What a Lack of Prayer Reveals

A lot of my life has been spent in careers that had become comfort zones. For the first 16 years of vocational ministry (and intermittently after that), I spent that time in music ministry. Most of those years were average with the exception of 2009-2012. Exceptional or not, it was very much a comfort zone. Then I entered the world of hospice as a chaplain, bereavement and volunteer coordinator. I settled in to that role too. The saddest part was that my comfortability was high and my prayer life was low. My prayerlessness revealed some disturbing things about me.

Prayerlessness reveals deep arrogance and pride. I had come to a point in both music ministry and hospice work that I felt extremely competent to the point that I prayed very little. I thought my ability was more than enough. I felt like I could do these jobs in my sleep. When pride took over, the power of God was barely evident in anything I attempted to do for God. There was a lot of Matthew but very little God. I’m not minimizing God at all, but I’m sadly saying that I minimized the emphasis on God in my attitude. I wasn’t depending on Him like I should, and it showed.

Prayerlessness also reveals a lack of faith. Some erroneously teach that you should only pray about something once, because praying twice or more would not be leaving it at the feet of Jesus. The last time I checked, Luke 11 teaches persistence in prayer. Ask, seek, and knock in Matthew 7 mean in the original Greek to keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. When I don’t pray, I’m revealing that I don’t believe God is going to do anything about my prayer requests. My actions say that I don’t trust God enough to answer my prayers.

I am in a place right now where I feel the need to pray more than ever. For all intensive purposes, I shouldn’t be a lead pastor. I’m an introvert. How on Earth could God use an introvert to lead a church? It’s the extroverts who are the church builders. You know the guys who can fit into the skinny jeans, wear designer clothes, and all that junk. My talent and personality are not going to draw anyone to our church. I have nothing but the power of God to draw from, and that’s the way it should be! The church I pastor will fall apart unless God does the work. I need Him!

My new job also demands I pray and lean heavily upon my Lord. My personality is one that would rather follow than lead, yet I’m a business manager. God led me to this ministry, yet every single one of us on staff realizes that anything good that happens is solely from God. This ministry was built on that reality, and we all lean upon Him to do much with little.

Does your life exhibit prayerlessness? Consider the fact that arrogance and a lack of faith are prominent in your mind and heart. Recognize your desperate need for God in all things and start praying. Pray about everything and watch God turn some things around. The greatest thing He will change is you. Are you up for the challenge?

Seasonal Anthems

When I was a child, the first connection I have to the word “anthem” is “The Star-Spangled Banner” which is America’s national anthem. As I grew older, I became acquainted with choral anthems. Our church choir normally presented at least one of those each service. As I grew even older, I began claiming songs as anthems that carried me through specific seasons.

As I walk through this challenging season personally and ministerially, I have a new anthem – “God, Turn It Around”. I play and pray this song daily.

Maybe you’re up against something that seems hopeless. A situation in which the odds seem insurmountable. You need to do what the song says and call upon the name that changes everything because all of your hope is in the name of Jesus.

I’ll leave you with the link to the song. Maybe you can connect with it. It may even become your seasonal anthem.

House Cleaning

Time to break out the cleaning solution, mops, rags, etc., right? You may be thinking it’s time to run. This morning, I took some time to work on some things I had let go at home for quite some time. It was a small step, but I felt extremely accomplished. Afterward, I began to think of the areas of my life that need “house cleaning”.

When you think of house cleaning, you may be thinking of filth. Not every area of life that needs cleaning is an emergency situation. Some things just need someone to tidy them up a bit. Maybe give it some better organization.

It’s amazing how quickly a small bit of disorganization can become a huge mess. Christians, and even churches, often ignore the minor until it becomes major. What could have been manageable ends up taking years to correct.

Take some time to assess your house. When I say your house, that could mean your thinking, your health, friendships, etc. Manage it now before it controls you.

Pray About Everything?

Prayer is a buzzword for everyone in the Christian community (even for many outside the Christian community). Other religions practice prayer too. As a Christian, I look to the Bible as my guideline for teaching about prayer. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Yes! You read those words correctly – In EVERYTHING!

