Monday, March 31, 2014

10 Suggestions for Successful Small Town Ministry

A young pastor recently asked me what ten things I would recommend when beginning a ministry in a small community.  I took some time to ponder his question, and decided to write this post in response.  My list is not exhaustive.  I could probably write a hundred thoughts.  But here are my initial ten:

1.  Think Big and Little.
Too many rural pastors suffer from myopia -- small vision.  "How can anything significant happen in a little place like this?"  However, it pays to remember that Jesus launched the greatest mission in human history from rural context.  If you have the right perspective, you can touch the world from the end of it!  Refuse to be small minded.

Do something special with what you have.  Go the extra mile and put some "wow" into it.  It doesn't take much more to make a huge difference.  Remember, in a small community, you don't have to be great to be spectacular.

Take a risk and do something big.  Plan a significant event and invite the whole community.  (A few ideas:  a dinner to honor veterans or rescue workers, a fun outreach for children, a hunting or fishing expo, a concert, the sky's the limit!)

On the other hand, don't discount the little connections along the way.  I recently listed my ten most significant ministry moments in 24 years of pastoring in the same community.  All of them were either one on one or with a small circle of friends.  The most significant moments happen through interpersonal relationships.  Spending an afternoon with a frightened family in a waiting room could very well be the most important use of your time.

2.  Think Long and Short
Rural folks are suspicious of flash in the pan preachers.  They are much more impressed with faithfulness for the long haul.  Ask yourself, "What kind of church would I love to pastor ten years from now?"  Then, start moving that direction -- one little step at a time.  Bring people along with you. As Phil Cooke says, "If you are one step ahead, you are their leader. If you are ten steps ahead, you are their target."

While mindful of the big picture, it is important to redeem the present moment.  Plan ahead to manage your time and energy well.  Make every day count for something.  If you pray and obey, God will send you to people who desperately need you.  Don't just sit in the office waiting for something to happen.  The view of the world is extremely limited from behind a desk.

3.  Pastor the Whole Community and the Individual
Don't think of yourself as the pastor of a congregation, but of the entire community.  Get out to where the people are.  Become friends with the mayor, superintendent of schools, postmaster sheriff, health workers, judge, funeral director, business leaders, and other pastors in town.  The whole place is your parish and you are there to serve them.

At the same time, make sure to keep track of your flock somehow.  Who is hurting and needs a special touch?  Who is discouraged?  Who needs a visit or a call?  Ask God.  He will send you to them.  Each person matters.

Schedule times to visit those who are sick and shut in.  If you don't put it on your calendar, it won't happen.  One visit to an elderly person in frail health brings a blessing of many layers, and impacts far more people than you will ever imagine.

4.  Pray and Do.
Take substantial time at the beginning of each day to hear from heaven and get your soul happy in Jesus.  When you seek God's face first, you will have grace as you face people through the day.  Demands from the ministry load will consume every waking moment, unless you are intentional about carving out solitude.  You must fight for these times alone with God.  Your life depends on it!

Ministry is rich and rewarding when we serve from the overflow.  It is grueling and frustrating when we serve from an empty tank.  Keep your tank full and you won't burn out.

Our love for God drives us to our knees -- and then His love compels us to get off our knees and out into the world to bring a blessing.  Prayer is not a substitue for going -- it is our motive to do so.

Have a bias for action.  Don't just sit around hashing.  Get something done.

5.  Disciple Through Evangelism
Your job is not to run church programs, but to disciple people.  However, many have a misconception about discipleship.  They believe "going deep" means turning inward.  That's the wrong approach.  If we deeply love Jesus, then we will love who He loves -- lost, broken, hurting people.

Deep people will go deep into the harvest field.  It requires sacrifical commitment to share God's love with others.  Otherwise, it's not deep -- just muddy.

6. Be Wise and Generous.  
When we demonstrate generosity, we show the heart of Jesus.  Be as generous as you can with your own life, maintaining a bias for "yes!"  When it comes to decisions, follow the rule of faith and generosity.

