Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry #11

Two marriage failures. One sexual abuse. One suicide.

I heard about these four tragedies in a two day period. These were all ministry leaders.

Only the Lord knows all the facts about each of these scenarios, but the following is for certain:

  1. These sins could have been prevented.
  2. The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.
  3. Men in ministry are not above temptation.
  4. The root cause is unbelief in God which leads to discontentment which leads to discouragement which leads to despondency/depression which leads to despair.

This is why I have written these several recent blog posts about overcoming discouragement in ministry. As I heard of the aforementioned moral failures, my heart ached. I wept. I realized again how susceptible I am in my own heart to fail. Everyone of us is one decision away from bringing reproach on the name of Christ, destroying our testimony, marriage, family and ministry.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:12-14)

Ministry is made up of two worlds, public and private. Public ministry life has its share of hurts and struggles which brings the temptation to deal with it in a sinful way in the private world, where there is no accountability.

Will you read the following from Paul Tripp and soak your soul in the grace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ Who has brought deliverance and rescue to us all?

“Why do I struggle with the same sin over and over again, and how can I break the cycle?”

Someone submitted this question not too long ago. I could feel their discouragement through the email. Have you ever felt stuck in a cycle of sin, seemingly unable to break a pattern that dishonors the Lord and reaps a harmful harvest?

I know I have, and when I do, my mind immediately jumps to Romans 7. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (vv. 18-19)

So what do we do when we hit that wall? I think Romans 7 provides us with some practical steps and encouragement to break the cycle of sin.

The first is this: Don’t sign a premature armistice agreement with our sinful nature.

As believers, the Bible declares that our heart of stone has been removed and replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Yes, we are new creatures, and yes, the controlling power of sin over us has been broken … but the presence of sin remains.

I think many of us have seriously underestimated the drama, the power, and the depth of remaining sin—how deep it is inside of us and how it infiltrates every aspect of our being. There is a tremendous moral and spiritual war still raging on within us.

I am surprised by how many Christians, myself included, live with a peacetime mentality. While we might be active fighting our culture or protesting outside evil, some of us seem to expect the luxuries and leisure of peace in our heart—where the war rages most fiercely.

And then suddenly, we get surprised or discouraged when sin starts winning!

Don’t misunderstand: because of the wonderful atoning work of the Prince of Peace, the war between God and us has ended. And when Christ returns, our struggle with sin and the Enemy will be complete. But until then, a battle of hostility inside us still rages. Perhaps the problem is that we think that the adversary within—remaining sin— has been conquered long before it actually has.

In the middle of this spiritual war, there’s a second thing you must do: Don’t argue for your own righteousness.

Perhaps the biggest and most tempting lie that all of us tend to embrace is that our most significant problems exist somewhere outside. This is partially true because, in a fallen world, people sin against us and we experience bodily pain and suffering. The Apostle Paul experienced both of these and doesn’t minimize them by writing about them elsewhere in Scripture, but in this particular passage, he’s only concerned about his own sin and heart. He doesn’t argue for his righteousness.

On the contrary, in Romans 7, Paul locates his struggle inside himself. He knows that when you argue for your righteousness, you convince yourself that you don’t need the grace of God—the only thing that can protect you from sin.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)

Are you feeling discouraged in your battle with sin? At first glance, Romans 7 can be a pretty discouraging passage! Paul exclaims, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

But the passage doesn’t end there: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Eternal rescue has been supplied, but rescuing grace is still necessary every day. What we have received in Christ, we still desperately need. Romans 7 calls us to be aware and serious; the war for our hearts is not over. Our need for a conquering Savior has not ended.

Reflection Questions

  1. What sin have you conquered or left behind by God’s grace since becoming a believer? How have you become a new creation by being in Christ?
  2. What sins or weaknesses do you find yourself still struggling with? When was the last time you wrestled with the flesh because of it? What was the outcome? Do others know of this consistent battle?
  3. Are you more committed to fighting the sins of the culture than you are fighting remaining sin in your heart? Why is the latter more of a danger to you?
  4. Consider a recent time when you deceived yourself by arguing for your own righteousness. Who, or what, did you blame? How did you justify your selfishness or sin?
  5. What does the daily rescuing grace of Christ look like in your life? How can you pursue it today? Be specific.

