Sunday, January 29, 2012

What are you Praying for?

Have you ever sat down and thought about how powerful prayer is?  I mean really thought about it.  In our silly little short lives we have such a hard time doing just the simplest of things.  It’s always I’m gonna do it myself without even thinking about turning some task over to God.
Before I get started here, I want to say that I ain’t even close to being what I’d call a good Christian, but I am trying.  I was baptized almost 44 years ago and I haven’t gotten much closer to God than I was on that day.  That’s a long time to be treading water.  Back then, I really thought that God was calling me to the ministry, but somewhere along the way, I quit listening to God.  Oh, I have had stretches of what you might call faithfulness, but looking back, it was all about me.  I really wasn’t listening to God.

After a really rough last year, God finally got me attention.  I was near the bottom and God lifted me up.  Since then, I have enjoyed just trying to listen to God.  Which brings me back to prayer.
My wife and I were trying to leave our home last week and go to the coast for a few days of relaxation.  Our goal was to leave on a Wednesday.  It was raining real hard so we put it off till Thursday.  We got busy with some chores at home and decided to leave on Friday.  That gave me the opportunity to go to a men’s prayer breakfast at my church before we left.

The message was about a new foundation that some men had formed to help live kidney donors with the expenses involved in donating a kidney.  I truly believe that these men are on a mission for God.  Please check out the Vertroue Foundation.  After the breakfast, I sat and talked to these men and told them that I might know some people that could help them.  I looked up and told Rick Carson (founding member of  Vertroue) that I wasn’t even supposed to be at this breakfast, because I had other plans.  He looked me square in the eye and said “you were supposed to be here, we have been praying for people to come forward and find people that can help us”.    I am telling you it gave me a cold chill.  God was at work and I didn’t even know it. 
Another incident at the breakfast also demonstrated the power of prayer.  One of our regular guys at the breakfast told us about his friend that was sick and our group praying for him.  This man had learned that he had stage 4 cancer.  He was an agnostic.  But our member kept lifting him up in prayer and we always prayed for him.  Well, last week the lastest report on his cancer came back and the scan showed no trace of cancer.  The doctor was amazed.  The man is now wanting to know more about Jesus.  Miracle?  Not really.  Power prayer?  I would say so.  There is no other explanation.

This morning I was going to go to church with my wife down here at the coast.  It was a 10 a.m. service and I just didn’t get ready in time.  So I stayed at our little cabin and watched some preachers on TV.  Both sermons were on prayer.  They weren’t about your “bless this  meat, let’s eat” type prayer.  They were talking about down on your knees asking for real powerful actions. 

The first preacher was talking about answered prayer and said.  It’s not magical, it’s not hocus-pocus, it’s about focused prayer.  You might ask, “What is focused prayer”?  Keep reading, we’ll get to it.  Just remember that answered prayer is not really a miracle.  We even said it at our breakfast when we learned about the man that was cancer free.  Someone said, “It’s a miracle”.  It wasn’t a miracle, it was God hearing focused prayer and answering it.  When we don’t have an explanation for something, we just make something up to express it.  That’s how simple we really are.  That doesn’t mean that we ought to trivialize what has happened, we just need to learn to recognize just how powerful prayer is.  And thank God for the answered prayer.  He is showing us how to turn our lives over to him, we just need to listen every day and look for him and chances for us to give praise and glory  to his work.
The next preacher that I listened to was Joel Osteen.  Now sometimes I think he is a little to much into self-promotion but he was right on today.  I learned that I need to pray about my thoughts about Joel’s ministry.  God was there this morning.  I just need to be humble.

He was talking about prayer this morning.  Read the next part carefully and think about it.  He said too often we just pray “get by” prayers.  For example, "Lord help me make enough money to feed my family”.  “Lord, help me get well”.  “Lord, help me pass this class in school, or help me find a job”. 
We have all prayed these prayers in one way or another.  Joel said that we are praying small prayers.  We aren’t praying  big prayers.  Why, because we were taught these small prayers.  It takes someone with vision to pray big prayers.  And this person with vision is walking with the Lord and is not afraid to pray big prayers and believe that God will not only hear the prayer but answer the prayer.

I have heard it all my life that God answers prayer in his own time.  We just accept that because that is what we have been taught.  Have you ever thought that maybe your prayer isn’t being answered because  that God is not sure that you really want his answer, or even believe that he can answer a prayer.  Think about it.  Remember the saying; "Be careful what you ask for, because you might just get it".  I have participated in many prayers, when we just pray for comfort for a terminally ill person.  We don’t even pray the big prayer for healing.  For some reason it always makes my think about that mustard seed.  When Jesus asked the two blind men what they wanted, they asked for the big thing.  They asked for their sight.  Do you remember what happened?  Jesus blessed them and they could see.
They call it a miracle in the bible, but really it was just focused prayer by a true believer.  I grew up watching preachers healing people on TV.  It was every Sunday morning.  They screamed and hollered and people just danced around.  It was fascinating, but it felt like more self-promotion of the preacher to me.  I do know that I have witnessed a lot of answered prayer this last year.  I know it’s real.  I know it's very real.  But I do know that I have been guilty of praying small prayers.  Joel Osteen said; “If you can do something on your own” and you are praying about it, it’s a small prayer”.  Lot of truth to that. 

Joel said to ask for something big when you pray.  Don’t just thank God because you have enough to get by, ask for more so you can use it for God’s glory.  If you really give it to God, you always get back way more than you gave.  Be bold, stretch your faith.  
Please read the 81st Psalm after you read this.  Quoting Psalm 81:10.  God was talking to the Israelites.  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.  Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.”.  This is a great video.  Just over 7 minutes long.  Put together by a young lady.  Very moving.  Psalm 81 is the focal verse. 