Of course, you must be wise in how you handle resources.  They need to see that you use common sense when it comes to financial matters.  Perhaps the best way to approach church budgeting is by following John Wesley's adage, "Earn all you can.  Save all you can.  Give all you can."  Joy always accompanies generosity.

Do the minutes from your church board over the past six months reflect joyful generosity?  Do the people in your community consider your congregation a joyful, generous church?  If not, what is one small step you could take to challenge them in this direction?

7.  Lead by Sharing Leadership.
Pastoring a rural church is like herding cats.  My wife, Cathy, says the only way to herd cats is to get them chasing the same mouse!

The best way to lead in a small community is through consensus.   Let them own it!  You're not Moses, so they will be highly suspicious when you come down from the mountaintop with a new vision and direction for the church.  Shared leadership requires shared vision.  You are not the only one qualified to speak about what Christ wants for His church.   Give the people freedom to express what they sense from God.  Let them answer this question, "How does Jesus wish to fulfill His Great Commission through us in this community?  How can we multiply disciples?  How can we touch the whole community and make a difference with the love of Christ?"  Then get out of the way and let them dream!

8.  Plan Ahead and Be Available.
One secret to effective ministry is planning your major activities ahead of time.  Use a month (or maybe two) as the hub of your calendar, then plan your weekly and daily events backwards from there.  If you start with the day or week, you will never get around to what you hoped to accomplish next month.

However, in your planning, make sure to include plenty of margin for the unexpected divine appointments that arise.  These spontaneous surprises are not interruptions.  Consider them as gifts sent from God and embrace them without resentment.  You will find a blessing there,

If you plan your priorities with a breathable daily and weekly schedule, you will accomplish far more than you could ever imagine.

9.  Preach, Pray, Lead and Love Well.
And not necessarily in that order.  These four duties comprise a pastor's job description, and should be the measuring stick for all your activities.  Run everything through the grid.  Will this help me love more, lead better, pray deeper, or preach stronger?  Do whatever it takes to strengthen those four priorities.  Your overall ministry impact will be graded on how well you do them.

10.  Work Hard and Honor Sabbaths
Nobody succeeds in ministry without a strong work ethic.  If you waste time in trivial pursuits, the health of the whole church will suffer.  Give it 100% effort and commitment.  Do whatever it takes to get the job done.  Make sure you tackle the most important things first.  Many pastors keep busy with unimportant, low priority items.

A essential part of your work is to take time for personal sabbath.  Ministry work is never done, and if you are undisciplined, you will find yourself overworking and not pausing for necessary rest.  Build space into your weekly schedule for this.  There's a reason God commands it.  This is not just a "day off", but an extended time (24 hour) to rest, refresh your spirit, reconnect with God and loved ones, recreate, and replenish. For me, Sabbath starts around noon on Sunday (after church) and goes until around noon on Monday. Unless there is an emergency, I do not engage in household chores, ministry responsibilities, or anything that feels like work during this Sabbath break.  I've discoverd that I accomplish far more when I honor God (as well as myself and my family) by keep the Sabbath.

On the daily level, I've learned to build space between my scheduled responsibilities.  This gives me a chance to breath and allows my soul to catch up with me.

Focus on the Fountain, Not the Streams

"Many in our churches make the serious blunder of confining their attention to the outer, to the neglect of the inner life.  They work at the streams, and fail to give their first and chief attention to their great necessity -- purity at the fountain.  They struggle in a life-long effort to raise the streams higher than the fountain or to purify the fountain by working at the streams."

"Their only success in this effort is to get the outward and apparent of their life out of all proportion or harmony with their inner and true character.  Who can bring a clean thing ouf of an unclean? Not one!"

-- J. A. Wood Purity and Maturity

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Baker's Dozen Writing Tips



1.  The secret to good writing is rewriting.  Every first draft stinks, but by the sixth or seventh edit, it takes shape and sing.

