Writer’s Tool Everyone Can Have and Six Ways to Achieve It


"If a journal is not in your writer’s tool kit, it should be. Proven to be a stress reliever and healthy for mind and body, it can also unleash the creative juices in each of us. While it can serve as a diary by simply recording your daily deeds and innermost thoughts, a journal is much more.

 Writing down what inspires you and your goals triggers your imagination. But also include the concrete: “to-do” lists that can include the mundane chores, errands and grocery lists or “must do” lists that could resemble a bucket.

In How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, Michael J. Gelb describes Leonardo’s journaling habits, which are intriguing to say the least! This is an excellent resource for writers and I highly recommend it – it is, um, pure genius! The following is a list of ideas to jumpstart your journal."

Read the entire article by Rebecca DeMarino here.

5 Really Bad Reasons to Leave Your Church


"Let’s be honest, while there are some good reasons for leaving a church, there are a lot more bad ones. As a pastor, I hear some of them every now and then as people walk out the door. As a church planter, I hear them constantly as people walk in the door.

If you’re thinking about looking for a new church home, please don’t use one of these five reasons to make the jump:

1. “I’m not being fed”

Do pastors have a responsibility to steward the scriptures and care for their church spiritually? You bet they do. And it can be all too easy to overlook this while trying to manage staff, build systems, meet needs, put out fires and develop leaders, all while overseeing the overall vision and direction of the church. But let’s be honest, if you own a smartphone, a personal computer or a library card, you have access to some of the best preaching and teaching in the world. You can even find teaching archives of some of the greatest preachers of all time. Christian, you have access to more “meat” than any other generation before you!"

Let’s be honest, while there are some good reasons for leaving a church, there are a lot more bad ones. As a pastor, I hear some of them every now and then as people walk out the door. As a church planter, I hear them constantly as people walk in the door.
If you’re thinking about looking for a new church home, please don’t use one of these five reasons to make the jump:

1. “I’m not being fed”

Do pastors have a responsibility to steward the scriptures and care for their church spiritually? You bet they do. And it can be all too easy to overlook this while trying to manage staff, build systems, meet needs, put out fires and develop leaders, all while overseeing the overall vision and direction of the church. But let’s be honest, if you own a smartphone, a personal computer or a library card, you have access to some of the best preaching and teaching in the world. You can even find teaching archives of some of the greatest preachers of all time. Christian, you have access to more “meat” than any other generation before you!

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-really-bad-reasons-leave-your-church#yG3iCMuQoXVfddLr.99
Read the entire article here.


Let’s be honest, while there are some good reasons for leaving a church, there are a lot more bad ones. As a pastor, I hear some of them every now and then as people walk out the door. As a church planter, I hear them constantly as people walk in the door.
If you’re thinking about looking for a new church home, please don’t use one of these five reasons to make the jump:

1. “I’m not being fed”

Do pastors have a responsibility to steward the scriptures and care for their church spiritually? You bet they do. And it can be all too easy to overlook this while trying to manage staff, build systems, meet needs, put out fires and develop leaders, all while overseeing the overall vision and direction of the church. But let’s be honest, if you own a smartphone, a personal computer or a library card, you have access to some of the best preaching and teaching in the world. You can even find teaching archives of some of the greatest preachers of all time. Christian, you have access to more “meat” than any other generation before you!

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-really-bad-reasons-leave-your-church#6KuVGfAFyuBOz1Gt.99

Let’s be honest, while there are some good reasons for leaving a church, there are a lot more bad ones. As a pastor, I hear some of them every now and then as people walk out the door. As a church planter, I hear them constantly as people walk in the door.
If you’re thinking about looking for a new church home, please don’t use one of these five reasons to make the jump:

1. “I’m not being fed”

Do pastors have a responsibility to steward the scriptures and care for their church spiritually? You bet they do. And it can be all too easy to overlook this while trying to manage staff, build systems, meet needs, put out fires and develop leaders, all while overseeing the overall vision and direction of the church. But let’s be honest, if you own a smartphone, a personal computer or a library card, you have access to some of the best preaching and teaching in the world. You can even find teaching archives of some of the greatest preachers of all time. Christian, you have access to more “meat” than any other generation before you!

