Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Lord's Hand in the Hearts of Voters


The Lord’s Hand in the Hearts of Voters

I first arrived at Effingham ARP in 2008. A heated presidential election was in full-swing. I was cautious. Pastors can get bogged down in politics, and we preach to Republicans, Democrats, and everything in between on Sunday morning.

Now it is 2016--another big election. I wish I could take the easy way out by saying what you’ve already heard: “Is this the best we could do?” or “I guess I’ll be voting for the lesser of two evils.” But on Tuesday, November 8, I’ll cast my vote and pray for the Lord’s hand to guide our nation.

I read through a guide called “30 Ways to Pray for People in Authority” by Gary Bergel. We’ll have copies available at our Prayer Service on November 7th at 7pm (the night before Election Day). What I found most interesting was how the different prayer topics revealed that there will never be a “perfect” candidate. Whether praying for their marital faithfulness (#13) or their honesty in financial matters (#17), I can tally up where our nation’s two primary candidates fail in many areas.

Nevertheless, I will vote for one of them this month. I’ll also vote in some local elections where I know a few candidates more personally. Our local elections will bring me great joy! With all of this in mind, I remember God’s word to Daniel as he served under Nebuchadnezzar-- a tyrant by any modern definition:
He changes the times and seasons; He removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:21)

The White House, City Council, and even County Coroner-- whatever the position, we can trust the Lord’s providence. He works in the hearts of voters and the circumstances of history. My prayer this month: “Lord, grant me wisdom in my voting as I seek to glorify You, and let Your glory shine in whatever this election holds for our community and nation.”

In Him,

Pastor Brian

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Why (& How) to Pray For Your Church


When I was a kid, I prayed for a lot of things: my grandparents, my cats (Sneezy and Whiskers), my school work, and my friends who had strep throat or broken fingers. One thing I never prayed for was my church.


Pray for a church? It simply never occurred to me. From my childish perspective, our pastor was a-okay, our church was filled with lots of nice people, and everybody took care of everybody and everything that was needed.


Of course, looking back as an adult (and a pastor) I know that there was plenty to pray for in that church. In fact, it closed its doors more than 25 years ago. Looking forward, there is a whole lot to pray for in my church today.


Here are some ways that I pray throughout the week. I use a modified prayer outline originally provided by Joy of Abiding. On Sundays, I pray through all of these needs at once. Maybe you’ll see a few things that get you to think about how you can pray for your church. After all, if you don’t pray for your own church, who will?


-Strengthen our Staff and Leaders: That they will have servants’ hearts and will work with excellence and integrity.


-Energize our Youth & Children’s Volunteers: That they will build strong relationships and provide a Godly influence in this special ministry (Nursery, Sunday School, Wednesdays).


-Guide our Elders & Deacons: That they will have wisdom and insight in leading our church family through shepherding, stewardship, and administration.


-Help our Pastor: That his teaching will be Spirit-filled, clear, and steeped in God’s Word so that it “will not return void” (Isaiah 55:11)


-Sustain our Members: That their attendance will reflect their spiritual heart and that they will worship and serve in unity and harmony.


-Connect us With Our Community: Help us to see the needs around us and lead us into gospel conversations with locals, neighbors, and community contacts.

-Bless our Visitors: That we will make them feel welcome and they will see God’s Work in this church as I see it.


-Be with Similar Churches:


In Him,
Pastor Brian

Image: lifewaychurchinteriors.com

Why (& How) to Pray For Your Church


When I was a kid, I prayed for a lot of things: my grandparents, my cats (Sneezy and Whiskers), my school work, and my friends who had strep throat or broken fingers. One thing I never prayed for was my church.


Pray for a church? It simply never occurred to me. From my childish perspective, our pastor was a-okay, our church was filled with lots of nice people, and everybody took care of everybody and everything that was needed.


Of course, looking back as an adult (and a pastor) I know that there was plenty to pray for in that church. In fact, it closed its doors more than 25 years ago. Looking forward, there is a whole lot to pray for in my church today.


Here are some ways that I pray throughout the week. I use a modified prayer outline originally provided by Joy of Abiding. On Sundays, I pray through all of these needs at once. Maybe you’ll see a few things that get you to think about how you can pray for your church. After all, if you don’t pray for your own church, who will?


-Strengthen our Staff and Leaders: That they will have servants’ hearts and will work with excellence and integrity.


-Energize our Youth & Children’s Volunteers: That they will build strong relationships and provide a Godly influence in this special ministry (Nursery, Sunday School, Wednesdays).


-Guide our Elders & Deacons: That they will have wisdom and insight in leading our church family through shepherding, stewardship, and administration.


-Help our Pastor: That his teaching will be Spirit-filled, clear, and steeped in God’s Word so that it “will not return void” (Isaiah 55:11)


-Sustain our Members: That their attendance will reflect their spiritual heart and that they will worship and serve in unity and harmony.


-Connect us With Our Community: Help us to see the needs around us and lead us into gospel conversations with locals, neighbors, and community contacts.

-Bless our Visitors: That we will make them feel welcome and they will see God’s Work in this church as I see it.


-Be with Similar Churches:


In Him,
Pastor Brian

Image: lifewaychurchinteriors.com

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Do You Know Your Heart?

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. (1 Chronicles 28:9a)


Whenever I’m praying through a desire that I have-- some opportunity, relationship, or task ahead of me, I often say something like, “Lord, you know my heart in this.” Then, I ask for wisdom, patience, clarity, or even a change of heart if that’s the case.


The Lord knows our hearts quite well. After all, He created them! He knows our desires and wishes. He knows our motives: good, bad, or mixed. It occurred to me the other day, “I know the Lord knows my heart, but do I know my heart?”


