I received a great email of concern this week on an issue I think others may have as a concern as well. I know I have asked questions like this personally at times.
The email said, “I believe in prayer, but I never know what to say. What if I say the wrong thing? Does that make sense?”
Here was my answer:
Yes, it makes perfect sense, but I wonder if you are making prayer more difficult than it is intended to be. Consider for a moment that God is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” What if God were a person, who is actually in the room with you, that knows you better than anyone has ever known you, that would never betray you, so you could trust Him with anything, that loves you unconditionally whether you do the right things or not, and that always has your best interests at heart…could you talk to that person?
That’s who He is…now talk….
Do you ever struggle with what to say in your prayers? Could it be you are treating prayer as more of a religious formality than a conversation with someone with whom you have a relationship?
What tips can you offer to help others in their prayer life? What questions about prayer do you have?
Can I be completely honest with you about something?
I don’t understand cancer. I hate it.
I know all about sin and how this world is corrupt and broken and how everything will one day be redeemed, but there is something mysterious and scary about cancer.
I have so many friends who have been affected. It’s rampant in my own family right now. I hate it.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Perhaps no other cancer has been so prevalent in our church. We have numerous breast cancer survivors at Grace Community Church. These women encourage me with their faith and resolve to not only fight the disease, but to make the world a better place in spite of their sickness. Some of the heroes of faith to me right now are these women.
This month our local Clarksville Family Magazine featured one such woman, Kelly Blevins. Kelly, and fellow Grace girl Lynne Woodson, have decided to use their experience with cancer to launch a local support group for other breast cancer patients. This type ministry fires me up, because it addresses real and practical needs. I want to be their biggest cheerleader!
Have you experienced the devastation of cancer in your life, either personally or with people you love?
Have you marveled at the faith of those with cancer?
Take some time today to pray for a cure, to pray for God’s comfort, and to pray for those families struggling with cancer.
Today my role very quickly switched from pastor to dad. I was in a meeting preparing for a potential new ministry our church is considering. We were talking about the future, with big dreams of ministry and new ways of helping people. I love thinking Kingdom-building strategy.
I received a call that went straight to my voice mail. In consideration of those I was meeting with, I decided not to be interrupted. Then there was another call; then a text; then another. I decided I needed to figure out what was the urgency. Sadly, the news was tragic. One of my son Nate’s childhood friends had been killed in an auto accident this morning. The girl’s mother was one of Nate’s favorite teachers.
Nate and his friend Kathleen had been together since kindergarten. They were like brother and sister. They had remained in touch over the last month, both attending school away from home, and even talked within the last day or two. At the point when I got the message, my only concern was getting to Nate before he heard the news in passing. At that point, I was no longer a pastor in a meeting. I was a dad hurrying to comfort a son. Nothing else seemed to matter much the rest of the day.
It’s so hard to make sense of death and tragedy. There are more questions than answers tonight in so many minds. The phrase I heard continually today from Nate and others was, “I can’t wrap my mind around this.” There are no words to say. Eighteen is not supposed to be the age of death. I do know one thing, however. The truth of God’s Word is not altered, even after the tragic news of the day. God truly is close to the broken-hearted.
Nate and a large group of friends from his class were extremely close, but recently scattered to many different colleges. They will be home this weekend, for a very sad occasion, and, in many ways, it will be a reunion. Their coming together will honor their friendship, but also be a tribute to the memory of a good friend, who tragically left this earth too soon.
Please join me in praying for this family and the friends who mourn.
(And addendum to this post has been added since the original. For more click HERE.)
I am so bummed tonight to have heard the news about Pastor Gary Lamb of Revolution Church in Georgia. I do not know Gary personally, only through Facebook, Twitter and his blog. I would never be one to put more burdens on a man already so broken, but I cannot get some thoughts off my mind tonight and my blog is one way I express myself. Since he addressed this in a very public way through his own blog (Read the account HERE), I thought I would share some of the things racing through my head. They may be good for all of us to consider.