Ministry friend, if I can be a listening ear for you with a heart of compassion and truth, please contact me at bcbcpastor@comcast.net. Let me help you before you become a statistic.

From a pastor’s heart!

dale

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#7)

Hiking is so much like life! Constant ups and downs, wear and tear on your body, hidden and exposed roots that cause you to stumble, stony trails that cause your feet to burn and twist, steep climbs that seem to last forever, stinkin’ socks and fellow hikers, the burden of 25-40 pounds on your back, sloshing through a rain-soaked trail, and wishing you could carry your bed from home in your backpack in exchange for the ground or a shelter floor!

As I stood on one of the many awe-inspiring, give-God-praise views on the Appalachian Trail this week, I proclaimed to my hiking buddy, Rick, “And you ask me why we love to hike????” (Besides the fact that we just love being outdoors in the mountains!)

Men, one of the reasons we are prone to become discouraged in ministry is the view. Ministry can be like what I described in the first paragraph. While carrying the weight of “your church” on your shoulders, all you see are ministry deadlines, the constant burdens of others, unmet expectations, another sermon to ream out, your body wearing down, the battle of your flesh, and a mind full of stinkin’ thinkin’!!! Just like the old adage, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.” You need to change the view.

How?

Learn to rest! Most folks in ministry do not know how to rest! We are on the go 24/7 with our foot on the accelerator pushed to the floor. Even on vacation, we are still thinking ministry, taking calls, answering texts, and thinking about next Sunday’s sermon.

Rest breaks are crucial while hiking. As we climbed up the mountain to McAfee Knob and trekked the distance over to Tinker Cliffs, periodic rest breaks for water and a protein snack gave energy and heart to press forward. Even along the way, we enjoyed other views as we dropped our packs and briefly rested. We knew the extraordinary views were coming!

Your rest breaks could be . . .

  • a drive in the country with your wife (no ministry discussion allowed)
  • a walk or bike ride in a nearby park
  • 15 minutes on the back porch singing and swinging
  • reading the Psalms or Philippians for your heart’s sake and not for a sermon
  • no phone at supper while remaining at the table with your wife to chat for 15-30 minutes at the end of your meal
  • your prayer closet
  • a power nap
  • watching something humorous to get you laughing
  • a cup of coffee or tea and a healthy snack
  • calling your wife and talking to her like you did when you were dating (seriously)
  • Facetimeing one of your grandkids . . . that’ll lighten up your heart

Ministry friend, learn to rest. Remember, Jesus went to the mountains and the wilderness to get away (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12). You need those rest breaks more than Jesus did. You are not the Messiah!

The “hike” in ministry calls for periods of rest. The “views” will be much better when you do!

Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry (#4)

My dad weighed a 119 pounds when he entered the Army and 125 pounds when he was married. Me, I think I weighed 125 in the third grade! 🙂 I wore huskie size jeans in the first grade! I always said that my dad ate to live, and I lived to eat!

I am a “foodie,” and, since college days, I have had a battle with my weight, up and down, up and down. Several years ago, that all changed. Please take what I share below as truly coming from a caring heart for you, my brother.

So men, one of the ways to overcome discouragement is to exercise and eat right.

There are several ingredients to helping you accomplish this need:

  1. You have to honestly and humbly admit that you need to change and then choose to make this a life decision. No one can guilt you into it nor change you. It is by the grace of God, prayer, and the will to say “yes” and “no.” Let me say that several years ago, an evangelist friend had a loving, stern talk with me that was extremely helpful, but you must make the choice.
  2. Be ready for the long haul that takes a day-at-a-time; a meal-at-a-time.
  3. Choose a diet plan that will enable you to go for the long haul. Personally, I have seen too many spend mega bucks on a strict plan just to see the weight return in a short period of time. My wife and I used Weight Watchers and ate our own food. Over a period of a few months, I lost a total of 80 pounds.
  4. Exercise. For me, my favorites are running and hiking. My wife loves to briskly walk the farm road near our country home. Do what is best for you.
  5. Speaking of my wife, a diet/exercise program is so much better with a companion on this journey or even a group of other ministry friends for encouragement and accountability!
  6. When eating out, share a meal. For a very long time, my wife and I order one entrée and split it. That also means no appetizer or dessert. Of course, we enjoy desserts and other special foods but we do not gorge! Remember, the very best bite of every food item is the first one. After that, you are headed toward . . . “Oh, I can’t eat anymore'” and the taste has diminished!!
  7. As you lose your weight, get rid of your clothes that are now too big. You are not going back!!
  8. The most convicting and challenging thing that moved me to change was my testimony before the Lord as a man and a pastor and my love for my wife. You see, food became an idol and an unholy habit before my God. Also, as a pastor, how could I challenge the folks I shepherd to live disciplined lives when I was not disciplined in my eating habits. Men, the belt around our waist should not be “a leather fence around a chicken graveyard” as so many preachers have joked about over the years! Our bodies were created by God, belong to God, and are sustained by God. Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  9. As for my wife, I am so grateful that she has set a high standard for herself in this regard. She is so disciplined that she eats one bite from a candy bar, puts it in the drawer, and she might go back to it next week or next month! 🙂 Seriously, my love for eating was greater than my love for her. One of the best ways I could demonstrate my love for her was to lose weight and start being fit, if for no one else, just for her!!
  10. For any of you who need to loose weight and exercise, do not let the following statement discourage you. Hopefully it will motivate you. Remember, the older you get, the harder it becomes to lose the pounds. So, get started; begin somewhere (small or big) and stay at it! Your wife, your body, your heart, your cholesterol, your health, your congregation, and you will be glad you did. Most of all, it is pleasing to God!

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

I realize that this step could be very difficult for some. This post was not written to shame or further discourage you. Men, I’m cheering you on!!!! No matter your situation, begin with the Lord in prayer. He’s able.

No Frills, No Fluff

What would draw hundreds of men from Missouri, Ohio, New Jersey, South Carolina, and even California?

Great entertainment? Good food? Well-known speakers? Attractive venue?

What would you say if I told you the draw is . . . prayer?

Really? Yes, indeed!

Men’s Prayer Advance.

Each year men gather in the Roanoke, VA, area to worship by listening to strong, Holy-Spirit infused preaching, full-throttle singing with hearts and voices in joyful praise, and most of all, meeting together at the Throne of Grace in passionate, expectant prayer!! This is “an encounter with Christ!”

Men’s Prayer Advance is a no frills, no fluff meeting properly described by its name.

MEN’S: Luke 18:1 says, Men ought always to pray, and 1 Timothy, 2:8, I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling. You should see and hear these men pouring out their hearts to the Lord in transparent, honest, pleading, crying out, believing prayer! The highlight every year occurs on Friday at 11:00 a.m. with “Sweet Hour of Prayer” where men get alone with God for one hour or more in prayer of praise and petitions. One man said to me, “I missed lunch because my time with the Lord would so good!!” Some prayer meetings continue on into late Thursday night and Friday morning after the Thursday evening service.

PRAYER: Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation (Matthew 26:41). First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18). “Prayer doesn’t begin on earth, it begins in heaven.” (Ron Lynch)

ADVANCE: As we hear so often from Harold Vaughan, the founder of Christlife Ministries, “This is not a prayer retreat, it’s a prayer advance! We’re not backing up, giving up, or slowing down.” For three days, from Thursday at 1:30 p.m. until Saturday noon, it is an intentional move toward God! James gives us an example of a man advancing in prayer. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours [with the same physical, mental, and spiritual limitations and shortcomings], and he prayed intensely for it not to rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its crops [as usual]. (James 5:16-18 AMP)

What draws you to have an encounter with Christ? Have you met with Him today in prayer? Are you advancing or retreating?

“The greatest thing anyone can do for God and man is pray. It is not the only thing; but it is the chief thing. The great people of the earth today are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer; not those who can explain about prayer; but I mean those people who take time and pray.” ~ S. D Gordon

(If you would like information about future Advances for men, ladies, students and couples, check out Prayer Advances.)

Marriage Moments

There are many of these throughout the day.  The word moment is defined as “a very short period of time, a little while,” and it also refers to importance.  So a “marriage moment” happens when in the course of the day you plan or act spontaneously to take a brief amount of time to express your love, concern, and attention for your spouse because he or she is of  great significance to you.  Your marriage life is a weighty matter.  Both of you have decided to grow your marriage, enjoy each other, and not get used to each other as the days go whereby you don’t take each other for granted and your marriage grows stale.

