I recently finished up hosting a pre-conference gathering at a Missions Conference in So-Cal, hosted by Dr. David Platt and Francis Chan. I was super blessed to have a chance to interview a once-in-a-generation type leader, David Platt (Watch the FB LIVE video).
However, my most memorable time was joining a panel with SUPER SHARP church gurus sharing to a room full of influencing church leaders. We were invited to participate in a Q/A forum where we were asked a series of real-life-minsitry questions. I absolutely loved the dialogue between the 3 of us. I basically had front row seats and learn so many practical ways they served their church. At one point, I began taking notes while sitting on the panel.
Question #1: How do you prepare for Sundays?
At one point a thought provoking question was asked, “How do you prepare for Sundays?” I could have given your typical and proper answer: pray, read your bible, and pray some more. But, I wanted to be more helpful than some parrot-like response. I wanted to take the time here to share how I responded. Pretty much, this is my WEEKEND PRAYER as I’m driving to church. While football players have their locker room ritual to prep for the BIG GAME on Sunday, this is my Sunday drive-time ritual. Father, will you…
- Anoint me with the gift of PROPHECY. Now, this is where I may get lit up by my reform brothers. In short, I take the position that prophecy is the communication of Biblical truths in an eloquent, encouraging, and convicting manner. (Listen to John Piper’s brief audio response on this topic).
Before I speak, preach, or teach, I’ve already prepared ahead of time my talking points. I’ve written it down and gone over them in my head. Yet, sometimes the Spirit is leading me to say something else. No, not something WAY OUT OF LEFT FIELD where it’s not in my vocabulary. But, there may be a Bible verse, a phrase, or a story that “pops” up in my mind, just at the right time, extemporaneously. And that “phrase” will probably be the one line someone remembers that week.
Yes, we now have a new president! Our country just voted for a new president after a rollercoaster-like emotional campaign between two polarizing candidates. In the aftermath, I’ve been reflecting on how best we, the church, can be open and supportive of our future president.
THE BIG QUESTION
While Americans have the right to protest, just as they have the right to assemble and worship God, should Christians protest against the new presidential selection? The straight forward answer leads me to two prominent passages (below) in how Christians in the early church were taught to PRAY and SUBMIT to the governing authorities – the Roman Empire. Yes, this is the same empire that barbecued Christians for their faith.
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior”, (1 Tim 2:1-3 NLT).
“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished,” (Rom 13:1-2 NLT).
Oh my…this may be quite difficult or impossible for many believers of the faith. How can Christians get behind and support anyone who has questionable character issues, temperament control, discernment in decision-making, and appear to have a difficult time accepting wise counsel? This personal dilemma caused me to search the Bible for answers where I can follow these New Testament imperatives with good conscience.
Here’s the great news. In both the OT and NT, we have a plethora of bad kings and good kings. God’s people always had to live under the rule of some pretty bad dudes. Then, God placed this proverb on my mind:
The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases, (Pro 21:1 NLT).
I want to share three inspiring truths from this verse regarding our new “king”.
I believe every moment could be a life learning lesson. Yes, even the bad, embarrassing ones. On this particular Sunday afternoon, God made sure I learned a couple of lessons that are probably going to be a sermon illustration very shortly! Below, I wrote 2 sections: 1) The Epic Story & 2) the Learning Lesson. Go head and skip the story if you want to glean the golden nuggets of wisdom God wanted to teach me.
THE EPIC STORY: ELECTRIC CARS NEED GAS
On this particular Sunday afternoon, it was Daddy and Khoi time. We had finished an especially long weekend at church filled with festivities. My 6-year old son and I were heading home for lunch and a nap. And then it happened…
I had been driving my electric-hybrid car all weekend on “EMPTY”. Subconsicusly, I wanted to know how long can a hybrid go with the blinking “E” light. Ok, maybe not. Half-way home, I lost power to the gas pedal. Uh oh… I think I can coast this one to the closest gas station. Then, I had to stop at the red light with cars behind me and of course the there was no more power to the gas pedal. Cars were honking, and Khoi was asking, “Daddy, why aren’t we going?” I already know what my wife would have said, “Why didn’t you fill up when you had the chance? Why do you run it down all the way….”
