Teach Me To Pray – CPM

I had the privilege of being published in the current issue of Church Planter Magazine. Here is a snippet to wet your whistle…

I have a confession: I find it hard to pray. I’ve struggled with my prayer life for a long time. Growing up in the church I knew I needed to pray. The first prayer I remember praying was when I was just five years old. I told my mother I wanted to have Jesus come live inside my heart. Kneeling at my bed I prayed the “sinner’s prayer” repeating each word my mother spoke to me. To this day I don’t remember what was said. After I said amen, my mother continued to pray out loud… and pray… and pray… and pray some more. At this age I was just going with the flow wondering when she’d stop so I could go to sleep. It was then my struggle began. Prayer has been a constant struggle my whole Christian life. When I got older, I started to work in ministry, my struggle with prayer became an embarrassment.

Click here to check out the magazine. Available on in the Apple Store and Google Play.

Mistreating The Poor

If you mistreat the poor, you insult your Creator; if you are kind to them, you show him respect.

Proverbs 14:31

Can God be insulted? How often do you think he is insulted? An insult is a cold deliberate act of mistreating someone in action or dead. How can mistreating the less fortunate in our society bring disrespect to the Creator?

God created all of humanity. He knit together each person inside their mother’s womb. Each of us is wonderfully made. The poor and the rich; the good and the bad. When you mistreat someone who God has handmade you’ve disrespected that Creator.

The poor have a special place in God’s heart. He is especially protective of the poor and needy. Usually, it is due to oppression from systems and governments that make people poor and keep them there by oppression. Often, there is no way out.

You’ll find verse after verse in the Bible, both Old, and New Testaments, encouraging the poor. They call out to God in their distress and he hears. He protects the poor and he lifts them up. He loves them with tender love.

If you have children, imagine someone mistreating your child. How would you feel? Do you feel insulted? Imagine if they were kind to your child, how would you feel? Would you feel respected? This is how our heavenly Father feels for his children.

Sell Everything?

“There’s one thing you still need to do. Go sell everything you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come with me.”

Jesus in Mark 10:21

Mark tells the story about a rich young man who ran up to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus told the young man that he already knew the commandments of God. Yet the man said, “Teacher, I have obeyed all these commandments since I was a young man.”

Jesus looked closely at the man and said, “There’s one thing you still need to do. Go sell everything you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come with me.”

The question often asked is if Christians need to sell all their possessions in order to follow Jesus? Do Christians really need to sell everything, their houses, cars, clothes… and give all the money to the poor?

Western church folk would say, “Absolutely not!” Jesus never meant for anyone to sell all their possessions and give the money to the poor. Jesus was only speaking to the heart of this one young man and addressing his idolatry. This is not an absolute command for every Christian.

Sometimes I wonder, though, maybe Jesus really is talking to Christians today. Especially Christians in the Western world – this author and the reader.

The Western world is the top 1-percent of the wealthiest people in the world. We Christians are among them. But many of us Christians would be quick to protect our properties and strongly resist the teaching in this passage.

Perhaps Jesus is looking at us closely as we sit in our pews on Sunday morning calling upon God to give us eternal life. Perhaps Jesus is saying to us, “There’s one thing you still need to do…”

Jesus goes on to say later, “It’s hard for rich people to get into God’s kingdom!” Perhaps this is why we have seen a decline of people professing to be Christian in the West. Perhaps this is why many churches are in decline, many church buildings are empty. Long ago the West has turned away from God to follow a new god. We’ve plastered our motto upon the very god we serve, “In God We Trust.”

Jesus may not have commanded every Christian to sell ALL their possessions and give to the poor. But he did say, “Sell what you have and give the money to the poor,” (Luke 12:33). This is a direct command given to his followers. It is a command to you and me.

Dead Preaching

Last month I seen a cartoon circling social media making fun of California’s ban on plastic straws. The cartoon depicted a scene from an urban area all too common these days. It showed people who were homeless living in tents and dumpsters. Coming from the left is a well dressed politician proclaiming his gospel. He said, “Good news! Plastic straws are banned!” The goal of the cartoon was to point out that of all the possible issues society could fix banning plastic straws should come after we help people who live on the streets. Banning plastic straws is a good idea. But, it doesn’t help the person living in the dumpster.

But, I wasn’t thinking plastic straws when I saw this cartoon. I was thinking about the gospel that church folk preach. The politician in the cartoon could just as well had been a well dressed preacher saying, “Good news! Jesus has saved you for heaven, if you only believe.” The point being while we preach, “heaven” people are living in hell on earth.
Now, I am not saying heaven is not part of the gospel. It very much is. And we can give comfort to dying believers, and their loved ones, that heaven waits for them. Heaven is a hope we can give to those in need. But, it is not the only thing we need give them.

James says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (Jame 2:15-16). If we only preach and say, “Believe and heaven awaits!” while we see people in need what good is that? Preaching God’s love and mercy without showing God’s love and mercy is dead preaching.

I’ve written about this before. Some preachers today believe the mission of the Church is strictly preaching for salvation of souls. But this leaves a huge hole in their faith, and in their preaching.

The true Gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful enough to save the whole person, not just get them into heaven. Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16). The Greek word for salvation here can be rendered, “rescue, salvation, health, wholeness and restoration to the original state and condition.” It is for the whole person, healed of the sickness of sin, rescued from the slavery of evil, made whole into a new creation!

If we have hope in the next life only we are a people most to be pitied.

Pastor, You Need Friends

Photo by Eber Devine on Unsplash

One of the most valuable and precious relationships I have involves other Christian leaders and ministers in my local community. I’ve made it a priority to cultivate these relationships in order to promote unity and see the kingdom advance further.

Though these relationships promote unity they have been a great blessing to me both mentally and spiritually.

Brian Boyles writing for Facts and Trends says, “I [have] friendships with other church leaders in the community. These… were vital to my personal and spiritual growth…” When things go wrong in pastors’ lives, they need someone to turn to, someone that will pray over them, someone to speak words of encouragement.

Many see the pastor as someone who has it all together, as someone who cannot have any faults or problems. If the pastor did it would prove God is not with him. In spite of this being utterly false many pastors and leaders face congregants that think and act this way. Most pastors feel alone with no one to talk to. 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider a close friend. They have no one in which they can talk to, vent to about ministry, or work through problems about congregants, families, and even their own marriage.

70% say they constantly fight depression. Boyles says, “You need another person in your shoes to walk with you through times like this and other difficult things you’ll encounter in ministry—things you can’t bring before friends you have within your own congregation.”

Though I don’t have a formal congregation, as I am managing a homeless shelter, I do still look for and value the friendship and support of local pastors and ministry leaders.

Thinking through this I am drawn to Jesus. He himself had his select disciples whom he called friends (John 15:15). When he was tired from ministry he sought refuge with his friends saying, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place so we can rest” (Mark 6:31). When Jesus was facing his greatest trial he took his closest friends and asked them to pray with him (Luke 22:40, 46), to sit up with him in the night and keep watch over him (Mark 14:36). Jesus fellowshipped with his friends when he was tired. He leaned on them at his hour of suffering. He even needed his friend, whom he loved, when he was upon the cross (John19:25-27).

If Jesus ,our great shepherd, had need of friends who would fellowship with him, pray for him, and look after his personal wellbeing, how much more do we, his under-shepherds, need friends who will do the same?