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-really-bad-reasons-leave-your-church#6KuVGfAFyuBOz1Gt.99

Let’s be honest, while there are some good reasons for leaving a church, there are a lot more bad ones. As a pastor, I hear some of them every now and then as people walk out the door. As a church planter, I hear them constantly as people walk in the door.
If you’re thinking about looking for a new church home, please don’t use one of these five reasons to make the jump:

1. “I’m not being fed”

Do pastors have a responsibility to steward the scriptures and care for their church spiritually? You bet they do. And it can be all too easy to overlook this while trying to manage staff, build systems, meet needs, put out fires and develop leaders, all while overseeing the overall vision and direction of the church. But let’s be honest, if you own a smartphone, a personal computer or a library card, you have access to some of the best preaching and teaching in the world. You can even find teaching archives of some of the greatest preachers of all time. Christian, you have access to more “meat” than any other generation before you!

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-really-bad-reasons-leave-your-church#Dt9WaBBlSHGuthmX.99
Let’s be honest, while there are some good reasons for leaving a church, there are a lot more bad ones. As a pastor, I hear some of them every now and then as people walk out the door. As a church planter, I hear them constantly as people walk in the door.
If you’re thinking about looking for a new church home, please don’t use one of these five reasons to make the jump:

1. “I’m not being fed”

Do pastors have a responsibility to steward the scriptures and care for their church spiritually? You bet they do. And it can be all too easy to overlook this while trying to manage staff, build systems, meet needs, put out fires and develop leaders, all while overseeing the overall vision and direction of the church. But let’s be honest, if you own a smartphone, a personal computer or a library card, you have access to some of the best preaching and teaching in the world. You can even find teaching archives of some of the greatest preachers of all time. Christian, you have access to more “meat” than any other generation before you!

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-really-bad-reasons-leave-your-church#Dt9WaBBlSHGuthmX.99
Let’s be honest, while there are some good reasons for leaving a church, there are a lot more bad ones. As a pastor, I hear some of them every now and then as people walk out the door. As a church planter, I hear them constantly as people walk in the door.
If you’re thinking about looking for a new church home, please don’t use one of these five reasons to make the jump:

1. “I’m not being fed”

Do pastors have a responsibility to steward the scriptures and care for their church spiritually? You bet they do. And it can be all too easy to overlook this while trying to manage staff, build systems, meet needs, put out fires and develop leaders, all while overseeing the overall vision and direction of the church. But let’s be honest, if you own a smartphone, a personal computer or a library card, you have access to some of the best preaching and teaching in the world. You can even find teaching archives of some of the greatest preachers of all time. Christian, you have access to more “meat” than any other generation before you!

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-really-bad-reasons-leave-your-church#Dt9WaBBlSHGuthmX.99
Let’s be honest, while there are some good reasons for leaving a church, there are a lot more bad ones. As a pastor, I hear some of them every now and then as people walk out the door. As a church planter, I hear them constantly as people walk in the door.
If you’re thinking about looking for a new church home, please don’t use one of these five reasons to make the jump:

1. “I’m not being fed”

Do pastors have a responsibility to steward the scriptures and care for their church spiritually? You bet they do. And it can be all too easy to overlook this while trying to manage staff, build systems, meet needs, put out fires and develop leaders, all while overseeing the overall vision and direction of the church. But let’s be honest, if you own a smartphone, a personal computer or a library card, you have access to some of the best preaching and teaching in the world. You can even find teaching archives of some of the greatest preachers of all time. Christian, you have access to more “meat” than any other generation before you!

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/5-really-bad-reasons-leave-your-church#Dt9WaBBlSHGuthmX.99

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Are conscientious Christians the new Jim Crow?

Denny Burk exposes the false assumptions in a USA Today article by Kirsten Powers.  In the article, Powers argues that religious people in America who oppose same sex marriage and refuse to participate in same-sex ceremonies are bigots - and laws supporting their rights to not participate are akin to Jim Crow laws.


