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Archive for August, 2015

church_prayer

One of the greatest quotes by a U.S. President was made by John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address:

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

We can apply this to our church: Ask not what your church can do for you. Ask what you can do for your church.

I suppose this can sound pretty self-serving, especially coming from a pastor. And you might be thinking, “Okay, now comes the big guilt speech on getting me to serve more or give more!”

But I’m not even going to go there. I want to focus on “asking.” Not just asking what we can do for our church, but asking God what He can do for our church.

Specifically, I want to encourage prayer for our churches.

I think, for many of us, our prayer life is directed to our own personal needs or the needs of those we love. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. The Bible invites us to cast our cares onto God (2 Peter 5:7) and to intercede on behalf of others. But I want to ask a question:

Do you pray for your local church? Do you ask God for His blessings on your community of faith? Do you pray for your church to be fruitful in accomplishing the vision and mission God has given to you all?

I feel very personally convicted about this. I pray a lot. I pray for my ministry a lot. I pray for people in my church a lot. But I haven’t prayed for specifically God to work out His will powerfully in and through my church – in general. I just kind of assume that “church” things just happen on their own; that enough volunteers will will be raised up, that enough resources will be provided, that the community will be reached. And if things don’t happen, it’s up to the other leaders or the Senior Pastor to figure it out.

But if the local church is my church, then I should be praying regularly for my church – that God would direct my church’s leaders, that God would bless my church, that God would provide for my church, and that God would help my church to grow in breadth and depth.

So I decided to do something about it… (big breath) … I am committing one hour a week to pray specifically for my church, for CBC. And I’m inviting you to do the same for your church. (And if you go to CBC, you can join me Saturday mornings at CBC’s Worship Center to pray from 7am-8am.)

I wonder what would happen if, instead of complaining about church or leaving church when they get disgruntled, that church members would first pray for their church? I wonder what would happen if we came before the throne of God, asking Him to empower, direct, provide for, and grow our church – His church? What would happen if 5, 10 or 100 people interceded for their churches just 30 minutes every week? (I wonder what would happen if pastors prayed for their churches at least one hour a week??) What do you think would happen?

I know what would happen: God STUFF! Stuff that only God can do!

E.M. Bounds once said that the only way God’s people advance the Kingdom of God is … on our knees. Prayer is not preparation for the battle. Prayer is the battle.

So I’m looking for fellow comrades who will lift up their local church regularly in prayer. Will you join me?

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Jesus-Vision

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I stumbled onto something the other day while preparing for a sermon last week. The passage I was preaching on was particularly difficult: Mark 11:12-25. It was about Jesus cursing a fig tree, cleansing the Temple, and then giving a teaching on faith and prayer. I found it difficult to understand Jesus’ harsh reaction to the tree, in the Temple, and what all that had to do with faith and prayer.

While struggling with this, I was led to read verse 11:

“Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.”

That underlined phrase stood out to me as I read it. Jesus looked around. He saw things. He noticed things. In fact, Jesus looked around at everything. What was going on in his mind? What was Jesus seeing?

That’s when it hit me: the key to understanding this passage is to see what Jesus was seeing! In fact, that is the key to understanding life: we need to see life through Jesus’ eyes. “Jesus-vision.”

You can listen to how this played out in my sermon (click here and then click on “The Good News week 11”- it will be uploaded later today), but more importantly is this concept of interpreting life through the eyes of Jesus.

Our own perspective is limited and uncannily self-oriented. We see things we want to see. We gloss over things that don’t fit into our priorities. And, as a result, we miss out on opportunities that God may be leading us into. But Whole Life Worship calls us to “open the eyes of our hearts,” to look at life as Jesus sees it, to notice what God is doing around us, and joining Him in that.

What if we asked the question, “Jesus, what do you see?”

I think if we asked for “Jesus-vision,” to see life through His eyes, we would be amazed at what comes into focus. We would see people in a different light. We would start to see them more as people “lovingly created in the image of God” and less than objects in our personal drama. Instead of seeing our trials as road-blocks, we would begin see them as stepping stones and opportunities. Jesus-vision would make us more aware of our blessings and more conscious of God’s constant activity all around us. It would move us to deeper prayer, to acts of compassion, and to inspired worship.

There’s a guy I see around a lot who (and I’m ashamed to admit this) I try to avoid at all costs. He’s awkward to be around, his conversations with me are so self-focused and they are so long! But recently God’s moved in my heart to see this man through the eyes of Jesus. I’m realizing that he’s a guy who’s loved by God – deeply. He’s also a person who has been hurt and damaged through the course of life. It’s given me greater compassion and patience with him And while I still have a long way to go (still a little bit of aversion in me), I understand that my encounters with him are God-ordained, holy moments. And it’s changing me.

Jesus-vision. It’s seeing life through a new set of eyes.

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