Archives For prayer

I was reading recently about Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. Before it happens, Jesus is in another town some distance away. Word is sent to him that his friend is really sick and they beg Jesus to come quickly. Everyone expects that Jesus will drop everything and come to the rescue. After all, it’s an emergency. In fact Jesus even says:

“This sickness will not end in death. No it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Perfect. Jesus sees that this is serious business and assures everyone that this whole thing won’t end in death. This is where Jesus comes running or maybe even teleports over to Judea and heals Lazarus of his sickness right?

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days…”

Wait, what? Jesus hears about the emergency and decides to stay where he is for two more days. And now, when Jesus finally makes it to Judea, it’s too late. What happened to “This sickness will not end in death” Jesus? Lazarus is dead and buried. It’s over.

Until it’s not.

Jesus of course raises him from the dead and he and Lazarus are hanging out again by dinner.

I find it fascinating the words Jesus uses. Jesus specifically said “This sickness will not END in death.” Of course everyone else figured that once Lazarus died that Jesus had in fact been mistaken. But Jesus knew better. For Jesus, the death of Lazarus was simply a step in his healing and restoration. It wasn’t the end. The sickness wouldn’t END in death. Oh there would be death. It just wouldn’t be the end.

Which brings me to us. I wonder how often Jesus hears our pleas and then decides to wait two more days, or twelve more weeks, or three more years. I wonder how many of our dreams or our hopes have died only to have us give up on a promise He gave us?

I’m learning to hang on to the promises of God even in the face of what feels like the end.

So when the door shuts, when the judge says it’s final, when the bank account runs dry, when they leave, when the cancer returns, when the boss says no, when the church plant fails, when the startup never gets off the ground, when the relationship turns cold – If Jesus promised you that it won’t end in death, I’d suggest you believe him.

 

 

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Pray for me

April 17, 2015 — 4 Comments

It’s always awkward to ask for prayer. For one thing, it’s an admission that we’re vulnerable and weak. It’s a statement that we recognize our need for help. Something in our world has gone awry and we feel powerless to fix it. I suppose it’s weird that we would ever feel powerful enough to fix it on our own, but still for some reason most of us hesitate to ask for prayer.

I know for me there’s another reason that sometimes I hesitate to ask – specifically as a pastor. I talk to other pastors and leaders all the time and I recognize and know that there’s a tendency to overstate my problems and attribute everything to some spiritual force at work against me. I know that not everything that happens to me is because I’m a pastor. Every plumber, teacher, and insurance salesman has car problems and sickness. I can’t always blame my flat tire on some sinister plan of the devil.

And yet, I want to cautiously and carefully step into that conversation a bit. The truth is that those in spiritual leadership face a special kind of opposition. In Luke 22 after Jesus tells the disciples that they will hold important positions in the kingdom of God, he drops this little tidbit:

31“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail.”

Satan had it in for the disciples specifically. Paul warns Timothy about the challenges of leading and describes over and over the trials he has faced “because of the gospel.” Think of Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah, Nehemiah. On and on the list goes of leaders who faced almost unbearable burdens because of their position.

Every pastor I know has stories. They’ve battled depression. They’ve had unexplainable sickness. They’ve had intense seasons of temptation. They’ve had overwhelming conflict. They’ve experienced crippling disappointment. Most of them feel alone. Many are considering quitting. And here’s the problem – that reality isn’t consistent with what we see from our pastors on Sunday. They preach, they smile, they encourage others. They show up at the hospital to hold babies and to pray before surgeries. They fill us with hope and with joy and with peace. It sure feels like things in their world are going great. But chances are, underneath all of that is a man or woman who is struggling.

So all that to say, those in spiritual leadership are targets. Does that mean that every flu-like symptom is a spiritual attack? No. Of course not. But here’s my point. Pray for those in spiritual leadership. Pray for their families. Pray for their marriages. Pray for their finances. Pray for their energy, their hope, their peace, their strength. Pray, as Jesus did, that their faith will not fail.


  *Disclaimer: I realize this post can come off as some kind of personal plea. Frankly, it is. But it’s more than that. It’s a plea on behalf of my friends who faithfully pastor and lead and sacrifice for the sake of the gospel. My hope is that you will share this with others who will be prompted to pray for and support their pastors in consistent, life-giving ways.

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Forty

August 12, 2014 — Leave a comment

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At STORYCHURCH we’ve been working our way through the story of Moses and the Israelites. This week we caught up with them with the Red Sea at their back and the army of Egypt approaching them at the front. It was an impossible situation with no way out. And the people weren’t happy about it. They confronted Moses with “Was it because there weren’t enough graves in Egypt that you brought us into the wilderness to die?”

And that’s when Moses tells the people “The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.”

That doesn’t feel like much of a solution. It’s easier to do something. Anything. But to be still, to wait on God, to trust Him to come through in an otherwise impossible situation – that is hard.

The story moves forward as God parts the sea and makes a way for the Israelites to walk across on dry land. It’s an improbable solution to an impossible situation.