That is a point worth pondering. How often do you think you know what you want only to find out later that you were mistaken? Maybe it is an item, a trip, a promotion, a life-event, or something more interpersonal. Do you really know your own heart?


I know I don’t! I have been blessed quite often with the Lord not giving me my “heart’s desire.” He knew my heart better than I did. And that gets me thinking nowadays-- as I ask the Lord to know my heart, I also ask him to help me know it too.


“Lord, you know my heart, but do I? Give me wisdom and discernment to know myself as you know me, and to see through unhealthy motives and desires I’m not even aware of.”


In Him,

Pastor Brian

Monday, July 25, 2016

Yielding Unto God (William Still on Keeping Your Balance"


“...yield yourselves unto God” Romans 6:13 (KJV)

I was at Barnes and Noble, Iced Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew in hand, browsing the Spiritual life section. A remarkable number of books seemed to deal with discovering God’s Will, God’s Plan, God’s Desires, or God’s “Whatever” for my life. Some of the books were promising, but several were written by those who in my opinion might need to discover Jesus before advising me on discovering God!


All of this reminded me of a slender volume that Scottish pastor that William Still wrote back in 1966. His book is called The Work of the Pastor but his advice is easily adapted to any follower of Jesus Christ. He lists 5 key steps to “Keeping Your Balance” in life and ministry. They’re listed here with a few of his most poignant quotes:


  1. Know Christ: “Has Christ grown up in you, so that there is far more of Christ in you than the remnants of old Adam?”
  2. Be Sure of Your Call: “You must know or be seeking decisive assurance that you are called by Him to [business, homemaking, ministry, teaching, etc.]”
  3. Wait for His Will: “Some of the most fruitful…have had to wait years for their God-given appointments.”
  4. Die to Yourself: “Jesus died with all our badness to take it away, He had to die to all the good He could have been and could have done in a long earthly life, in order that He might die with our badness.”
  5. Don’t Go It Alone: “I believe no-one ever does any good...for Christ’s sake anywhere, without other Christians at some time and in some place having had a part in it. The church is one in her work.”


There’s plenty to read and write about in regard to God’s Will. But for today, isn’t it remarkable how William Still’s short advice holds true? By constantly “yielding” unto God in every aspect of life (Romans 6:13), there’s discovering some “secret” plan of His will.

Yielding allows us to abide day by day in whatever station or location He’s placed us.  What of these 5 steps can encourage you this week?


Ever-yielding!
Pastor Brian

Monday, July 11, 2016

Giving All We Have; Receiving All We Need


Giving All We Have; Receiving All We Need

On a recent Sunday my family had arranged time away from our church after my wife’s knee surgery. We woke up a bit later than our normal Sunday time and I fixed breakfast before we read through a devotion for our worship time. We worshipped, prayed, and had a short “home-church” service in our pajamas. Our time was fruitful and even necessary, but it was not the same as being at Effingham ARP. We were missing a few ingredients.


Dr. Mark Ross writes that in a church body,

“We must give of ourselves all that we have to give in order to receive all that we need” (Associate Reformed Quarterly, Aug 2, 2015 p.27). 

The Body of Christ functions best when every single part is giving and receiving in a balanced ebb and flow. Some days we give more than we receive and other days we receive more than we give. We’re always giving and receiving together.


My family enjoyed our personalized church service over waffles, but we were separated from our normal routine of giving and receiving alongside other brothers and sisters in Christ. We weren’t filled up or flowing out to our full potential as part of a family of God. While this was fine for a little while, I know that our spiritual muscles would atrophy after too long in isolation.


As God’s Word reminds us, 

“The body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Cor. 12:14). 

There are times when illness or family needs prevent someone from giving and receiving along with other members of Christ’s Body. But on those days when we simply want to sleep a little longer or get an early start on the lake, perhaps we sense that there is something missing.


It is that longing of the Body, desiring to give all that is has so it can receive all that it needs.


In Him,
Pastor Brian

Image: www.fifteenspatulas.com

Monday, June 27, 2016

Heavenly Mansions (and Earthly Limos)


Heavenly Mansions and Earthly Limos

John 14:2 “In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

My son’s school sponsored a competition in which the top winners would be escorted by limousine to lunch at a restaurant across town.  He won for his grade and we anticipated his luxurious treat.

When I was his age, I won a similar prize. I recall the dark tinted windows, crystal glasses of Coca-Cola, and a TV in the back. The seats were dark velvet and I felt like a superstar. I described all of this to my son as he anticipated his big day.

The day of the prize, I eagerly awaited the moment I’d hear about his “famous for a day” trip. I picked him up from school and he had a big smile with plenty to tell, but he said that the limo wasn’t everything he expected. I asked him question by question: “No tinted window? No crystal glasses of Coke? No TV? No living-room style seats?”

Sure enough, his limo didn’t sound like much of a limo. I was puzzled until he provided one final detail: the Limo had the name of a local funeral home on the front license plate. This was no hollywood ride, but the austere transport you normally see by a graveside. There were no Cokes or TVs, but plenty of tissues!

We’ve had a good laugh about it and are still grateful for the school and the funeral home director who served as “chauffeur.” My son had a lot of fun, but the ride was not the bucket-list experience he expected.

We’ve all had experiences that didn’t turn out as expected. Thankfully, one area of future promise in our lives will not fall short, will not be a disappointment, and will certainly exceed our expectations. As Jesus describes to his disciples (and us) in John 14:2 “If it were not so, would I have told you…?”

Jesus’ promises of the past are (already) fulfilled and His promises of the future are (awaiting) fulfillment. He has much in store for us beyond even our human notion of rooms and mansions. If it wasn’t so, He wouldn’t have said it!

In Him,
Pastor Brian