This contradicts our self-reliance. We have been taught by this world’s system that the answer lies within us. The God of Heaven teaches us that the answers are in Him, so we should stay in constant communion with Him about all matters of life. Easier said than done, right?

I have been in a season where I am stuck. There are habits I want to develop, but I’m stuck. Things I want to happen in my home, church, and personal life…but I’m stuck. I have relied on my own puny efforts and occasionally on the thoughts of others, and I’m still stuck. The problem is I haven’t asked God a whole lot about anything.

Today began the journey of asking God about the little things. I woke up this morning and began asking God when I should eat, what I should eat, etc. I haven’t been perfect, but it has changed my awareness. My thoughtfulness about God’s will in what seems meaningless and mundane has increased. It has improved many things for me today.

Are you praying about everything, or is the whole “leaning on your own understanding” thing working out for you? You may think you have bragging rights on being self-made, but the fall will be a lot harder when your abilities fade, even if you’re surrounded by the “comfort” of your money and investments. I don’t have that comfort, but I do have the comfort of knowing that any good thing in my life has been built by my Lord. You can have that same comfort too when you pray about EVERYTHING.

God Said!

As I shared in a recent post, these last few months have not been without challenges. Amidst the challenges, God gave me some sweet reminders. I wish I could say my faith was mighty and strong through all this, but I wavered and flopped. I’m glad God still came through for me despite myself.

A few weeks ago, a very generous surprise gift came in the mail. Attached to the check was a sticky note that simply said, “God said!” When I opened the envelope, I wept. After my wife saw me cry, she cried too. I was reminded in that moment that I can take every “God said” to the bank. The God who said He would supply all my needs showed up once again. I was reminded of the verse that says, “I have been young, and now am old, and I have never seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread.” God said!

It’s easy to look at our circumstances and forget what God said. I have forgotten many times. But, my forgetfulness doesn’t change what God said. May you be encouraged today by the reminder that God will keep His promise. Rest in the reality that “God said!”

The One Who Showed Up

There is not a single one of us who has not invited someone to at least one thing in life. You may have invited someone to a party or to be your forever love. In addition to inviting people into a relationship with Jesus Christ, I have spent years of ministry inviting people to join a choir, worship team, senior adult ministry, or simply to attend a worship service. I cannot tell you how many times I have invited someone to something, only to hear this great line – “I just might surprise you and be there.” At this point, I can tell you that those who say this would literally surprise me to an early grave if they decided to show up. Well, today, I met the one who showed up when he said he would.

Two days ago, I was providing music for a senior center here in the upstate. Right before I left, one of the men engaged me in conversation for a few minutes. Within that few minutes, he asked where I pastored and responded with, “I’ll come see you.” As I said, I have heard that a lot. This man meant it and showed up between 5-10 minutes before the service started. It meant a lot to me because this man probably drove at least 30-45 minutes and even invited someone with him, although the individual didn’t take him up on it. He said he planned to be back sometime.

In life, it’s easy to focus on the hundreds who turn down your invitation and forget the one who accepted. Pastors fight that discouragement too. Here’s the thing – Even Jesus had this issue. I think about the 10 lepers in Luke 17. All 10 were healed of their disease. Here was the problem – Only 1 came back to thank Jesus! All 10 received the healing, but only 1 returned to thank Him.

Today, I choose to celebrate the one who showed up. A man I barely know blessed this pastor today, and I’m extremely grateful. Don’t take “the one who showed up” for granted!

Mountains High and Valleys Low

It has been quite a while since I last posted here. Almost 2 months to be exact! It wasn’t that I didn’t think about this blog or writing another post. Every time I went to write or think about another post, God said, “Don’t you dare write about that!” Since God told me no, I thought I better listen. He has now given me the go-ahead, so I am writing about the highs and lows of recent months, giving you a glimpse of the reality of the pastor.