Pretty good message.  Give all of yourself to God and he will fill you up.  Ask for big prayers and stand back.  Watch it happen!
My last post I was talking about vision for my church.  Remember my church is almost 100 years old.  We have been praying and just wanting to get 100 people there on any given Sunday.  Our community is much larger than that.  That’s like begging for a penny.  Small Stuff.  And yet, that’s one of our goals and it isn’t even written down.  We just talk about it.  How about baptizing one soul a month.  Sounds like a big number compared to what we have been doing, but that’s not even a drop in the bucket.  

Churches need to pray big prayers for their people and their church.  And then we need to get down on our knees and truly ask God how we can help.  Like Kris Kristofferson’s song, “Why me Lord” sung by the  Gaither Vocal Band.  Follow the lyrics along as you listen to the song.  It might be a good idea to stop and say a prayer before you listen to it. 

Wasn’t that beautiful.  Did you read the words along with the song.  “What have I done to deserve even one of the pleasues I’ve known”.  We need to ask ourselves that question every day.  Now don’t forget, we are human and was are going to make mistakes and we are going to sin.  That is man.  But remember that we are conditioned to think and act in a natural way.  We need to remember that God is supernatural and all things are possible through him.  That’s not just a saying, that is God’s word. 
I need to close here, I am getting long in the tooth, but just remember.  Pray big prayers. 
I found another video that I would like for you to watch.  Clap your hands and sing along.  There's Power in the Blood.  God Bless.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

We gotta find a new name for Stewardship.

My preacher has been preaching about stewardship the last couple of weeks.  Gives a lot of people the Heebie-jeebies when the preacher gets on this subject.  It's about money and about your service to the church.  Well just so you understand.  Only people my age (late 50's) and older know what Heebie-jeebies is, and the same goes for stewardship. 
Young adults have a hard time with this word.  Lots of "with it" churches uses the words like soul prints or your personal calling.  They understand these terms, but stewardship sounds like the work of a bunch of stodgy old deacons.  Therein lies the problem.

While we were on the subject of stewardship, my church began talking about their vision.  Now I just want to say here that this church will celebrate it 100th birthday in 2014.  Kind of long in the tooth to just now be talking about a vision.  In reality, the neighborhood has grown tremendously.  So, I think my church needs to talk about it's vision. Just got to add that this isn't the first time, my church has looked for a vision.

The problem is when you start talking about vision it always turns to tangible things, like new buildings and such.  I hear people say, we just can't attract people to an old church, when so many new churches have popped up around us.  Whoa, need to stop right there.  Granted, I don't want to go to a run down building either, but our vision can't be based on tangible objects. 

Jesus wrote down the vision for the church in "The Great Commission". Quoting from Wikipedia,
some version of the great commission appears in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and in the Book of Acts, which is the second part of Luke-Acts. Details vary from book to book, see Gospel harmony for the attempts to harmonize them. In Matthew, Jesus directs the disciples to baptize people of all nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, similar to the Trinitarian formula of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In Luke, Jesus tells the disciples to preach repentance and forgiveness, and promises that they will have divine power. In John, Jesus says the disciples will have the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive sins and to withhold forgiveness.[2] In Acts, Jesus promises the disciples that the Holy Spirit will inspire them.

I have to confess, I have only been back to my church for a year now.  Was out in the world for a number of years.  My church is one of my greatest joys.  Stewardship and visions go hand in hand.  They have to be found together. 

We have all heard the argument that I don't have to go to church to pray to Jesus.  I know Jesus is in my heart and that is all that I need.  I cannot disagree with that statement, yet that person in my opinion will always feel like something is lacking.  You find a lot of people in the church that just come to church and don't participate in anything else.  That's OK too, but I feel that person is going to be prone to drift away from the church.  You know that "any old reason" excuse.  I can speak from personal experience here.

You see the great thing about church is that it allows all the members to contribute their talents.  We all have different talents and no talent is greater or less than any other talent, if they are used for Jesus.  Not everybody is going out to be missionaries or lead crusades. Lots of people work behind the scenes and may for example,  just pick up the church grounds.  Remember the church is the house of the Lord.  This person that picks up the grounds is just as great in God's eyes as the person that preaches to large congregations.  Everyone matters to Jesus.

So, if you worship at home or just go to church and then go home, you are missing out on a blessing. 
People at church are people too and sometimes they do or say things for the wrong reason.  It happens. But I believe that the people in a church that really contribute to that church don't do it for the wrong reasons.  They do it because they feel that God has led them to this work. 

Just to tie this all up.  When you walk with the Lord and you do it over and over again, the path just gets deeper and better.  Jesus is there with you and will carry you on this path when you can't walk it yourself.  You will find the people in your church in that path with you.  Believers walking with Jesus.  I am telling you it don't get any better than that.  I remember as a small child a path that led to my grandmother's house from my house.  It was only about 50 yards long.  My mom would let me go by myself, but told me to stay on the path.  It wasn't a straight path but I felt safe on that path.  And I know now that my mom watched me all the way.  That's how Jesus walks with you.  That's why I have committed myself to my church.  I get the blessing and it's worth it.  And I get to walk with true believers. 

One more thought... If you follow the words of Jesus and go out and tell others about him.  Good things will happen.  A church will grow and maybe need a new building someday to house all the new believers.  The most important thing is to pray and plan. 

God Bless You
Fitzhugh Fits Me, Does it Fit You
Fitzhugh Baptist Church

PS.  Anybody that knows me knows that I talk a lot.  Can't help it.  I found this video about another church somewhere in this country.  It's a great video, and I challenge my church and all other churches to try and be like this church.  This should be the goal of all churches. Please watch this video and pray.