Sunday, October 27, 2013

Prayer is Dialogue Not a Monologue

Have you ever wondered why prayer is so difficult and why so few people spend any time engaging the practice? Also have you ever thought of the fact that most religious schools do not offer a course in prayer?  Yet it was the only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them, and he did—by example and instruction. However, it seems that we miss an important aspect in the instruction given.  While it is not included in what we call the “Lord’s Prayer” it is given to us in Revelation 3:20. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” The implication of a dialogue cannot be dismissed here. Jesus is clearly proposing the possibility of an intimate relationship developed by two entities talking as well as listening to each other. Just think, do you talk very long on the telephone when you are not sure there is somebody on the other end? Of course not, you need to hear the other person’s voice to have a meaningful conversation. So it is with prayer. Peter Lord remarks, “This dynamic process is transformed when it moves from a monologue to a dialogue—when you listen to God speak after you have spoken or when you listen to him speak before you utter a word.”  It has been stated that God has given us two ears and one mouth so we could listen twice as much as we talk. When we learn to pray and then listen prayer becomes a valuable asset in our lives and the renewed practice speaks volumes to God.  It says, “I realize you are on the other end of the phone, and I’m ready for dialogue.” It is only then our moments together become the most meaningful and we conclude knowing it was time well spent.    

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Thinking Outside the Box

You are driving along in your car on a wild, stormy night. You pass by a bus stop, and you see three people waiting for the bus: 1. An old lady who looks as if she is about to die. 2. An old friend who once saved your life. 3. The perfect man (or) woman you have been dreaming about. Which one would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing that there could only be one passenger in your car? Think before you continue. This is a moral/ethical dilemma that was once actually used as part of a job application. You could pick up the old lady, because she is going to die, and thus you should save her first; or you could take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your perfect dream lover again. The candidate who was hired (out of 200 applicants) had no trouble coming up with his solution. He simply answered: "I would give the car keys to my old friend, and let him take the lady to the hospital. I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the woman of my dreams." The moral of this scenario is never forget to "Think Outside of the Box." When you think about it in relation to our spiritual lives we are called upon to do the same.  For productive ministry we must always be open to new ways of doing things. That’s where the Holy Spirit comes in. Jesus said “He will show you things to come.”  Most often we relegate this promise to the interpretation of Scripture. I believe it far exceeds that. When given the opportunity the Spirit will lead us into new ways of capitalizing upon the lost. This might come in the form of a different strategy for witnessing, a deeper approach to worship, or a greater understanding of one’s giftedness. The end result will be greater effectiveness. However, one weakness that tends to cripple the church is the belief that a different method of ministry excludes all others preceding it. When one begins to think out of the box it does not mean that all other forms of ministry sharing semblance with the new idea suddenly becomes null and void. Rather the opposite is true. Embracing change means that we utilize some of the old along with the new and when mixed together productivity is realized. As with the questionnaire mentioned earlier, the job applicant did not discard any part of the equation. His philosophy embraced a spirit of inclusion which allowed every prospect to become a part of the solution. Be assured the Holy Spirit wants us to use the theological, the philosophical, and the practical to have the most impact upon the kingdom.  Yielding to His expertise means that we will work out of the box often. It also means that we will never find ourselves unemployed. Our ability to “think out of the box” will always qualify us for the next assignment.    

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Compelling Lawyer

“The Devil and Daniel Webster” is a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet.  In it, Jabez Stone, a New England farmer, has such “bad luck” that he sells his soul to the devil to become prosperous. Eventually, the devil comes to collect Jabez’s debt.  But the eminent lawyer Daniel Webster is called in to defend him. Through a skillful series of arguments, Webster wins the case against the devil, and Jabez is saved from perdition. Although fictional this story reminds us of one told in Zechariah chapter three. Here the high priest, Joshua, stands before the angel of the Lord in filthy garments and is being accused by the Devil. However a lawyer called “Lord” steps forth and declares, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan… Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?" Then He turns to Joshua and says, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes." In essence heaven’s attorney, appointed by the presiding Judge was declaring total vindication of all charges. The bad news for us is that we stand accused by the same culprit. He serves as an aggressive prosecutor pleading for our demise. But the good news is this we have the same representation as Joshua, the high priest. 1 John 2:1 gives the proof. “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  Webster defines advocate as “one that pleads the cause of another; specifically: one who pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court.” This means, we always have a representative that is ready and willing to stand with us in the face accusation. And as you well know, as long as we are alive, and the devil is allowed to exist charges will constantly be filed against us. Knowing this, we should be thankful because regardless of the charge God has provided for us a compelling Lawyer.   

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Great Homecoming

Today our church celebrated ninety-two years of ministry. As a part of the celebration we had an old-fashioned homecoming which is something we had not done in years.  Letters were sent out to former pastors and members requesting their presence in the service. Several graciously responded and were in attendance to help us commemorate this milestone. Needless to say, it was quite a day.  Our members were able to visit with old friends they had not seen in years.  Whether by letter or in person it was wonderful to sit and listen to the pastors reminisce about the time they spent serving the church.  They spoke of financial difficulties, miracles, salvations and other memorable ministry moments.  Although, many had not been back to the church since their departure it was evident that the bond of fellowship and friendship had not been broken. And when you begin to think about it the multiple years of church affiliation produces many unforgettable relationships.  Yet the sad thing is this, the day ended with everyone going their separate ways.  Admittedly, many will return next week because they are still a vital part of the church. However, others will not.  They presently live in other cities, states, or attend another church in town.  Because of this, I ask the questions that loom in the mind of many. “Will it always be like this? Will we continue to experience fragmentation? Will acquaintances continue to be renewed by occasional visits or sporadic reunions?” The answer is no! The Bible gives us the assurance that one day we will experience the greatest homecoming of all. Distance, relocation, alternative worship venues or sickness will not be an issue. Death will not even interfere. The host for the occasion will be God; the place--heaven; the time frame—eternity; those invited—“whosoever will.” Without doubt, it will be the greatest reunion of all time.  And the latest news is this, according to the signs of the time and the witness of the Holy Spirit preparations are already in the making. Just any day now the invitation will come with the blast of the trumpet. See you there!