On May 1, we relaunched as Oasis Church. Our church has been wonderfully unified through this process. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Considering we are a congregation averaging between 50-60 people with a mortgage that takes up a huge part of our resources, God has been SO FAITHFUL to us! Praise God we will have it paid in 3 years! Despite the great things that happened, this pastor and congregation got tired. (This may cue up those with the spiritual gift of rebuke who say that Holy Ghost-filled people never get tired, so I refer you to Elisha, Jonah, and others who were also human.)

Being tired is a great breeding ground for discouragement and depression. Then add to that both of our vehicles needing repair along with my mom’s which was on loan, the financial woes that come with that along with some leaps of faith, and a few families who left the church (albeit peacefully), I was the lowest I’ve been in a while. Despite my low state, God came through for me in ways only He can do. He provided financially with a couple of miracle gifts and gave the strength to lead and minister, though I found myself ministering on fumes some days.

Another bright spot was my 17 year old son surrendering to the call to music ministry while he was at camp. He and his sister were both sick when they returned, but he was able to share his news with the church on Sunday morning. The church prayed over him and rejoiced with him.

We also had a great children’s ministry workers meeting this week. Many of our people are serving in multiple ministries, but they are excited and looking forward with great vision. I couldn’t help but leave encouraged.

In the day of the megachurch, it’s easy for one to look at our church and see what we don’t offer. What I see is a church in which God has breathed new life. I see a church that has caught a second wind and desires to reach the community. I see an authentic community God has built, where people can be loved where they are and have the freedom to grow in Christ. Yes, we may have to take baby steps and move slowly, but lots of great things are in the works. We are doing what we can with the resources God has given us. As He gives us more, we will be able to do more.

I have no shame in asking people to pray for us. Would you pray that God would send us laborers? Would you pray for me to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might, putting on the whole armor of God? Would you pray that we would stay focused on our Lord and the Great Commission? The last 2 months have been full of mountains and valleys, but I know one thing – God’s presence and care has been in all of it!

I’m Sorry

I grew up as an only child, so I had no competition at home. I did, however, have cousins I saw frequently at my grandma’s house. Until I was 10, all my cousins were girls, so we had lots of arguments. My grandma was always determined we were going to fix it, so she did what many from that generation did – she made us say “I’m sorry!” Then she followed up with, “Don’t say it unless you mean it.” The truth was that I wanted to go back to what I was doing, so I told my cousin I was sorry just to speed up the process.

How many of us do that with God and others, even in our adult life? I would say the vast majority of us. How many of us are truly sorry when we mess up, hurt someone, or violate God’s standards? My wife and I recently had a discussion with the kids about being sorry. One confused to only being sorry because he got caught. While we aim for his heart being broken over sin, we appreciated the honesty. I have encountered so many who have been overtaken by sin, and the only reason they were sorry was because they got caught and could no longer delay the hurt their reactions would cause others.

What does God have to say about sorrow in relation to sin? Second Corinthians 7:9-11 says this: “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” Godly sorrow leads to repentance – a change of mind that results in a change of behavior.

Is there any sorrow in your life today? Are you sorry because of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life? Or are you sorry you got caught? If you answered yes to the latter, admitting it is the first step to correction. Let God have access to the selfishness in your life and produce some godly sorrow in you.

Are Reblogs a Thing of the Past?

I began my WordPress blogging “career” in 2015. I had no clue what I was doing, but I guess I figured some things out. Before I knew it, I had 1,600 followers. A few years ago, I burned out and let the old domain go. Months later, I purchased this one. In retrospect, I have noticed some things have changed in the world of blogging.

My question today is “Are reblogs a thing of the past?” I used to see other bloggers share each other’s posts. Many would share mine. It was a great way to promote the work of others. The question came to mind as I did so for another blogger. It was not solicited, but I really liked what he had to say from Scripture about what it means to be a true disciple.

In a day when it’s every man for himself, let’s reinstitute putting others before self. I’m still the type of guy who wants to root for the underdog. This has come back to bite me a few times, but I want to give people a chance like someone gave me a chance many years ago. If reblogging is a thing of the past, let’s go retro and bring it back!