Kirsten Powers argues in USA Today that Kansas’ recent effort to protect religious freedom is akin to enacting Jim Crow laws. She writes:

What’s the matter with Kansas? A bill protecting the religious freedom of businesses and individuals to refuse services to same-sex couples passed the state House of Representatives last week. It was blessedly killed in the state Senate on Tuesday…
Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws.
She goes on to argue that Christian business owners have an obligation to serve people they disagree with because that’s what Jesus taught us to do. She invokes Pastor Andy Stanley for support on this point:

Evangelical pastor Andy Stanley leads North Point Ministries, the second largest church in the U.S. He told me he finds it “offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the Kansas law.” He said, “Serving people we don’t see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn’t see eye to eye. If a bakery doesn’t want to sell its products to a gay couple, it’s their business. Literally. But leave Jesus out of it.”
Christians serve unrepentant murderers through prison ministry. So why can’t they provide a service for a same-sex marriage?
Some claim it’s because marriage is so sacred. But double standards abound. Christian bakers don’t interrogate wedding clients to make sure their behavior comports with the Bible. If they did, they’d be out of business. Stanley said, “Jesus taught that if a person is divorced and gets remarried, it’s adultery. So if (Christians) don’t have a problem doing business with people getting remarried, why refuse to do business with gays and lesbians.”
 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

God has promised to sustain the righteous


The Southern Baptist Convention will encounter affliction as it serves the Lord, but will complete its God-given mission because of the Lord's promises, Luter said in his presidential address to the SBC Executive Committee Feb. 17 in Nashville.

Using Psalm 34:19 as a text, referencing the Old Testament's Job and adding humor with the fictional James Bond, Luter said the Lord not only brings tribulation to the righteous, but successfully brings the righteous through those same troubles.

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous," the Scripture reads, "but the Lord delivers him out of them all" (NKJV).

Read the entire article by Diana Chandler  about Fred Luter's address here.

He Giveth More Grace


He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater.
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase.
To added affliction, He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

- Annie Flint

Monday, February 17, 2014

States key to religious freedom


Louisiana's Governor Bobby Jindal spoke out recently at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library on the increasing threat against religious liberty in the USA.  Diana Chandler wrote an article covering his speech . . .

Americans must fight at the state level to protect religious liberties threatened by the Obama administration, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in an address at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.

Kansas and Kentucky are the most recent states to pass such protective laws in the wake of the failed federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012, but more states must follow suit, Jindal said in a Reagan Forum address Thursday (Feb. 13) in Simi Valley, Calif.

"We must enshrine in our state laws strong legal protections for churches, religious organizations and individual believers. No church or church-affiliated organization or individuals whose business is run in a manner consistent with their faith practices should be required by the state to take steps in conflict with their religion," Jindal said. "Nor should they be legally punished for how they treat marital arrangements outside the teachings of their faith."

Read the entire article by Diana Chandler here.

You Remain the Same


When all seems familiar, You remain the same
When the familiar is no more, You remain the same
When sickness rears its head, You remain the same
When death beckons, You remain the same
When people fail me, You remain the same
When institutions fall, You remain the same
When disappointment lingers, You remain the same
 
When life is born, You remain the same
When hope comes, You remain the same
When doors open, You remain the same
And when they close, You remain the same
When I am tempted, You remain the same
And when I fail, You remain the same
And when I stand, You remain the same
When confusion surrounds me, You remain the same
When my joy-box is full, You remain the same

When I understand, You remain the same
And when I don’t, You remain the same
When I am understood, You remain the same
And when I am misunderstood, You remain the same
When others like me, You remain the same
And when they don’t, You remain the same
Before I was, You were
While I am here, You are
And when I am gone, You will be
Thank You that You remain the same.

When places change, You remain the same
When love is returned, You remain the same
When love is not returned, You remain the same
When I love my placement, You remain the same
When I question the place You have me, You remain the same
When friends are near, You remain the same
And when the leave, You remain the same
When family is plenteous, You remain the same
And when I am alone, You remain the same
 
When my cupboard is full, You remain the same
And when it is scarce, You remain the same
When traditions continue, You remain the same
And when they are no more, You remain the same
When children are born, You remain the same
And when they go to kindergarten, You remain the same
And when they go to college, You remain the same
And when they are married, You remain the same
When love is fresh, You remain the same
When it seems cold, You remain the same
When I am successful, You remain the same
And when I seem to not be, You remain the same
 
 
It seems Lord, that You are really all I have.  That only makes sense, for I had no more than You when you first thought me up.  And nothing more than You will I have when life here is over.  But oh what an inheritance is mine!  Thank You, Father, for giving me all that is Yours.  I am forever grateful.
 
