Monday, February 28, 2011

Big Faith and the Reality of the Cross

Sometimes it seems that Christ followers fall into one of two camps. There is the “big faith” camp which prays big prayers, sings like cheerleaders, thinks positively, and dismisses hardship as temporary at best.

On the other hand there is the “hard core” camp. This tribe counts the cost of discipleship, embraces sufferings, and doesn’t expect much from God but trials.

Is there a third way?

In Luke 9 we see the disciples called to embrace both Big Faith and the Reality of the Cross. We are called to pray for healing, hope, revival, conversions, and deliverances. We are called to pray for these things with Big Faith.

And at the same time we are called to follow a Savior who would be delivered to the hands of sinful men and crucified. And we are called to carry our cross and follow him.

Here’s how that works: We need to pray big kingdom sized prayers while realizing the answers will often be accompanied with suffering. We need to pray big kingdom sized prayers while weeping with the one for whom we are praying. We need to pray big kingdom sized prayers while understanding that we will draw the fire of the evil one by doing so.

But we do it anyway. We embrace both big faith and the reality of the cross!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Probing Questions...

News Flash: God wants the Bible to change us! That’s right, Bible teaching is not to increase our body of knowledge but to transform our lives. So, now that we have worked our way through 2nd Thessalonians, let’s go back and ask ourselves some probing questions...

  • Can I say that my faith in Christ is growing, or have I become plateaued and stagnant? (1:3)
  • Am I treating others with increasing love and affection? Or do I simple love those who love me? (1:3)
  • Am I blaming any lack of zeal or action on my part on my circumstances or afflictions? (1:4)
  • Does the thought of the return of Christ provoke excitement within me? (1:10)
  • Does the glory of Christ captivate my imagination or am I distracted by technology, entertainment, and materialism? (1:10)
  • What ambitions do I have for the sake of Christ for my church? My community? The lost? (1:11)
  • Is my faith alive enough to prompt me to do anything new and different for the cause of Christ? Like what? (1:11)
  • Am I trusting God with my future or do I let the headlines and TV news dictate my confidence in the future? (2:8)
  • Does God’s Word govern and order my life, or only when convenient? (2:15)
  • What good works and good words am I praying that the Lord would establish? (2:16)
  • How hard am I praying that the word of the Lord would spread rapidly and be honored? Am I jealous for the fame of Christ? (3:1)
  • Is my heart’s love for God growing? (3:5)
  • Am I standing firm in my faith or just barely hanging on? (3:5)
  • Am I “walking in idleness” or am I a hard worker? (3:12)
  • Am I growing weary in doing good? Where do I need renewal and restoration? (3:13)

As you ponder those questions, center on 2 or 3 of the most crucial for your life. Now take some time to pray, “Lord, how do you want me to change?”

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Who are you working for?

Everybody works. Everyone who wants to eat, that is! But who are you working for there are several right answers to this question.

Do you work for yourself? Well on a base level this is okay. We are called to “eat our own bread” and not to be a burden to others. And there is that whole work/eat thing.

Do you work for your family? That’s okay too. We are called to provide for our families as a sign of our faith (1 Tim 5:8). We need to take care of the home front.

Do you work for others? Not a bad motive either. Our work should result in generosity for the poor (Eph 4:8), a good witness for Christ (1 Thess 4:12), and pleasing our employeers (Col 3:22 – with liberties!). Working for others is legit.

But the ultimate “who” is the Lord (bet you saw that coming)! Ultimately we work for the Lord:

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, (24) knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24

That brings meaning and purpose for the most menial parts of your day. You are filing those reports for the Lord. You are taking out the trash for the Savior. You are doing laundry for Jesus. You are seeing clients for Christ.

So do your work heartily and happily for God!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness.
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Do you think God wants this to happen?

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5
Do you think God wants this to happen? You know, to “direct your hearts into the love of God and steadfastness of Christ”? Hmm, let’s see. He inspired Paul to offer this “benediction/prayer” for His people. He made sure it was recorded in the Bible so we could read it.
Do you think God wants this to happen? Do we want this to happen? What would it look like if God really answered this prayer? How awesome would that be?
Can you think of two experiences more beneficial and powerful in our spiritual lives/ Aren’t Love and Steadfastness exactly what we need and want? Anybody have too much of God’s love? Anybody overrun with Christ’s steadfastness? I didn’t think so.
So, what do you think would happen if we all prayed this, really prayed this, together? Do you think God would say, “Hmm, you know, I changed my mind. I don’t think I’ll answer that prayer.”? Or maybe he would say, “Yes! That is exactly what I wanted you to pray for! Yes, I love to answer prayers so obviously in my will!”
Yeah, I agree. He would love to answer that prayer.
Just like if our kid came to us saying, “Dad, could you help me be more consistent in doing my chores without having to be asked?” or “Hey Mom, I really want to be more respectful and obedient to you, could you help me brainstorm ways to do that?”
I kinda think that would be okay with us!
So, what do say we all commit to pray this prayer every day for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our church? Do you think God would answer in ways we can’t imagine?
Me too!
The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,
Pastor Tom

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

When do you need prayer?

When eating at a restaurant I will often ask the waiter/ess, “While we are giving thanks for the food, is there anything I can pray for you about? Sometimes I have remarkable encounters (check it out, and be sure to read the comments) and sometimes they look at me as if to say, “Do I look bad enough to need prayer?!”

American civil religion tells us that prayer is only for crisis moments. The rest of life we handle ourselves.

The Bible portrays a different picture. We are to “pray continuously”. And the spiritual “giants” are the ones who feel the need for prayer the most! That’s why Paul implores the Christians at Thessalonica to “Pray for us!” (2 Thess 3:1).

Jesus taught his disciples to pray all kinds of prayers, from “big prayers” (Thy kingdom come, thy will be done) to “little prayers” (give us this day our daily bread). Why? Because we are just flat out dependent on God for everything! And the degree we “get” our helplessness is the degree with which we pray continuously.

So bring everything to God. Your priorities and passions. Your “muddy self”. Your anxieties and fears. Your dreams and aspirations. Everything.

Because you can do nothing without God. And because your Dad wants to hear it!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,

Pastor Tom