- I started reading Brennan Manning’s “The Furious Longing of God” today before I heard this news. On the first page of Manning’s writing he quotes Song of Solomon 7:10, “I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me”. The book is called “A love story for the brokenhearted”. I think Gary needs this book. I do too!
- Gary, his family and his church, along with the other woman and her family, need our prayers at this time. Satan is smiling on this one, but Satan is a liar and a loser. God can and will have the final word. Let us pray He has His way in this situation for all parties concerned.
- Whenever a pastor falls, those outside the church have another excuse to push away from truth. Some of this comes from the way the church treats its own. Now is not the time for judgment, now is the time for grace to abound.
- People are going to begin dismissing everything Gary has said or will say because of this failure. Please don’t be one of those. His failure does not diminish any truth he spoke prior to today. If anything it makes the truth he spoke even more real. The fact is that Gary is not a perfect man. We knew that before we knew the news of the day. If God used him to make a difference in your life or others, be thankful God uses broken people, like you and me.
- The failure of Gary did not begin with an affair with his assistant. Somewhere, sometime, Gary let his guard down. We must all work harder to make sure the proper boundaries are in our life. I have too many pastor friends who see nothing wrong with meeting with female staff members alone. You must NEVER, EVER, EVER do this. NEVER! Please pastors and other leaders, build accountability and boundaries into your life now, before it is too late. IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU!
- Many pastors I know need marriage counseling, but they are too proud or too afraid of what their church would think to get it. I hope this news encourages some to take that bold step.
I make this offer to pastors, I am a pastor and a former degreed Christian counselor, if I can help you talk through issues like this, if you are on a limb and need a confidential, non-judgmental friend, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
President Obama has opted out of most activities in the National Day of Prayer. While he says he intends to pray privately, as a part of his normal daily practice, he will not be active, nor will any of the executive leadership of his administration, in the organized activities of the day. Personally I think the President should recognize the importance of this day to many and at the very least he should have sent token representation from the executive branch of government, but I am not surprised by his absence. The basic organizers of this event have not been among his greatest supporters.
Read the CNN story HERE.
What do you think? Are you surprised by the president’s actions? Do you agree with some who say that this year, more than most, this country needs prayer? Should Christians make an issue of this or is this just another day and everyday is a day of prayer? How should Christians respond?
More than anything though, have you prayed today?
Try this, pray for each of these in a sentence prayer or two:
- National Leaders
- State Leaders
- Local Leaders
- Emergency Personnel
- School Officials
- (If you want to really walk on the wild side, pray for your pastor and church staff!)
Cheryl and I were driving in Nashville today and she said, “Speed limit strictly enforced” as she read a sign on the roadside. I knew what she meant. She thought I was driving too fast. I Twittered this and got several comments on Twitter and Facebook from other women regarding their own tactics to subtly tell their husband they are driving too fast.
Here are some comments Cheryl has used before:
“Wow, I didn’t know the speed limit was 35 here.”
“They must really be strict about speeding on this road, because I’ve seen several people pulled over lately.”
“I wonder how much speeding tickets are now.”
“I’ve noticed Jeremy (our son) sure has been driving fast lately. I don’t know where he gets that from.”
“We don’t ever get to just talk. Let’s just slow down today, take it easy, and catch up.” (Okay, she hasn’t actually used that one, but it’s only because she hasn’t thought of it yet.)
So my question is: Why not just say, “YOU ARE DRIVING TOO FAST YOU IDIOT!”? I think I’d understand that one better. When talking to men, it’s best to be direct. They may get mad at first, but that’s the way we handle things. (For more on this subject, read my post “My Right to Get Angry/Your Right to Cry”)
Women, what tactics do you have to get your man to slow down? (or speed up as the case may be)
Our church is three and half years old. We have seen God do some amazing things in our short time and we continue to stand in awe of His grace upon us. Planting a church is hard work and not for the faint-hearted, but it’s been a joy ride at the same time. I love seeing people get excited about life, and especially gaining passion for Jesus, so these have been some of the best years of my life.