 

Interruptions and Opportunities

 
If you are like me, it is easy at times to get so focused on one thing that we miss opportunities around us.  I was reminded of that last week when I had settled into my office to get some work done (when there was lots of snow on the ground outside).  A quiet knock came on the door, and Anna-Frances entered and sweetly asked, "Daddy, can you come outside with me and help me build a snowman?"
 
I made the right choice - I did get up, put on the heavy coat, gloves, etc. and go outside - but I have to admit that I did hesitate at first.  I had to make myself do it initially.  In retrospect, we had a great hour or two building some memories of sledding outside.  We rarely get snow, and I can count on about 3 fingers how many times I have gotten to do any really good sledding with Anna in her lifetime.  Ten years from now I would probably never remember what I was planning on doing in my office the next couple of hours.  It is very possible, though, that ten years from now I might remember that afternoon of sledding.
 
Last week during our "snow blizzard" I picked up and began reading a book by Avery Willis and Henry Blackaby called On Mission with God: Living God's Purpose for His Glory. 
 
In it, I came across the following statement, which made me think of our Life Group lesson yesterday about Zacchaeus . . .
 
How often are you so focused on one thing that God is doing that you miss an opportunity God is presenting you through other circumstances?  I have discovered that interruptions are often divine appointments.
 
On another day when Jesus passed through Jericho, He looked up in a tree and saw Zacchaeus.  He knew that the Father was at work because no one seeks to know Christ without the Father's prompting.  Whenever you see someone wanting to know more about Christ, realize that God is waving a red flag for you to interrupt your schedule and join Him on mission.  Jesus threw away His DayTimer and went to lunch with Zacchaeus.  That day, Z. became a true son of Abraham even though he was a publican.  Be so attuned to the Spirit of God that you recognize the circumstances where God is at work around you and immediately join Him!
 
May God give us sensitive spirits to recognize opportunities that come into our path - even when they seem like interruptions!

How to Have a Meaningful Quiet Time


Christianity is not a legal relationship, it is a love relationship. Ten thousand “don'ts” will never make you one iota more like the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Himself Who makes you like Him. But you need to spend time with Him. I want to give you five factors for spending some quiet time with Him each day.

The Proper Period
You must find the right time. Your quiet time should last at least half an hour. But some time is better than no time, so if you can't start at thirty minutes, begin with ten. It should be your very best time. Don't give the Lord your leftovers. And don't try to find time - make time, and make it a priority. Also find time early in the day. Psalm 5:3 says, “… in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee, and will look up.” You don't take the trip and then read the map, do you? Spend time alone with God to begin your day.

The Proper Preparation

A quiet time is fellowship with a holy God. There are a few things you can do to be prepared for this time. First, be physically alert. Find a time when the cobwebs are out of your mind and you can think clearly. Second, be mentally aware. Be focused, and know He's there. Emotion doesn't really have all that much to do with it. And third, be morally pure and clean. Some people don't have a quiet time because they feel uncomfortable looking God in the face with sin in their lives.

Read the entire article by Adrian Rogers here.

Celebrating the Final Game of the Upward Basketball Season


Friday, February 14, 2014

Ready for Another Day of School


God Still Speaks


The Richard Blackaby article I posted on Wednesday got me thinking and reading more on this subject.  The following article by Jack Hayford is one that he has used numerous times in various publications.  I find his list of the seven ways through which God speaks to be helpful. . . .

Through the years I have learned to respect Pastor Jack Hayford, author of the acclaimed worship song Majesty.  Internationally recognized as a shepherd of shepherds in the Body of Christ, the Lord has used Pastor Jack profoundly in this generation.  I first heard him in person in 1995 at an Atlanta Promise Keepers gathering.  Teaching from Exodus 3, he asked every man in the Georgia Dome to take off his shoes and get on his knees.  It was quite a holy moment in my memory.