It had been a taxing, stressful day which had an affect our on relationship.  Needing to stop my routine and work attitude of “let’s get this job done and move on to the next one,” I poured out on the bar counter all of our Scrabble tiles for a game of Take Two.  No phones, no music, no distractions, just a moment with my wife having fun because she and our marriage are important.  You see, a long marriage is made up of a WHOLE BUNCH OF MOMENTS over the years!

Need some help? Here’s a few marriage moment ideas:

  • Kiss longer; no peck and run!
  • Play a quick game of UNO, Take Two or Farkle after supper at the kitchen table. (Tell the kids to go to the living room, work on their SS lesson or homework. They need to understand that Mom and Dad need some fun time, too.  Don’t let your kids run the house!  Teach them how to respect your time and how to sit still. You also need to teach them what a good marriage is all about.  They are watching you.)
  • Call each other in between appointments, send a text or Facebook message. Build up some excitement for the end of the day or week. Give your spouse something to anticipate!
  • Go sit down on the back porch under the full moon and sit realllllly close!! Say you don’t have a back porch or a swing? You do have an old blanket and a backyard, right?
  • Sing your favorite love song to each other while dancing in the living room.
  • Hug like you were dating!

Proverbs 5:18 – Let your fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of your youth. . . for a moment and then a whole bunch of moments!!

Warped Living (2)

What in the world is that? Well, Isaiah 47:10 gives us a good picture:

For you have trusted in your wickedness;
You have said, ‘No one sees me’;
Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you;
And you have said in your heart,
‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’

As we saw in last week’s post, warped living is characterized five ways in this passage:

  1. Trusting in your own wickedness.
  2. Thinking that no one sees your sin.
  3. Listening to yourself and to others who agree with you, then applying what you have come to believe and what your peers are saying.
  4. Following your heart.
  5. Controlling your life as if God didn’t exist.

So, what are the manifestations of a warped life? (Connect with the five characteristics above.)

  1. Living in the destructive unbelief of worry, anxiety, fear, dread and making excuses. Tim Keller said, “Worry is a frustrated aspiration to omniscience. Worry is saying “I know and I’m concerned God won’t get it right.” Hebrews 11:6, But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
  2. Disregarding the holy, omnipresent, omniscient eye of God who sees your cheating, your speeding, your porn, your over-eating, your laziness, your refusal to own your sin and then repent of it because you like it too much! Proverbs 15:3, The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. (By the way, your children are watching, too!)
  3. Placing the human wisdom of man that imprisons us above the truth of God’s Word that sets us free. Example—When someone shares a troubling Facebook post about a death or illness, note all the humanistic statements.
  4. To follow your heart is make how you feel about something, what you really want, what will make you happy, to be the litmus test for your life’s decisions. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Proverbs 3:5-7 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. Psalm 37:4 is crucial in this regard, Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  5. This is living with your mate before marriage; sex outside of marriage; making choices that do not match with the Word of God; no time for prayer; etc.

Living a warped life is to be deluded and led astray from God and His Word. Whatever choices you are making that are currently leading you away from God, please reject them, repent of them, and replace them with that which does not take the place of God. Please meditate on the following:

Fools mock at sin,
But among the upright there is favor
.

10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
And a stranger does not share its joy.

11 The house of the wicked will be overthrown,
But the tent of the upright will flourish.

1There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
(Proverbs 14:9-12)

You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore
. (Psalm 16:11)

(Picture – The Crooked House, Sopot, Poland, eurolink.co)

Warped Living

Sitting in my study chair reading Isaiah 47, the following arrested my attention.

For you have trusted in your wickedness;
You have said, ‘No one sees me’;
Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you;
And you have said in your heart,
‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’

God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, is describing the fall of the Babylonian empire due to her (47:1-3) pride and wickedness. In doing so, He uses this descriptive phrase: Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you.

To be warped is to be led astray; to be deluded; to be perverted. How does this happen in an individual’s life, especially a believer’s life?

You are warped when . . .

