Monday, February 29, 2016

Praying for America

We lived in troublesome times marked by fear and confusion.  In an election year, we hear a multitude of opinions, promises, and rhetoric.  The Bible reminds us that sometimes the battle for people, families, and societies is not merely natural.  There are spiritual forces at work.  And spiritual forces require spiritual engagement.

Once in the ministry of Jesus, when his disciples were unable to solve a dilemma, he reminded them, "This kind comes out only by prayer and fasting."

A Person Like You or Me

A man named Elijah, one who feared the Lord, lived in troublesome times.  He had no confidence in the political leaders of his nation, a godless couple named Ahab and Jezebel.  The king and queen led the nation into all sorts of idolatry, eventually persecuting and killing many of the prophets of the one true God.  That God, Jehovah, spoke to this man Elijah, a Tishbite.

God told Elijah that as punishment for the sins of the nation, He was sending a drought.  It would not rain until God allowed it.  Elijah announced this punishment to king Ahab.  Then, God hid his prophet for three and a half years (1 Kings 17) during the drought.  Killing Elijah would not have stopped the drought, but godless people sometimes like to attack God's messengers.  (Houston, you can demand pastors to turn in their sermons, but you can't change their God nor what He has said, nor their constitutional rights.)

After three and a half years, the Lord and Elijah had a huge confrontation with the priests of Baal, priests under the domination of Queen Jezebel.  God showed up in a big way, confirming that he is God and Baal is false.

Then, God revealed to Elijah that it was about to rain.  Before rain came, Elijah began interceding - praying to God to send the rain.  Some people remark that the position he took in 1 Kings 18:42 was one of a Jewish woman in labor.  Elijah knew God was going to send rain, but the prophet assumed the position of a praying intercessor.  He became an agent through which God could birth a miracle and bring rain.

After seven times of prayer, Elijah's servant saw a small raincloud coming.  Soon, heavy rain poured.

Years later, the apostle James comments on this account: The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit (James 5:16-18).

James reminds us of a few potent truths . . .

1.  Elijah's prayer life included the potential to stop rain and produce rain for 3 1/2 years as he partnered with God.

2.  Elijah was a man just like us - not any more or less.

3.  The prayers today of godly people full of faith, the Holy Spirit, and the fear of the Lord can accomplish much.

Wow.  The prayers of one man affected the course of the entire nation.

Again and again in Scripture, God worked through the prayers of one man or woman to bring real change.

Might God use the prayers of one righteous person today to affect the course of our nation?  Might God use the prayers of one family, church, or small group to alter our future?

Fasting and Prayer

In years past, some Presidents and political leaders understood that we are truly one nation under God.  During times of deep national crisis, leaders called our nation to a day or season of fasting and prayer.  They understood that some problems faced by the country were too grand for human ingenuity to solve.  They needed God.  They needed His help.

John Adams, second President of the United States, understood this truth.  When faced with the threat of a national crisis from a foreign power, he called for a day of fasting and prayer for May 9, 1798 . . .

As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God; and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety, without which social happiness cannot exist . . . .

See a long list here of days of fasting and prayer issued by our government leaders in times past.  You can also read the proclamations at the same site.

According to the Bible, when peoples and countries face deep crises, they should fast and pray.  They should turn aside from what they normally do, stop eating for a designated time, and cry out to God.  Fasting is one spiritual discipline through which we humble ourselves before Him and ask for His help.

Personally, I have little confidence in our current government leaders in the White House to handle our problems efficiently.  However, the Bible says that God hears the remnant.  He hears the few that still fear, love, and serve Him.  God promised Abraham that if He found ten righteous people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, he would spare them from judgment.  Why?  Because God hears His remnant.  He acts on behalf of His remnant. 

The prayers of one man brought the rain after three and a half years of drought.  And he was a man just like you and me.

During this Presidential election year, I challenge believers to fast and pray for America.  And pray for the Lord to raise up godly, wise leadership.  Here are 7 qualities to pray for the President of the United States.

I challenge you, fellow Christians, to begin fasting and praying for America.  Begin setting aside some meals and spending that time in God's presence, praying to Him, on your knees, with an open Bible, pouring your heart out to God.

These battles cannot be fought with politics, military, or medical doctors alone.  We need God's help. We need God's help again.

Because, as the second President of the United States understood, "the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and blessing of Almighty God."