Next, I did what every other man would do when he runs into a problem. Just turn it off, and start it up again! As if this solution fixed every IT tech support problem with modems, routers, DirecTV boxes, and laptop computer issues. YES, the car switched over to the battery, and I was able to move again out of the ensuing cars coming at me in the intersection. But luck doesn’t run in my family, and the car lost power again as I was costing into the next turn into a parking lot.
- Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed. Isa 59:14
- We growl like hungry bears; we moan like mournful doves. We look for justice, but it never comes. We look for rescue, but it is far away from us. Isa 59:11
- Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses; it has removed the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares. Jer 9:21
Thank God, the Bible isn’t silent on how we should proceed in dealing with our emotions. The Prince of Peace has given us examples of how we should respond by 1) Lamenting our frustrations, 2) Worshipping our Lord, and 3) Seeking Peace with others.
I ran across a recent blog by Pastor Mark Driscoll that helped answered a question I was perplexed during my early youth years. I wish had the WORD of GOD armed and ready, but failed in my feeble attempts to dual a self-proclaimed atheist. This could have been one of those moments that later inspired me to enter into seminary training. Much later in life, our family moved into a new home, and 2 sisters knocked on our front door from the Jehovah Witness church, asking the same question…
So why didn’t Jesus outright say, “I AM GOD”? Instead, he frequently referred himself as the “Son of Man”. Before we can answer this, you must also recognize that we’re over 2,000 years removed from the historical and cultural context of Jesus’ time. The words and phrases written in the Bible may obstruct us from seeing what was SO OBVIOUS to the audience of that time.
SHORT ANSWER: Jesus DID emphatically, publicly, privately, and unapologetically declare that HE was GOD.
Yes, Jesus wasn’t crucified because he supposedly broke the Sabbath laws, healed the sick, perform miracles, or teach “heresies” in the eyes of the Pharisees. He was put to death because he called himself, “GOD”… “I AM”. Here are 2 passages that may help you in answering this question. There are many more, and I invite you to add them into the COMMENTS section below.
- John 10:30-33: I and the Father are one.” Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
- Matt 26:63-65: The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.
You see, pretty clear right? Do you have any other passages that can encourage and equip others to firm up their faith in knowing Jesus was God? Add them to the COMMENTS.
Thank you, Pastor Mark for helping us answer this question. WATCH HERE
This Easter 2016, we launch a new service time on Saturday at 5:00 pm. With the growing need for an alternative service, we realized that it was time to open up the doors for greater community impact which consisted of lots of young families in weekend sports, increased urban housing development, and an internationally renown university down the street.
Up to this point, I felt God pressing on my heart the need to recast a Vision for Easter preparation and a heightened sensitivity for our community. Our team decided to do a pre-launch of Saturday night service with a Vision Night of Worship. You can WATCH all of the Vision Talk I shared here: Vision Message. May it open your eyes to the things God has for you this Easter Season, or read on with the summary.
SUMMARY OF VISION TALK:
My Big Point: Easter is a time to refresh your vision and see clearly God’s movements in your life. God is asking us everyday, “Do you see anything”? 1) It may be your first step to cross over and see Jesus for the very first time. 2) For many others, like me, it’s stretching of our faith to see him, new every day.
My Big Prayer: I wanted to pray for our church family and all the churches nearby and in the world with these 2 verses –
“Uncover my eyes so that I may see the miraculous things in your teachings.” Psalms 119:18 (GWT)
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” Eph 1:18 (NASB)
4 EYE-OPENERS WE LEARN FROM THE BLIND
They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:22-25 NIV)
From this familiar miracle story, we find 4 Eye-opening lessons from the Blind Man’s encounter with Jesus.