Though I don't agree with all of Hayford's theological bents (nor would he agree with all of mine - but we can love and respect each other as brothers in the Lord), I respect him as a man of the Word, of prayer, and a man committed to walking closely with God.  Hayford through the years has challenged believers to prepare themselves to learn to listen to the voice of the Spirit, and he takes issue with those in Christ's Body who don't like the idea of the Lord speaking today or the Spirit leading His people.  In his book on spiritual disciplines, Living the Spirit-Formed Life, he includes "Committed to Hearing God's Voice" as the first discipline.

The following article, "God Still Speaks," appeared in Ministry Today.  The basic content has been used in several of Hayford's publications and sermons.

"Some say God speaks only through the Bible. But an honest look at Scripture reveals many ways God has chosen to communicate to His children.

Pardon my bluntness, but I'm really getting tired of hearing respected evangelicals attack anyone who says, "The Lord spoke to me." A growing body of verbiage today debunks the idea that God speaks personally to people any more. Although there is value in warning against kooks, I'm disturbed. These attacks seek to ban a biblical, privileged expectation of the redeemed and also level wholesale assaults on anyone who claims a word from the Lord or that God spoke to them in the privacy of their own walk with Him.

Let me shout it: Yes, God's Word is absolute authority! I don't know any spiritually alive or reasonably alert Christian--charismatic or not--who ever thinks otherwise. Whatever demographic studies may regrettably report of "Christians" who live according to their own subjective or relativistic values, they don't represent me, and I doubt they represent you."

Read the entire article by Pastor Jack Hayford here.

Wilson Snow Fun February 2014





Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why is it So Difficult to Believe God Speaks?


The following is a very good blog article by Richard Blackaby . . .

"The Blackabys are not unfamiliar with criticism; of that you can be sure. We have had well meaning critics challenge everything from our choice of Bible translation to our use of sermon illustrations. But undoubtedly the subject for which we receive the most invective is our assertion that God speaks to people.

Invariably if we suggest in preaching or writing that God communicates with people directly, we are quickly reminded by self-appointed orthodoxy police, that we are sadly misguided. If we ask why they are so concerned about our teaching, our critics will hasten to inform us of someone they knew once, who claimed to have received a “word” from God that it was OK to commit adultery with their secretary and therefore it is far too dangerous to encourage people to assume they can receive a direct word from God themselves. . . One hates to think that because one misguided believer lied about hearing from God, now no one is allowed to receive a divine word.

If we suggest that the Bible is our instruction manual for the Christian life and that it provides numerous examples in both the Old and New Testaments of God speaking to people, our watchdogs will immediately assure us that God no longer needs to speak to people directly because we now have the Bible. Therefore, every word of instruction we require can be found in its written pages."

Read the entire article by Richard here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Thought for the Moment


When Old Testament Joseph was young and God gave him a sense of destiny, he was most impressed with how other people would one day serve him.  When Joseph was older and the destiny was fulfilled, his character had changed so that he was more concerned with how he could serve others through his destiny.

Resources for Fasting and Prayer


The last couple of weeks I challenged our church to fast and pray.  I told them that so often we are satisfied to live spiritually on vanilla wafers when God wants to give us prime rib.  We become so satisfied with the world and its pleasures that we stop delighting in the Lord.  Fasting is one of those spiritual disciplines the Lord has given us to teach us again to enjoy Him and experience His presence and power in fresh ways.

Richard Foster, author of the best-selling book Celebration of Discipline, shared once that he did not think the American church will survive the 21st century if she does not return to the spiritual disciplines of fasting and solitude. 

Pastor Jack Hayford, who for several years served as the President of his denomination, shared, "Fifty years of leadership have taught me—there is no greater spiritual means to see the release of the Holy Spirit’s power than united fasting and prayer. Fasting somehow cripples the Adversary’s ability to withstand and breaks his capability to sustain strongholds set in place against us. Prayer opens heaven’s windows!"