Donald Trump's Sewer Politics

Cal Thomas is spot-on in his column this week, including his praise of Pastor Max Lucado for calling out Trump and his challenge to the evangelical church.

"I was going to write about how the Republican presidential campaign has become gutter politics, but given Donald Trump’s horrid statements, the gutter would be a step up, because things have descended into the sewer.

Never in modern times has there been a presidential candidate who has hurled more personal insults and hurtful accusations at his fellow candidates and others who disagree with him. It should embarrass a normal person, but Mr. Trump appears beyond embarrassment.

 He criticizes Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, for dropping the F-bomb when he did the same thing during the New Hampshire primary campaign. He attacks Marco Rubio for repeating himself when Mr. Trump repeats himself repeatedly. He has criticized the personal appearance of Carly Fiorina, Rosie O’Donnell and Arianna Huffington, among others, when he isn’t much to look at. He tosses out words like “loser” and during the Houston debate responded to a question from radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt by saying no one listens to his program and his ratings are lousy."

Read the entire article here.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

4 Ways God Responds to our Prayers

One of the lessons in the Christian journey involves accepting the way that God responds to our prayers.  The following show four ways that God responds, including a testimony with each one.

1.  Sometimes God says "no."

In 1997, Elmer Towns, began a 40-day fast.  His purpose was two-fold: draw near to God during that time, and ask God to remove Bill Clinton as the President of the United States.  Towns, the Dean of Liberty University, believed that Clinton's liberal policies and questionable integrity were a bad combination for our country.

Each day of the fast, Towns prayed earnestly about the two purposes of the fast.  Early on,  though, Towns sensed that the Lord was not pleased with his request about the President.  By day five, he wrote in his journal, "Lord, should I pray for Clinton's removal from office?" 

He shares that he received a direct feeling, "Do not pray against your president; rather, pray for your president."

Towns accepted that as a "no."  

Read the entire article, 4 Ways God Responds to Our Prayers, here.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Decency for President

Pastor Max Lucado, dubbed by some of "America's pastor," writes what many of us have thought recently in his article "Decency for President."   Regardless of whether or not you agree or disagree with a candidate's policies, the American people should expect the persons running for office to uphold a certain manner of honor and decency.  If it wouldn't be acceptable for someone running for middle school class president, it shouldn't be ok in a bid for the President of the United States . . .

"As the father of three daughters, I reserved the right to interview their dates. Seemed only fair to me. After all, my wife and I’d spent 16 or 17 years feeding them, dressing them, funding braces, and driving them to volleyball tournaments and piano recitals. A five-minute face-to-face with the guy was a fair expectation. I was entrusting the love of my life to him. For the next few hours, she would be dependent upon his ability to drive a car, avoid the bad crowds, and stay sober. I wanted to know if he could do it. I wanted to know if he was decent.

This was my word: 'decent.' Did he behave in a decent manner? Would he treat my daughter with kindness and respect? Could he be trusted to bring her home on time? In his language, actions, and decisions, would he be a decent guy?

Decency mattered to me as a dad."

Read the entire article by Max Lucado here.

Elect Not to Fear

What drives so many voters this election year?

"Fear of a country they hardly recognize -- and frustration with a political class that over-promises and underperforms. But here's the problem: you can't be fearful and thoughtful at the same time. When we operate out of fear and frustration rather than faith and reason, the results are often disastrous.  

With a quarter of the delegates on the line for the nomination next week, here's my message to Christian conservatives: stop fearing and start thinking. Just because a candidate shares your anger doesn't mean he shares your values. The only way to know if these leaders can satisfy both is to take a long hard look at their records -- which you can find right here in FRC Action's Presidential Voter Guide. Do America a favor -- do your homework before you vote. The future of this race, and so much more, depend on it." 

- Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Family Snow Fun

The Transformation of American Politics to Entertainment

 Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas gives an insightful commentary on the Trump campaign . . .

Since religious language has again infected this unpredictable and turbulent political season, here is a verse that could describe the followers of Donald Trump. It is found in Paul’s second letter to his protege Timothy (or as Mr. Trump might call it, Two Timothy): “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”

All politicians tell voters what they want to hear. It is one reason for the anger many voters feel for members of both political parties. These voters believe Washington has let them down, promising things it has not, or cannot, deliver in exchange for their support.