As a church we’re in one of those Red Sea moments. God did something amazing for us recently when He made it possible for us to purchase our first permanent facility. It was a miracle really – something we weren’t even looking to do. And so we extended ourselves, we took a risk, we followed Him out of one chapter and into the next. And now it sort of feels like He led us into an impossible situation. We’re too far out to turn back now, and yet at the same time without a real clear way forward. To date (August 12, 2014) we’ve raised just about 45-50% of the funds needed to complete renovations on the facility. And the clock is ticking. We have just about two months to finish the work.

My tendency in these moments is to freak out. It’s to rush into something. Anything. It’s to desperately do whatever I can. But I think in this season we need to hang on to this: “The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.”

So we’re going to do just that. We’re going to spend the next 40 days seeking after Him together in prayer. We’ve purchased everyone a copy of Mark Batterson’s “Draw the Circle” and we’re going to spend the next 40 days together circling this facility and all the needs for it in prayer.

If you are part of STORYCHURCH I want to invite you to please join us. This is our moment. It’s our time to watch the deliverance of the Lord. It’s our time to see Him do the impossible. I think this is going to be the greatest time our church has ever experienced and I don’t want you to miss it. If you didn’t get a book Sunday we’ve got extras at the church building, or you can pick one up on Sunday and join us a few days late. Of course if you want to get it digitally you can do that as well.

Each day we’ll be posting reminders, thoughts and reflections from that day’s reading so be sure to connect with us on all your favorite social media platforms as well. I can’t wait to see what God does in your life over the next 40 days and in the life of our church!

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Hey church, yesterday we continued our “Less is More” series with a word on fasting. I spent most of my time talking about the “why” of fasting but not as much time talking about the details of the “how” of fasting. Afterwards, several great questions popped up in conversations so here’s a few quick thoughts that may be helpful to you as you fast today or sometime in the future.

First of all, remember that the point isn’t to be religious. Several of the questions that came up had something to do with whether or not it would still “count” if one fasted from certain foods, or if someone still drank liquids, or certain kinds of liquids, etc. No one is keeping score here. You aren’t going to be disqualified. God isn’t withholding something from you if you forget and eat a granola bar, etc. Our point in fasting is to remind ourselves that God is the One who sustains us. We’re also trying to increase our sensitivity to Him and His voice by limiting ourselves physically. However you fast, try and keep this in mind.

WHAT SHOULD I EAT OR NOT EAT?

Now speaking of “how”, there are many ways that people fast. Some fast from everything. Not a single thing goes in their body. Others fast from only food but liquids are fine. Some fast from food and liquids except for water. Others fast from certain kinds of foods. There’s a popular fast out there called a “Daniel fast” based on the biblical story of Daniel who requested that he be given only fruits and vegetables to eat.

Typically, fasts that have more exceptions tend to be for longer periods of time. Often a Daniel fast goes for 21 days. Sometimes there are medical reasons for fasting with exceptions.

Because of the short amount of time in our “First Monday Fast” I personally will refrain from eating anything but will allow myself to drink water, juice, or coffee. Some would say I’m cheating if I put creamer in my coffee, but again, there’s no scoreboard here.

HOW LONG SHOULD I FAST?

If you are just speaking about our “First Monday Fast” then we are talking about just Monday. But even there you have room to do what you want. Some will probably fast from a single meal. Others may fast all day but then eat dinner with their family at night. Still others will complete a full day’s fast and not eat until breakfast on Tuesday.

If this is your first experience with fasting I would recommend you commit to something before hand and stick with it. It is a discipline. So your body will be mad at you at first and you’ll be tempted to stop as you feel hunger. But I promise you that as time moves on, your body will stop saying it’s hungry and you’ll find it isn’t that hard.

Personally, I will likely fast all day and then eat dinner with my family at night (unless broccoli is involved, in which case I may just go ahead and wait for breakfast 😉 )

WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING?

First of all, pray. Let your hunger remind you to do so. I would recommend bringing things to God throughout the day that are sort of “big” things. Pray about big decisions, about direction, about relationships that may need mending, pray for the salvation of people that you love. As we do this more as a church we will give you guides that will have some suggestions for prayer on a church level – that is, things we can all be praying together for our community and our church.

For now, I would ask you to pray for our goal to see 50 people baptized in our church this year. Pray also for direction as we continue to explore whether or not God would have us move locations in order to reach more people. Pray for those preparing and thinking about going to Guatemala and for their efforts to raise the funds they need in order to go.

You could also spend more intentional time reading the bible, journaling, or connecting with others in our community.

LAST WORD

I know this is brand new to many of you. It’s really pretty new to me as well. Don’t be discouraged if you struggle. Don’t worry if you accidentally forget during the day, or if you end up breaking your fast early. All disciplines take time to develop. This will become easier for you. Over time as you continue to do this each month you will see big time growth in your ability and desire to fast.

Don’t be surprised if God speaks. Seriously. As you seek Him He may reveal to you some new dreams. He may convict you in certain areas. He may bring clarity to others. It’s a great idea to add this day to your SOAP journal.

I’m so proud of you for doing this. I believe this is a turning point for us as a church as we intentionally seek MORE of God together.

Praying for you all today! I love being your pastor.

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