Elmer Towns of Liberty University has provided some excellent resources to inform and equip people who want to seek the Lord through fasting and prayer.  I highly recommend either of the two following books.  Fasting with the Lord's Prayer provides basic, practical teaching on how to fast and how to pray the Lord's Prayer as a guide.  Then, Town provides 21-days of meditations to use while fasting.

Another book by Towns, Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough, explains eight types of biblical fasts, people in the Bible who did such fasts, and the reasons behind fasting in those ways. 

I love testimonies from God's people that share special ways that God has worked in their lives.  Roy Hession said, "Prayer is the foundation for revival, and testimony is the spark that ignites it."

I found online a tremendous digital resource written by Elmer Towns and Jerry Falwell called "Fasting Can Change Your Life" that includes short interviews with more than twenty well-known Christians (many of my modern heroes) including Jerry Falwell, Bill Bright, Jack Hayford, D. James Kennedy, Jimmy Draper, Larry Lewis, Evelyn Christenson, Elmer Towns, and Ronnie Floyd.  They each share personal testimonies of fasting and praying.


Jerry Falwell shares of their church fasting and praying for the healing of two people in their church - and of his fasts when he sought God to pay off the debt of Liberty University (more than $100 million!).  He shares that during his first 40-day fast when he kept asking God for the money, "He impressed upon my heart that I needed to get close to Him, to listen to Him and to trust Him.  When I asked for money, God would not let me ask for money but to learn to know Him better."


Al Henson shares how their new church plant learned to fast and pray which resulted in their church receiving 24 acres of land.

Jane Hansen shares about fasting and praying for her son to be released from a drug addiction.

 

There are many other testimonies - fasting for a couple to become pregnant, for the healing of cancer, the salvation of a father, for receiving guidance, for engaging spiritual warfare, and many others.

 
The book is divided into 33 chapters, each with a different testimony.  I was encouraged and challenged reading their testimonies!  I challenge you to do the same.
 






Fasting and Prayer - Examples


Examples of people fasting:

·      James and Shirley Dobson fasting once a week for their children as they grew up.

·      James Dobson’s great grandfather fasting and praying for his descendants.

·      A mega-church pastor fasting a couple of days a month to attempt to stay close to God and so as to avoid unnecessary discipline from God.

·      Elders or deacons fasting once a month together the day of their meeting.

·      Martha Franks fasting lunch on days when she speaks to groups.

·      First Baptist Atlanta fasting for a week together before making major decisions such as building and land acquisition.

·      Churches setting aside Saturdays for prayer and fasting for direction.

·      Liberty University and Thomas Road Church fasting a day for a member’s physical healing.

·      Jerry Falwell fasting for 40-days for financial provision for Liberty University.

·      Bill Bright calling Christians to fast and pray for revival and spiritual awakening in America.

·      Churches fasting and praying for spiritual fruit from specific ministries outreaches.

·      Churches and ministries fasting for the spiritual-moral and political condition of the nation.

Getting Beyond Our Mistakes


"A few years ago, I picked up a hobby: woodworking. I watched a few television shows featuring master craftsman making furniture and it caught my attention. I figured I could learn that art form and began to invest in some tools: table saw, routers, drill press, bandsaw, and other denizens of the woodworker's shop. Turns out, it’s a tough hobby. The guys on television made it look easy. That’s the advantage of filming retakes until it turns out the way they want. One host did an episode of his mistakes. He’s my favorite.

The thing with woodworking is the number of ways a worker can mess things up. The possibility for mistakes is endless: the wood drifts a little to one side when going through the table saw, the hand plane digs a little too deep can removes more wood than desired, a stain doesn’t take . . . okay, now I’m just depressing myself.

When a mistake happens, and it will, the craftsman must decide if the piece of wood can be salvaged or needs to be tossed. The thing about woodworkers, especially the master craftsman, is they can see every mistake in a piece, especially if they’re the one who made it. An experienced worker can see if a joint is off by as little as thirty-second of an inch."

Read the entire article by Alton Gansky here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why Is It So Difficult to Believe God Speaks? - my take

Richard Blackaby gives a great blog post this month: Why is it so difficult to believe God speaks?