 Mr. Trump makes grandiose promises and claims he never backs up with facts. The latest, as noted by Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler, is Mr. Trump’s claim that he will negotiate the price of drugs with pharmaceutical companies, saving $300 billion. That his facts are incorrect and he doesn’t say how he will pull this off is of no concern to his followers, who never appear to question anything he says.

Read the entire article by Cal Thomas here.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

What Is a Christian?

The word Christian has been thrown around in the media a lot lately. Simply put, the word Christian means "little Christ" or Christ-follower. It was a derogatory term given to the followers of Christ in the first century. It was intended to mock them - these silly people following this man who ended up dead. The first, most basic message of the Christian movement was "repent and believe the good news of Christ." 
It was preached by John the Baptizer, Jesus, and then the early apostles. Repent and believe. So to become a Christian, a person must first understand they are a sinner. They don't need a crutch - they need a stretcher - and the stretcher is Christ. So they repent of themselves and their sin, turn to Christ and believe He is who the Bible claims He is. They ask Him personally to come in to their lives and dwell in them through His Spirit.

The second message of Christ was, "Follow me." So, for those who repent and believe, the rest of their lives they are on a journey learning to walk and follow Christ. As time goes on, people around them should be able to see Christ slowly being formed in them - and they over time slowly become "little Christs." Never perfect, but always being formed by the One in whom they believed. Stumbling, but getting back up. Learning to trust God more than trusting self. There is no Christianity without repentance and belief. And to be a Christian is to be on a journey of becoming like Christ.

Quotation of the Day

I love what Pastor Jonathan Falwell put on facebook recently: Biblical truths shouldn't be shelved just because you're in a voting booth.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

American Renewal Project

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”    - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A conservative statistical estimate says that 38 million evangelical Christians did not vote at the 2012 Presidential election.  

In the average Presidential election, 25% of evangelical Christians in America show up and vote.

In the average non-Presidential election, 12.5% of evangelical Christians in America show up and vote.

Rev. Rafael Cruz asked a ballroom full of pastors and church leaders, “Are we going to answer to God for our silence?”

Cruz spoke in Greenville, South Carolina, on December 7th at the South Carolina Renewal Project, an event hosted by the American Renewal Project.  The ARP recognizes that Christians in America for several decades have bought the lies that the church should not get involved in politics, pastors should stay out of the public square, and the church should only focus on “spiritual” issues.   Nothing could be further from the truth.

The current dismal state of the affairs of our nation is in part the result of the church staying in her buildings, pastors staying silent out of fear of offending congregants, and the Christians in America not engaging the culture and being salt and light.

Cruz challenged pastors, “If the righteous are not running for office, then the wicked will elect the wicked.”  Referencing Exodus 18:21, he shared that Christians should vote for people who have the following qualities:

1.  Able to lead – that means capable of leadership ability.  “Stop electing the village idiot!” Cruz challenged.

2.  Men and women who fear God – they have a Judeo-Christian work ethic and moral code.

3.  People of truth who tell the truth.  Many politicians today run on lies, lies, and lies.  Discernment is needed to see past the rhetoric and look at their record.

4.  People who are not covetous – that means they are not hungry for power and control.

Christians, and especially pastors, must care more in these days about being biblically correct than politically correct.  We must speak the Word of God, share the Word of God, teach our people how to look at political issues through the lens of the Word of God, and vote our values based on God’s Word.

Today American faces serious issues such as mounting national debt, growing racial divides, politicians who lie habitually, attacks on religious liberties, disrespect for our police force, enemies who want to wipe us out because we do not follow a false god, the blurring of sexuality, the redefinition of marriage and family, and a host of others.  

The Bible speaks clearly on these issues.  As the Old Testament prophets spoke the Word of God into their culture - to God's people and to the political leaders - so pastors and Christians must speak on these cultural issues.  God's Word is not silent and neither should his people be silent. 

For ten years before the Revolutionary War, the pastors in America preached against the unfair treatment from King George.  At the time of the outbreak of the Revolution, the pastors rallied the people from the pulpits to take up arms against the British.  The pastors so influenced the people that they became known to the British as The Black Robe Regiment.  Today, the church has been fed a lie for decades that pastors should not speak into the culture and should stay silent about the grave issues facing America.

Rev. Cruz’ son, Senator Ted Cruz, spoke later at the gathering, sharing three thoughts:

1.  We must speak the truth.  This is not the time to pander to political correctness.  The church has a responsibility to speak God’s truth into our culture.  