2. Word reduction makes writing crisp.  Don’t use four words where you could use one. 

3. Avoid passive sentences.

4. Play with your words.  Have fun creating pithy phrases and colorful word pictures.

5. Eliminate as many adverbs as possible.  An adverb should never be used to prop up a weak verb.  Instead, kill them both and use a stronger verb.

6. Declare war on exclamation points.  This was a challenge for me.  I love exclamation points, and riddled my manuscript with them.  Then Kevin, my ruthless editor, eliminated them all.  “If you must rely on an exclamation point to give it punch, then you need to rework it.”  A good sentence carries its own punch.  Exclamation points are like jalapeno peppers; they add a zing, but should be sparingly.

7. The same thing applies to quotation marks.

8.  Think of a specific person as your target, and then write with him/her in mind.  This makes the writing more personal, and less stilted.

9.  Show, don't tell,  Rather than explaining, paint word pictures.

10.  Don’t force material, even if you love it.  About 30% of what I write doesn't make the final edit.  It kills me to chop out good stuff I’ve worked so hard to create.  Yet, a good book requires sacrificing a few good ideas.  Cut and paste helps soften this for me.  I imagine I’m going to use it somewhere else someday.

11.   When the bus stops, get on.  The publication bus stopped for me and I hopped on.  My first book wasn’t what I’d imagined it would be, but it was the one that presented itself, and gave me a golden opportunity to help others.

12.  Eliminate as many "thats" as possible.  I picked that tidbit up from one of my favorite authors, Bob Goff.  The de-thatting process makes better sentences.

13.  Writing multiplies influence.  You can impact people you’ve never met with your thoughts – even after you’re dead.

Hope for the Troubled Heart

"What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Pain from the past often permeates the present.  Certain moments have a way of defining us.

the accident
the death
the divorce
the argument
the illness
the failure

Hurtful experiences come in broken shards with jagged edges that cut deep and pierce the heart.

If we hold our hurts close, clutching them tightly in our grasp, we will never move beyond the pain. Sometimes, it's more "comfortable" to hang on to old hurts than to risk releasing them. Maybe doing so means letting go of our very identity.

But faith calls us to release the past -- to begin the long journey of healing.

Looking the other direction . . . towards the future . .trouble is a brewing! Every person has problems coming down the pike.

Why are we so surprised when trouble knocks at the door? It's normal. Hardship comes with the package of living.

However, there is plenty of blessing to go along with our trials. It's a good mix, really: a gallon of grace for every teaspoon of trouble. God is with us.

Do not succumb to the tears, nor cave to the fears. Regret and anxiety are terrible dictators.  It's time to overthrow them and live in freedom -- one day at a time.

"What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

When God Showed Up at John Wesley's Prayer Meeting

About three in the morning as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground.  As soon as we recovered a little from the awe and amazement at the presence of His Majesty, we broke out with one voice, 'We praise Thee, O God, we acknowedge Thee to be the Lord."  -- John Wesley

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Get Rich Quick!

1 Timothy 6:18 reveals the secret to instant riches!

Reflections on Friendship

A friend is someone who stays with you in the bad and good weather of life, guards you when you are off your guard, restrains your impetuosity, delights in your wholeness, forgives your failures, does not forsake you when others let you down. The friendship of Jesus enables us to see others as he saw the apostles: flawed, but good children of the Father.  -- Brennan Manning

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It Doesn't Hurt to Ask


ASK and you shall receive, that your joy might be full.” (John 16:24)

ASK, and it shall be given unto you. Seek and you shall find. Knock, and the door shall be opened unto you.” (Matthew 7:7)

ASK of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance.” (Psalm 2:8)

“One thing I ASK of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple”. (Psalm 27:4)

“They ASKED, and he brought them quail and satisfied them with the bread of heaven. (Psalm 105:40)

ASK the Lord your God, for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or the highest heights.” (Isa. 7:10)

The Sad Response: But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ASK. . .” (Isa. 7:11)

“If you would ASK, then ask; and come back yet again. (Isa. 21:12)

A Sad Word of Judgment: “They did not ASK, ‘Where is the Lord?” (Jer. 2:6-8)