- Friends can Help or Hinder our meeting with Jesus (v.22)
- Clear Vision requires a Personal Encounter with Jesus (v.23)
- We can Experience Jesus in Multiple Ways
- Touch (Matt 9:27-31)
- Spit & Mud (Jn 9:1-41)
- Spit & Touch (Mk 8:22-26)
- Spoke (Lk 18:35-43)
- Jesus Blesses us according to our Faith
VISION NIGHT TAKE-AWAYS
“And [Jesus] asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” Mk 8:29 (ESV)
“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Mk 8:31 (ESV)
Question: How will you Encounter Jesus this Easter season?
“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,” Mt 6:22 (ESV)
I want to share 3 prayers for 3 different types of blindness:
- Spiritually Alone
Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jn 3:3 (NASB)
- Spiritually Broken
“The Spirit of the Lord is with me. He has anointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to announce forgiveness to the prisoners of sin and the restoring of sight to the blind, to forgive those who have been shattered by sin,” Lk 4:18 (GWT)
- Spiritually Dull
“The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly.” Ps 146:8 (NLT)
“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.” Ps 51:10 (NLT)
I’m sitting in my bed with a painful stomach virus that started on the morning of Thanksgiving Day!! Family and close relatives were coming over in a few hours to watch the Cowboys get blown away this year and gorge themselves with all the fixins’. It’s one of my favorite holidays of the year, and I am stuck in bed shivering and about to swallow 2 Nyquil pills.
Trying to find God’s presence in my sickness, I was convicted to share about a spiritual discipline one would never think about during this holiday season: The Lost Art of FASTING. Yes, you heard me, “F-A-S-T-I-N-G”. It was a paper I wrote in my first year of PhD studies around this holiday season. It reminded me that this holiday season can be JOYFUL without GORGING yourself on every impulsive appetite for pleasure. Yet the source of JOY is from our Savior King who once said, “I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow” (John 15:11 NLT)!
—————–The Lost Art of FASTING ———————–
Growing up in the Midwest of the great state of Texas, much of my religious influences was a product of my own environment. Right in the heart of Bible Belt, I enjoyed the comfort of being surrounded by openly professing Christians and church steeples at every corner of the city. I was confident that I knew what it was to live a Christian life along with the disciplines involved for maturation. I was blessed to be raised up in a Christian home; my father was a pastor, daycare was at the church during the week, I was schooled in a local Christian private academy, I grew up in the church, most of my friends were churched, and I continued my education at a Baptist seminary. Yet through most of my early years, the spiritual discipline of fasting was hardly practiced or mentioned. At best, it surfaced as a side note on some occasions in sermons. During these years, I never met anyone who seriously practiced fasting. Later, I relocated and served in three different churches, observing no active practices of fasting by any of the members and leaders of the church. If we can read through the many examples in the Bible, why has this discipline been neglected in the majority of American Protestant circles? The intent of this research is to identify how the spiritual discipline of fasting has vanished from the modern Protestant church, and the second objective is my attempt to developing an intentional discipline of fasting within my life. Finally, we can attempt to build a recovery plan by cross referencing contemporary practices with proper Biblical examples for the modern Christian church.
From his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster attributes two reasons to the decline of this discipline,
“First, fasting has developed a bad reputation as a result of the excessive ascetic practices of the Middle Ages. … Second, the constant propaganda fed us today convinces us that if we do not have three large meals each day, with several snacks in between, we are on the verge of starvation. This coupled with the popular belief that it is a positive virtue to satisfy every human appetite, has made fasting seem obsolete” (Foster, 47).
His first reasoning is partially true; the decline in the practice started with the early church, and resurfaced in the Middle Ages, with little regards to the biblical faith and a higher inclination towards an act of penance. Misguided at this time, fasting, a form of self-torture, would help rid the mind and body of the carnal appetites. As a result, the ostentatious behavior evidenced superior holiness, very much like the intentions of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day (Nordell, 380). Foster’s second reason is a whimsical response to make light of the distorted priorities of the American culture, focusing on the physical health over spiritual renewal. In both of these extreme cases, fasting has been severely misinterpreted, and, therefore, the proper purpose of fasting has vanished…