It was not until I went to seminary that I began to discover how much people in the Body of Christ criticize each other.  I don't mean unlearned, carnal, biblically-illiterate people.  I mean pastors, professors, and leaders criticizing and picking apart what other believers believe and practice.  (I remember being dumbfounded once during seminary listening to some fellow students bash Billy Graham and James Dobson for all of their, in their opinions, for their "unbiblical and unwise" approaches to ministry.  They told me that Billy Graham had done more harm to evangelism than anyone in the 20th century, and that if James Dobson wanted to serve the Lord, he should have been a pastor.  Wow!)  Looking back, I was na├»ve and was just learning how much the Body of Christ criticizes each other's theology and practice.

One of those areas that has come into a lot of criticism is the debate of "does God speak today."  Through the years I have learned from, appreciated, and agreed with the simple reality that the God who spoke through His Spirit and indwells believers today is still speaking and guiding.  His Holy Spirir guides us, and we are wise to learn to discern the inner witness of the Spirit.  I have enjoyed the teaching and writing of many guides on this subject such as Charles Stanley, Peter Lord, Henry Blackaby, Jack Hayford, Dallas Willard, Gordon Smith, V. Raymond Edman, Priscilla Shirer, Joy Dawson, Loren Cunningham, Kay Arthur, Wayne Grudem, and others. 

One of the first books I remember reading for my own spiritual growth in college was How to Listen to God by Charles Stanley.  I cut my freshman-year college spiritual teeth on it and gleaned much that year from Stanley's preaching and testimonies about both  meditating on the Word of God and learning to listen to the Holy Spirit.  The last 20+ years, I have read a number of books on the subject.  For years I was helped by a number of the "Christian living" books on the subject such as Blackaby's Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God and by the testimonies and biographies of Christian speakers, authors, missionaries, and leaders.

In recent years, I have benefited from reading books on the subject written on a higher intellectual-theological level than the previously mentioned ones.  Dallas Willard's Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God and Gordon Smith's The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer, and the Witness of the Spirit are excellent approaches to the subject.  Another one is Wayne Grudem's The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today - a very intellectual, systematic approach from one of evangelical's most respected theologians.  He helped fill in some blanks for me theologically, intellectually, and practically that some of the "practical Christian living" books do not. 

It shocked me a number of years ago when I began to realize that a number of people who take the Bible seriously take great issue with those ideas.  I have appreciated Jack Hayford's thoughts and teachings on the subject through the years, as well as his frustration with the "growing body of verbiage today debunks the idea that God speaks personally to people any more. Although there is value in warning against kooks, I'm disturbed."  You can read more of his article "God Speaks Today" here.

Part of my own frustration with the debate is the fact that I know He has spoken to me at various times through His Holy Spirit - apart from the Bible.  (And I am a person who takes the Bible seriously - I have not missed one day in 23 years meditating at least twice daily in the pages of the Word of God.  I have practiced the old Billy Graham team practice of "no bread, no bread" - if you do not meditate in the Word of God then you do not eat physical food.) 

In saying that, to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit speaks to you - or guides you - does NOT mean the following:  a) it does not mean that you always hear correctly, b) it does not mean that you always understand correctly, c) it does not mean that do not add some of your own thoughts and perceptions to the instruction of the Holy Spirit, d) it does not mean that we always see and hear clearly (now we see but a poor reflection through a mirror), e) it does not mean that His ways, instructions, and revelations will always make sense to our logic and reason, and f) and it CERTAINLY does not mean that we do not take the Bible seriously.  Grudem's book The Gift of Prophecy helps much in explaining these areas.

As the old hymn testified, "He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own."  The intimacy shared between the Lord and His Bride has at times been compared to the intimacy between a married couple.  I remember Charles Stanley exhorting in his sermon "Favorites vs. Intimates" that sometimes we are too busy to get on our face and make love to God. 

Though no illustration is perfect, I have thought numerous times through the years that to me, someone saying that the Holy Spirit does not speak to people today is kind of like a virgin telling a married man that there is no such thing as sex! 

Well, this is one of those debates - like Calvinism / non-Calvinism, the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit, the practice of water baptism, and the role of women in ministry - that will go on until Jesus comes! 

Richard Blackaby has some good things to say about this debate.  I resonate with his thoughts deeply!