“This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ASK for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jer. 6:16)

ASK and see. . .” (Jer. 30:6)

“They will ASK the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.” (Jer. 50:5)

“I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we ASKED of you. . .” Dan. 2:23)

“I ASKED, ‘What are these, my lord?" The angel who was talking with me answered, "I will show you what they are.’” (Zech. 1:9)

ASK the LORD for rain in the springtime; it is the LORD who makes the storm clouds. He gives showers of rain to men, and plants of the field to everyone.” Zech. 10:1

"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ASK, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. (Mal. 3:8)

“For everyone who ASKS receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:8)

“Which of you, if his son ASKS for bread, will give him a stone? Or, if he ASKS for fish, will give him a snake? ” (Mat. 7:9)

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ASK him!” (Matt. 7:10)

“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, ASKING for help.” (Matt. 8:5)

“The men were amazed and ASKED, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’" (Mat. 8:27)

ASK the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Mat. 9:38)

"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ASK for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (Mat. 18:19)

“If you believe, you will receive whatever you ASK for in prayer." (Mat.21:22)

“But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ASK him about it.” (Mk. 9:32)

“’What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus ASKED. . .” (Mk. 10:51)

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ASK for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mk. 11:24)

“He sent them to the Lord to ASK, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?’" (Lk. 7:19)

“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that ASKS you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’" (John 4:10)

“I will do whatever you ASK in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:13)

“You may ASK me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:14)

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ASK whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7)

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ASK in my name.” (John 15:16)

“. . .I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ASK in my name.” (John 16:23)

“. . . ASK and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” (John 16:24)

“In that day you will ASK in my name . . .” (John 16:26)

“I keep ASKING that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Eph. 1:17)

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ASK or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21)

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and ASKING God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Col. 1:9)

“The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ASK God for help.” (1 Tim. 5:5)

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ASK God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he ASKS, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (Jas. 1:5-6)

“When you ASK, you do not receive, because you ASK with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (Jas 4:3)

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ASK, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” (1 John 3:21-22)

“And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ASK—we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:15)

Monday, March 24, 2014

When You Are Angry

1.  Remember, you can be wrong in your "rightness."
2.  Recongnize the damage of uncontrolled anger.  (It's only one letter away from danger.)
3.  Prayerfully face the underlying issues -- why am I angry?  What triggered it?
4.  Deal with it directly -- keep short accounts.
5.  Replace anger with kindness.
6.  Guard your responses.  An angry response to anger escalates anger.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Leadership is a Corduroy Road

"The leadership journey travels along a corduroy road. Success is mixed with failure. It is failure, not success, that sorts out leaders from non-leaders. Invariably, when a leader fails, it is a learning experience for the person. When a non-leader fails, the whole world falls apart for him or her.The journey of leadership is the story of moving from one crucible to another as the individual moves higher in visibility and greater in responsibility. When we enter the crucible, we embark on two journeys a leadership journey in which we rise in visibility and responsibility and a spiritual journey in which we descend to the depths of our character and faith."-- David McKenna

Thursday, March 20, 2014

When Chased by Trouble Use Your Wings

While digging through my father's old files, I found some interesting clippings from The Wesleyan Methodist Magazine.  These articles, written over five decades ago by Dr. Oliver G. Wilson, struck a deep chord with me.  Although culture has changed considerably since that time, the essence and need of humanity remains the same.  We all need to belong, to be loved, and to be encouraged.  This is true for all people at all times, in every culture.

One delightful article told of Dr. Wilson’s friend who, driving down the street, saw a mallard sitting on the sidewalk.

The gentleman was intrigued by the unusual sight.  He stopped his vehicle, got out and approached the sitting duck.  Alarmed, the duck sprang to his feet and started running as fast as his little ducky legs could carry him.  The man decided to follow the worried bird.

Anxiously looking back over his shoulder, the terrified mallard ran faster, and the man speeded up behind him.