I need to be honest about something though. It all seemed to be fun when we were starting the church and had a few hundred people hanging out with us. Last Fall when we broke the 1,000 mark in average attendance (now over 1,800) some things changed. It has actually become work some days!
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not complaining. It is still fun and I’m glad we are growing and meeting needs as a church. I love the team I work with and we have some of the most fun people in the world at our church, but I am realizing my need to be more focused, more intentional, and more consistent in my leadership if we are going to continue at this pace of growth as a church. I certainly don’t want to quench what God is doing!
I’m spending more time learning from church leaders, trying to balance my time, encouraging our team, delegating when possible, exercising more, and spending more time in prayer and in God’s Word.
What other suggestions do you have for me? How do you handle the stress of leadership?
My heart goes out to the family of Rev. Fred Winters, pastor of First Baptist Church, Maryville, IL. According to news reports a gunman killed him in the middle of services at his church this morning. Read a news report HERE.
Cheryl shared the story with me this afternoon while driving back into town. It’s all I’ve been able to think about since. There’s not a sense of fear on my part as a pastor, I just can’t stop thinking about his family and his church. I don’t want to bring more undue attention to the family at such a time as this, although I’m sure the media will cover it thoroughly, but you can read about his family and even see a picture of them on the church’s website. (It wouldn’t surprise me if they take the site down for a couple days shortly.)
In looking through the site I was impressed with the church’s vision. Rev. Winters seemed to have great plans for the future. If you spend some time on the church’s website, check out the future building plans of the church. Wow! One thing that impressed me, and made me realize how God prepares us at times, is the current sermon series Dr. Winters was preaching through. You can listen HERE. Pastor Winters was teaching his church how to be happy in the midst of a scary world. Listen to his sermon from February 22, 2009. He says, “The number one factor in finding happiness in life is faith”, based on Philippians 4:4-9. He goes onto say that all of us desire something deeper than happiness. We want joy and it is not based on our circumstances, but our faith. The news report says Dr. Winters was a “happy” person. I think I know why. (He ends his faith message with a story about his daughters. Prior to the message on faith he had preached on the importance of family. I plan to listen to that sermon next.) I would say he left a great legacy to all who will follow. Let Reverend Winter’s message encourage all of us during the times of uncertainty in the world.
Please pray for this pastor’s family, the church, and the Kingdom of God in the coming days.
Regardless of your politics, we will soon have a new first family. Honestly, I’m excited about watching children growing up in the White House again. The Obama’s seem like a loving, close family, and it will be interesting getting to know them as they become the daily news focus in the coming months.
True story. This morning I was thinking about and praying for our new president-elect and the changes about to occur in his young family’s life. The thought occurred to me that the new president and first lady should help their girls acclimate to their new home by gifting them with a new puppy.
I did a quick online search to make sure the Obama family does not already have a family pet. According to published reports, President-elect Obama has promised his daughter Malia a puppy. The dilemma is whether to get her a pedigree to help with her allergies or support the animal shelter and get a mutt.
If you had to pick a first dog, which breed would you select? Could you see the Obama family with a Pembroke Welsh corgi or a West Highland white terrier? Or, are they a “pick the dog who needs the most love from the animal shelter” type of family? What do you think?
I’m a dreamer. I always want to do more with life. I believe dreams are a healthy way to stretch the mind, keep a person growing, and even stay emotionally healthy. (“Where there is not vision, the people perish.”) On a recent plane ride I jotted down ten goals that I still have for my life. God willing, I’m going to spend my life dreaming they come true!
1. Train young leaders to be “giant killers” for the Kingdom of God.
2. Help hurting pastors be restored to vibrant ministry.
3. See dying churches revitalized.
4. Help Cheryl fulfill her dreams; and help her dream bigger dreams for herself!
5. Watch more boys marry godly women.
6. Become a granddad! (I’ll take number 5 first, but I’ll be ready!)
7. Travel to Africa and Asia.
8. See patriotism restored as a personal value for all Americans.
9. Accept fully Christ’s love and forgiveness (with no regrets from the past).
10. Hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
What dreams do you have for your life? What are your current goals? Feel free to share them here.