1. You trust in your wickedness. In other words, you live in the land of your own human viewpoint rather than absolute truth, divine viewpoint. A slow, meditative walk through Proverbs 10 will describe the difference between wicked (human, selfish) and righteous (divine, godly) living.

2. You say, No one sees me. How easy it is to think that you sin alone; no one sees you. Then as you continue to accept your sin, to justify your choices, and brush over the wickedness, even calling it acceptable names, you have already gone far down the road of believing that anyone sees. I assure you, God does, your friends do, and if you are a parent, your children do. Warning: more is caught than taught.

3. You listen to yourself and to others who agree with you, then you apply what you have come to believe and what your peers are saying . . . Your wisdom and knowledge have warped you. There was a day in your life when you knew what God said was right or wrong, but over time, you have come to accept and gloss over sin.

4. You follow your heart . . . and you have said in your heart. The warning of Jeremiah 17:5-10 should get everyone’s attention, especially verse 9.

Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord. 6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. 8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

5. You control your life as if God did not exist . . .I am, and there is no one else beside me. Peruse through Isaiah 45, and you will see that only God alone has the right to say, I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me (45:5). When we live by our own expectations, our own desires, our own thoughts, for our own happiness, and leave God out of the picture, we are living a warped life.

What are the manifestations of warped living? That will be the topic of our next post. In the meantime, read Isaiah 45-47, and the words above. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where you are living a warped life. He will guide you and show you the Truth. As He does, confess your sin, repent and follow God and His Word.

I, the LORD, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right (45:19) . . . not warped.

(Photo by Nicholas Kennedy Sitton)

Blessed Quietness

Noise is everywhere! Music blaring over the speaker system in the clothing stores, loud diesel pickup trucks billowing their smoke as they scream by your house, parents hollering threats at their children as they make their way through Wal-Mart, phone notifications and text messages keeping us on edge, etc.

Sadly, too many of us do not know how to be still or even how to deal with “awkward” quiet. For far too many, our lives are characterized by rush, running, and racket.

While being on sabbatical this month, one of the blessings that has come our way has been times of quiet and stillness. They have come to us seated by the lake at Watauga Point for the afternoon, enjoying the gardens outside Boone Tavern Inn after breakfast, outdoor supper by a quiet brook at Pottery Barn Cafe & Grille, on our back porch, in our family room, and on the deck and the upstairs window seat of a friend’s lake cottage to name a few.

Blessed Quietness, a hymn from yesteryear, speaks to that which alludes so many. How can you know and experience that blessed quietness?

The fourth stanza says, “What a wonderful salvation, where we always see God’s face! What a perfect habitation, what a quiet resting place!” First of all, you must have the chaos in your sinful heart and soul quieted by the resting work of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ alone. On the cross when Jesus was crucified, He declared, It is finished, and He bowed His and gave up His spirit (John 19:30). The work of salvation was complete (Isaiah 53:4-6; Ephesians 2:8-9). The greatest rest for man comes with the complete assurance of full salvation through the complete work of Jesus Christ. Take time to read the following: John 1:12; 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28; 17:3; 1 John 5:11-13.

Second, meditate and operate in life through the familiar words of Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (1-4).

In Hebrew, the words for ‘still waters’ in Psalm 23:2b are “Mai Menochot”, meaning literally, “restful waters”. Our Shepherd wants to lead us to a place of rest, a place of trust, a place of confidence, a place where you rely on Him and focus on Him without anything that will distract you. He wants to take the “heavy load” from your life and replace it with His everlasting peace and rest. (Moran, Hope4Israel.org)

Begin each day with quiet in the presence of your Shepherd. Bathe your soul in the Word of God and prayer. Rest in Him as you read. When you pray, talk out loud to God, but then stop and listen to Him speak quietly to you. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 42:1; Philippians 4:6-8).

Men, you take the lead. Discipline yourself to have times of uninterrupted quiet with the Lord. Designate a place at home, in the woods, on a walk, or by a creek where you can read the Word and commune with the Lord. Here’s a helpful resource.

Husbands, make sure your wife has times of solitude. She is your first ministry.

Dads, teach your children how to be still before the Lord even when they are young.

We will always have noise around us, but don’t let it rob you of the stillness of salvation and your relationship with The Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. Exchange the rush, running and racket for blessed quietness.