Finally, after a running a couple of city blocks, the duck remembered he had wings.  Flap!  Flap!  Flap!  Flap!  He soared into the sky and out of harm’s reach.

Dr. Wilson then made the astute observation that many of us, facing fear, are like sitting ducks on the side of the road.  We waddle around in discouragement, paralyzed by anxiety.  In the middle of harried situations, we forget that we were created to fly. 

Use your wings!

Use your wings, if you want to move beyond the earth-bound things.

Use your wings if you hope to soar above life’s adversities.

Use your wings!  Instead of running away from your troubles, fly above them!

What are the wings of the human spirit?  Faith and Love!  These are God’s greatest gifts to us and they will help us rise above any difficult situation.  If you have enough faith and love, you can overcome just about anything.

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall mount up with wings as eagles.  They shall run and not grow weary.  They shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40: 31

Use your wings!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Why Carry Those Heavy Burdens?

In that misty state between wakefulness and sleep, I dreamed I was climbing a mountain with a heavy backpack on myshoulders, making the steep journey almost impossible. Then Jesus appeared on the path before me and asked why I was struggling so.

“My pack is too heavy,” I complained, “I don’t think I can make it.”

Then, Jesus gently said, “Let me see what I can do to help.”

He proceeded to open the backpack and remarked, “No wonder it’s so heavy!Why are you carrying these?”

Jesus removed two huge rocks from the pack and said, “You needn’t haul these heavy things around.” Then he hurled the rocks over the mountain’s edge. My load was instantly lightened, and I joyfully resumed the upward journey.

Reflecting later, I labeled the rocks “fear” and “problems.” I realized that in my ministry, I’d been carrying an unnecessary load.

The weight of everybody’s problems combined with fear of failure had overburdened my heart, leaving me frustrated and less effective in the pastoral work. Through that experience, God revealed that, although we are to carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), we cannot absorb them. Instead, we are invited to carry them to Jesus (1 Pet. 5:7). “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Ps. 55:22).

Pastor Charles Tindley, counseling an anxious friend, said, “My advice to you is put all your troubles in a sack, take ‘em to the Lord, and leave ‘em there.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How to Pray Without Ceasing

photo from A Faithful Walk
A pilgrim, on a quest to "pray without ceasing", travelled widely and heard many sermons on the subject.  None of them seemed to help.  He heard many prayer lessons, but none taught him how to do it.

Finally, he heard of an old prayer warrior in a little village, so he went to him with his inquiry:  "How can I learn to pray without ceasing?"

To this, the old saint replied, "Ceaseless interior prayer is a continual yearning of the human spirit toward God.  Pray and ask God to teach us to pray without ceasing.  Pray more!  Pray more fervently!  It is prayer itself which will reveal to you how it can be achieved unceasingly. . . but it will take some time."

(From The Way of a Pilgrim)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Distortion

I just finished a real page turner, Distortion, by New York Times bestselling author, Terri Blackstock.

 Book 2 in the Moonlighters series, Distortion  is a crime mystery novel with realistic characters who, though imperfect, are trying to live out their faith under difficult circumstances.

Returning a rental truck after helping his sister-in-law move, Physician, Bob Cole, is brutally gunned down in front of his wife, Juliet.  At first the horrifying crime seems like an act of random violence, but upon her return home, she receives a chilling voicemail demanding fifty million dollars and "the codes."

This frightening turn of events leads Juliet and her sleuthing sisters on a quest to identify her husband's killer.  Along the way, she discovers he has been leading a secret life of crime and immorality.

Perplexed, while trying to protect and comfort her two young sons, she struggles through her own grief and continues in the quest for truth -- wherever that may lead.

Distortion is action packed all the way through, with unexpected twists and turns galore, reminding me somewhat of my favorite mystery writer, Harlan Coben.  Purchase Here.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for me to review on this blog.  
I was not required to provide a positive review.

A Funny St. Patrick Story

In the middle of the fifth century, the Irish King Aengus was baptized by St. Patrick. Sometime during the ceremony, Patrick leaned on his crozier, a sharp-pointed staff and inadvertently stabbed the poor king's foot.