2.  We must defend our liberties.  Today we are seeing an unprecedented attack on religious liberties.  Our forefathers understood that liberty is a God-given right, not a right given or taken by government.  Ted Cruz stated, “Caesar has no jurisdiction over our pulpits.”  If Hillary Clinton is elected as our next President, we will likely have a war waged against our pulpits to silence political incorrectness which the far left calls "hate speech."

3.  We must awaken the church.  “The Bible is not ambiguous on these issues [facing America],” Cruz said.  If ten million more evangelical Christians had showed up and voted at the last Presidential election, they could have called the vote at 8:30pm.  

Cruz challenged, “America is hanging at the precipice.  We must get back to the Judeo-Christian values that built this country or we will lose this country.”

- Pictured above are pastors and leaders laying hands on and praying for Senator Ted Cruz.

The American Renewal Project does not endorse a candidate.  They invite every Presidential candidate to come speak about their relationship with Jesus Christ and to take any questions from the floor.   Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee have all spoken at ARP events.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Discernment in a Digital Culture, Part One

My article Discernment in a Digital Culture, Part One, is featured today on Michelle Cox's blog Just 18 Summers.  Read it here.

Meeting God in the Kitchen

Notes from my sermon at The Spring Church on 02/14/2016.  This is the fourth message in the series Elijah: A Man Like Us.

Read 1 Kings 17:7-16

Life-Lesson:   God teaches us to move by faith, trusting Him when sight fails.

Advanced Training at Zarephath

God’s leading may surprise you.

1.  Sometimes God only reveals the next step

God leads his servants step by step. 

3 tests:            fear, first impressions, and impossibility

Why does God want us to live by faith?

a)         Living by faith proves to us that God is real.

b)         Our faith is increased and we see God as our true Source.

c)         We learn how to listen to God and obey Him.

The key to living by faith is not in a method.  The key is to hear,  obey and trust God.  – Loren Cunningham

2.  God works head of us with full awareness of our needs.


God is great enough for any circumstance or test.

3.  God reduces us to teach us to trust.

If we never have needs, how can we learn to trust Him?  If we can do everything without His help, how can we learn to depend on Him?

          Depend on the LORD; trust Him, and He will take care of you.   Psalm 37:5 (NCV)

At no point in our lives can we ever arrive at a position where He will allow us to cease to be dependent on Him.  - Tom Westwood, Meditations on Elijah and Elisha

4.       God often requires an act of faith prior to His provision.

Elijah has to get the woman to move in faith even though she is down to her last bread.  He provoked faith in her, and God covered them both.  Nothing happens for this woman until she moves in faith.

Luke 6:38 – you be a grace dispenser; you must be the miracle you want to receive for yourself; if it is only about you being blessed, you will miss it

Do I settle for the last meal, or do I believe the Word of God?

Many Christians never prove God’s faithfulness in this category; they remain financially self-sufficient, never stepping out on a limb, never doing anything out of the ordinary.  Instead, it seems they ask their bank accounts, “will you allow me to do this for God?” – Loren Cunningham

I come across a number of people that God is calling, into ministry or into a mission assignment, and it is huge.  Or God begins to reveal Himself to a church, and they immediately look in the bank to see if they have enough in the bank account.  And then some say, “Well, there’s no way we can do this.”  And my answer would be, “Well, God doesn’t intend for you to do that.  He intends for you to let Him do it.  Do you believe Him enough to let Him do it, and would you step out in faith and let God do it?”  And some say, “Well, we don’t have the money at hand.”  And I say, “If that’s the way you’re going to function, you’re never going to experience God.”

Whenever God encounters us, it has God-sized dimensions, and it is usually one step beyond where we have last been with God.

If all He ever did was let you work by your ability, you’d never know His.  So if God’s going to make Himself real to you and others, He’s got to ask you to do some things that your abilities have no capacity to fulfill.  You will come to know Him as He makes Himself known to you.
-        Henry Blackaby

Life Lesson from the Kitchen

      1.    God’s leading is often surprising, don’t

over-analyze it.

      2.    When provisions are scarce, look up.

      3.    God’s promises often hinge on our obedience,

so don’t ignore your part.

      4.    When circumstances stretch you, don’t doubt

God – He is not stretched.

      5.    When God challenges you to give what you

have today, trust Him.