Blessed quietness, holy quietness,
what assurance in my soul!
On the stormy sea He speaks peace to me,
how the billows cease to roll
!

21 Days of Prayer (Day #14)

Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

For fourteen days you have joined with your brothers and sisters in Christ meeting at the Throne of Grace! During these two weeks, you have been challenged to pray with praise, thanksgiving, and gratitude, to intercede for others, to pray contemplating the greatness of God, to believe God for His increase, to consider the sovereignty and compassion of God, to not forsake prayer gatherings, to cry out for our sin-sick nation, and to pray through trials walking in victory.

As you look back over these fourteen days, . . .

  • What has impacted your life about God, about His Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit?
  • What has the Holy Spirit revealed to you about yourself that has led to repentance and a sweeter walk with Christ in you?
  • How has your life of prayer (not your prayer life) changed, been encouraged, and motivated?
  • Has your time in prayer been motivated out of trying to have a relationship with God or because you have a relationship with God Who lives in you?
  • Have you sensed a greater burden and delight in prayer?
  • Have you had times of conversation with your Heavenly Father rather than a one-way chat? Did you pour out your heart and then listen to Him speak or it was just ritualistic prayer phrases?
  • Can you go a day now without praying?

As we embark on this final week leading up to Resurrection Sunday, may your relationship with God in prayer increase even more in view of the empty tomb and the intercession of our living Christ on our behalf right now! May you see God at work all around you each day as your heart for Him is made more sensitive to the One Who indwells you and walks with you as you participate in Christ’s life!

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ”
― John Bunyan

21 Days of Prayer (Day #10)

“Thank you for this 21 day journey. I am one who does not fast well, and I have never been moved to do it, but I was reminded that there are other types of fasts. I for one have now been convicted that I consume far too much political junk food all day. Time for a fast from a chunk of that! Time to re-sort those things.” These are the words from a text I received yesterday morning and used with permission. What rejoicing it brought to my heart! This believer gets it!

Yesterday’s reading took me to Nehemiah 1-2. Nehemiah receives news from Hanani concerning the destruction in Jerusalem. The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire (1:3). He had known some facts of the situation before, but this detailed firsthand account moved him in a powerful way. In verse 4 we read, So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

There are two things that I want you to get from this today.

First of all, note the descriptive words of 1:4. Nehemiah was broken. Indeed, we should be driven and motivated to prayer by the love God has for us and the love of Christ in us, but are you driven to prayer because you are broken over the destruction caused by your own sin, rebellion, pride, disobedience and unbelief? Please catch that as Nehemiah prays (1:5-11), he doesn’t use the pronouns “they” or “you.” He includes himself by the use of “I” and “we.” So much so, you read in 1:6-7, Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. If we are to see a move of God at BCBC, His INCREASE (1 Corinthians 3:7-8), we must be broken!!

Consider something with me, please. Have you ever been so burdened in prayer that you cried out to God in verbal anguish of heart and soul? Did the tears course down your cheeks? Did you find yourself groaning, aching over the burden, weeping over sin, responding in such a fashion as we see with Nehemiah, David (Psalm 34:17-18; 51:1-17), and Jesus (Luke 22:44)?

You see, prayer doesn’t lead you to brokenness until your pride and preferences die (Romans 6). Jesus said, Not MY will but Thine be done (Luke 22:42). “MY” will must die before it is resurrected into “THY” will. This is the power of the cross and the resurrection. Death to self; alive to Christ in you (Galatians 2:20).

Second of all, please note that Nehemiah fasted. Remember, the purpose of fasting is for a Christ-centered, biblical purpose. My challenge to you this week is to set aside whatever will remind you, “I’m giving this up so I can spend time before the Lord in prayer.” For instance, if it is giving up a meal, when you want to eat, let the hunger pain remind you of the greater need of prayer! If you are giving up social media for a week, every time you want to check Facebook, let that be a reminder to pray for God’s increase at BCBC, for lost souls to be saved, and for revival among our church family.

Brokenness and fasting—two important ingredients too often missing in the believer’s life of prayer. Today, let’s . . .

  • Read the passages of Scripture given in today’s prayer challenge and answer the questions. Will you be broken?
  • Consider what needs to be set aside this week in fasting in order to be more aware of the need of prayer and the presence of Christ in you.