After the baptism was over, St. Patrick looked down, saw all the blood, and realized what he had done.

"I'm so terribly sorry!" he exclaimed. "Please forgive me, your majesty! Why did you suffer this pain in silence?"

The king replied, "I thought it was part of the ritual."

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dust if Your Must

Dust if You Must, by Rose Milligan,  is a great poem to keep spring cleaning in perspective:


Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

(HT, Steve McVey)

Friday, March 14, 2014

On the Wings of a Dove

I remember this song from my childhood. No matter what happens, God helps us rise above it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Beautiful Melting of Christmas Evans

All Hayward rejoiced over our recent snow melting.  Every conversation at the post office and grocery store began with, "What a beautiful day we have!"  It's been a long winter -- and for many, a long winter of discontent.

Spiritually, I experienced a melting recently, as God warmed my heart, refreshing my soul, and bringing a fresh infusion of faith, joy, and peace.  Like my friends at the post office, I can't help but bubble over with it, "What a beautiful Savior we have!"

This morning, while reading one of my old favorites, The Revival We Need, by Oswald Smith, I came upon this delightful passage from the great Welsh minister, Christmas Evans.  What a beautiful reminder!

"I was weary of a cold heart towards Christ and His sacrifice, and the work of His Spirit---of a cold heart in the pulpit, in secret prayer, and in study, for fifteen years previously, I had felt my heart burning within, as if going to Emmaus with Jesus.

"On a day ever to be remembered by me, as I was climbing up towards Cadair Idris, I considered it to be incumbent upon me to pray, however hard I felt in my heart, and however worldly the frame of my spirit was. Having begun in the name of Jesus, I soon felt, as it were, the fetters loosening, and the old hardness of heart softening, and, as I thought, mountains of frost and snow dissolving and melting within me.

"This engendered confidence in my soul in the promise of the Holy Ghost. I felt my whole mind relieved from some great bondage; tears flowed copiously, and I was constrained to cry out for the gracious visits of God, by restoring to my soul the joys of His salvation; and that He would visit the churches of the saints, and nearly all the ministers in the principality by their names.

"This struggle lasted for three hours: it rose again and again, like one wave after another, or a high flowing tide, driven by a strong wind, until my nature became faint by weeping and crying. Thus I resigned myself to Christ, body and soul, gifts and labors--all my life---every day, and every hour that remained for me; and all my cares I committed to Christ.

"From this time I was made to expect the goodness of God to churches, and to myself. In the first religious meetings after this, I felt as if I had been removed from the cold and sterile regions of spiritual frost, into the verdant fields of Divine promises."  --Christmas Evans.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How to Live in Prayer and Bless People

There's a big difference between saying prayers and being in prayer.

Two ways to live "in prayer":

1. Spirit of Prayer: This is a day by day, moment by moment awareness of God's presence -- maintaining a prayerful attitude throughout all the interactions from the day.

2. Seasons of Prayer: Setting apart extended time, each day, to pray deeply. This also applies to getting away for a day (or half day, or two days, etc) for prayerful reflection -- hearing from the Lord.

The most loving thing you can do for others is to pray for them.

Here's a great way to BLESS your loved ones:

B -- Body: Pray that God will grant strength, energy and healing.
L -- Livlihood: Pray that God will help them in their work, school, and all the details of living.
E -- Emotional: Pray that God will keep them from discouragement, depression, anxiety and fear. Ask that they will be filled with deep inner peace.
S -- Social: Pray that God will bless all their relationships.
S -- Spiritual: This is the most important. Pray that God will bring them into the fullness of His presence. (I learned this from my prayer partner, Judy Gorud)

When praying for the Spiritual Dimension here are some powerful insights from Ephesians 1:15-23.