"The Blackabys are not unfamiliar with criticism; of that you can be sure. We have had well meaning critics challenge everything from our choice of Bible translation to our use of sermon illustrations. But undoubtedly the subject for which we receive the most invective is our assertion that God speaks to people.

Invariably if we suggest in preaching or writing that God communicates with people directly, we are quickly reminded by self-appointed orthodoxy police, that we are sadly misguided. If we ask why they are so concerned about our teaching, our critics will hasten to inform us of someone they knew once, who claimed to have received a “word” from God that it was OK to commit adultery with their secretary and therefore it is far too dangerous to encourage people to assume they can receive a direct word from God themselves. . . One hates to think that because one misguided believer lied about hearing from God, now no one is allowed to receive a divine word.

If we suggest that the Bible is our instruction manual for the Christian life and that it provides numerous examples in both the Old and New Testaments of God speaking to people, our watchdogs will immediately assure us that God no longer needs to speak to people directly because we now have the Bible. Therefore, every word of instruction we require can be found in its written pages."

Read the entire article by Richard here.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

How to Help Your Church's Prayer Life


The following is advice I modified and added to from Donald Whitney's excellent book Spiritual Disciplines within the Church.


1)     Participate in congregational prayer.  You may not have the freedom or fluency in public prayer that some enjoy.  Begin with one-sentence prayers or thanksgivings for specific blessings.  Soon you will grow and become comfortable saying more. 

 
2)     Listen and agree in your spirit when others pray.  Actively listen – don’t just check out and let your mind wander.  As you listen carefully, say “Amen” to God in your heart and out-loud when they express something that is a desire of yours as well.

 
3)     Attend designated prayer meetings and training events for prayer.  Determine to grow together in prayer with other people so that you can strengthen the ministry and outreach of your church.


4)     Volunteer to help your church’s prayer ministry.  Work with other people to mobilize prayer in your church.  Churches do this in different ways, depending on their needs and calling.  Most pastors would be delighted to have someone(s) to help organize a prayer ministry.

 
5)     Become a part of – or start – a small prayer group.  You may have a few other people who would be willing to meet with you before work during a weekday, before church on Sunday, or one night of the week for prayer.  Most movements of God in history or in churches were preceded by much prayer from small groups.
 
 
If you long for more of the blessing of God upon the preaching of the Scriptures and the ministry of your church and for more of God’s grace upon your life, meet with other believers and pray for it.  Will God reject the united prayers of His people who ask Him to bless His own Word and work?  In the midst of the contemporary church’s search for sophisticated methods, let’s not forget the pleasure God takes in the confluence of His children’s voices.  – Donald Whitney
 
 

 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Happy Birthday President Reagan




President Ronald Reagan shares a 1983 Christmas Eve radio address to the nation. Listen as he gives honor to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, talks about the nation's spiritual heritage and dependence upon the Almighty, and encourages the spirit of Christmas in our nation.  Oh for more leaders like Reagan who are not ashamed of Jesus Christ, who understand the nation's Christian heritage, and who proudly promote the spirit of Christmas!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Bill Nye’s Reasonable Man—The Central Worldview Clash of the Ham-Nye Debate

 

Last night’s debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham attracted a huge international audience and no shortage of controversy—even before it began. Bill Nye, whose main media presence is as “The Science Guy,” and Ken Ham, co-founder of Answers in Genesis and founder of the Creation Museum, squared off in a true debate over one of the most important questions that the human mind can contemplate. That is no small achievement.

I enjoyed a front row seat at the debate, which took place even as a major winter storm raged outside, dumping considerable amounts of snow and ice and causing what the local police announced as a “Class Two” weather emergency. Inside the Creation Museum there was quite enough heat, and the debate took place without a hitch. Thankfully, it also took place without acrimony.

The initial controversy about the debate centered in criticism of Bill Nye for even accepting the invitation. Many evolutionary scientists, such as Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, refuse to debate the issue, believing that any public debate offers legitimacy to those who deny evolution. Nye was criticized by many leading evolutionists, who argued publicly that nothing good could come of the debate.

Read the entire excellent commentary by Albert Mohler here.