1. Thank God for what He's already doing in their lives. (the faith and love already planted in them.)
2. Ask God to Guide them into His very best plan. This entails both wisdom (using your brains) and revelation (using your heart.)
3. Ask God to to Help them know -- that their eyes of understanding will be opened. Pray that they will:

a. Know the Hope.
b. Know the Riches (of the Spiritual Inheritance)
c. Know the Power

Monday, March 10, 2014

40 Ways to Fail

Over the years, I've seen lots of articles on how to succeed, but
never one on how to be a failure. Thus, I've composed the following
list: 40 easy ways to fail.

1. Focus on all the reasons why it won't work.

2. Don't bother praying.

3. Intend to begin, but don't start.

4. Stop proceeding at the first speed bump.

5. Facing backwards, try to recreate the past.

6. Whine and complain often.

7. Fear making an investment.

8. Put in only what is required.

9. Be a self-centered pig.

10. Find someone to blame.

11. List a dozen good excuses, and use them all.

12. Absorb and reflect negativity.

13. Ignore wise counsel.

14. Hoard.

15. Manipulate people for personal gain.

16. Belittle yourself and others.

17. Fail to write down your goals and dreams.

18. Major on the minors and minor on the majors.

19. Don't prioritize your use of time.

20. Don't budget your money.

21. Live humorlessly.

22. Over-react when someone disappoints you.

23. Carry grudges and bear resentments.

24. Fail to plan ahead.

25. Never learn from mistakes.

26. Make mountains out of molehills.

27. Maintain an over-inflated opinion of yourself.

28. Strive to win every argument.

29. Refuse to grow.

30. Shrink back from committing yourself, saying "no" to everything.

31. Over-commit yourself, saying "yes" to everything.

32. Be a fault finder and gossip.

33. Be less than truthful.

34. Expect to fail.

35. Keep waiting for your ship to come in.

36. Disregard integrity and morality.

37. Always play it safe.

38. Throw temper tantrums.

39. Don't finish the work.

40. Forget to say "thank you."

Friday, March 07, 2014

Four Obstacles to Spiritual Depth

George Barna identified the following four obstacles to spiritual depth in American Christianity:

1.  Commitment:  Although American Christians say they have made some kind of personal commitment to Christ, their lives do not reflect this priority.

2.  Repentance:  Although they have repented of their sins and asked forgiveness, they continue in the same pattern.

3.  Activity:  Although busy with many activities, they do not engage in such spiritual growth practices as sharing their faith, fasting, solitude, extended time for prayer and medition.

4.  Spiritual Community:  Although they generally find comfort and connection at church, they do not share at a level of vulnurability and accountability.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

A Hebrew Prayer for Healing

Ba-ruch a-ta, A-do-nai, ro-fei ha-cho-lim. We praise You, O Lord, the Source of healing and health.

God, in our hearts, we name those who are facing illness and pain. We join our prayers with the prayers of all who love them. Give them renewed comfort and courage. Strengthen in them the healing powers You have placed within us all. Guide the hands and hearts of those who are entrusted with their care. May the knowledge of Your love and ours give added hope to them and to their dear ones. May they find even greater strength because our prayers are linked with theirs.
-- Rabbi Harry K. Danziger

Monday, March 03, 2014

Cantankerous Christians and Toothpaste

 Question:
Are there any unmistakable outward signs in a person surrendered to God? Would he be cantankerous? Would he smoke?


C.S. Lewis:
I think of the advertisements for ‘White Smiles’ Tooth Paste, saying that it is the best on the market. If they are true, it would follow that:
(1) Anyone who starts using it will have better teeth;
(2) Anyone using it has better teeth than he would have if he weren’t using it.
But you can’t test it in the case of one who has naturally bad teeth and uses it, and compare him with [someone] who has never used tooth paste at all.

Take the case of a sour old maid, who is a Christian, but cantankerous. On the other hand, take some pleasant and popular fellow, but who has never been to Church. Who knows how much more cantankerous the old maid might be if she were not a Christian. and how much more likeable the nice fellow might be if he were a Christian? You can’t judge Christianity simply by comparing the product in those two people; you would need to know what kind of raw material Christ was working on in both cases.

"Answers to Questions on Christianity," God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 59.