Eight Things to Pray for the New Disciples in any Church

One Solitary LifeEver wonder what to pray for a new believer?

Here’s a smart start on the kind of things that every believer in Christ needs to see happen so that their new life in Christ takes off like a rocket.

For more see:
Eight Things to Pray for the New Disciples in a Church Plant

Christianity is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to the World

What's So Great About ChristianityThe original post was only 318 words long but it sure has generated an interesting comment thread. Join the conversation and take a look at how to engage your atheist friends in respectful but firm ways as you defend the faith.

For more see:  Christianity is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to the World

Bible Abuse by Pastors

Ancient Ruins

Egyptian PedestalWay back in August I wrote an article on Bible Abuse by Pastors. The post was picked up on Facebook and favorably commented on there but not so much on the BLOG itself.

Recently, a visitor to the BLOG gave me a “tsk, tsk, tsk” (“Marty, Marty, Marty” actually) for calling out a fellow pastor’s misapplication of a favorite text. He, the tsk, tsk, tsker, seemed put off that I, a relatively unknown, would dare to question the interpretation of my better.

Now, on the particular, many, many pastors, perhaps most pastors of large churches are better communicators than me. But that doesn’t mean that I am always wrong when I disagree with them on the interpretation of a particular text.

Further, it is dangerous for congregants to put any teacher/pastor on a pedestal that removes them from the correction of others. Therefore, I responded to my disappointed BLOG-visitor with the following:

I’m sorry but I neither get your point nor understand why you object to my post. It was kind, positive and respectful of Craig as a man, as a communicator, as a leader, and as a pastor. It affirmed his wife in her respect and love for her husband and it acknowledged his positive responsiveness to her counsel.

Because Craig is a man of God, I suspect he would be one of the first to give the same warning that I give at the end of the post, namely, that congregants be careful to keep their fingers on the text whenever we (their pastors) speak. I included myself, by the way, in the warning. No teacher is above ever being questioned. Frankly, I think if Craig were to read the post, he would probably say something like, “you know, I think this no-name guy Marty has a point. I think I did misapply that text.”

And we would part as friends. He is a good man and I praise God for his ministry.

[His further question]
Now, on Elijah being a man of God. Elisha was a man of God, which is to say that he loved and served God. It is not to say that he made no mistakes. He is after all like Craig and myself, just a man.

Men and women, be careful. We live in a world of celebrity. Celebrity is simply popularity in high numbers on a national stage. Whether it is an actress or actor, a politician, a musician or singer, a TV personality or a celluloid hero or heroine, or even a pastor and theologian, celebrity is NOT a guarantee of veracity even when we like the celebrity of the hour.

Be careful of who you put on untouchable pedestals. Only God is worthy of worship.

Anger Does Not Give Birth to Wisdom

Monday is for Discussion

The following is an excerpt from a portion of chapter 15 from my 2012 book, Picking a President or Any Other Elected Official. I am currently working on a revision for my new publisher (Zondervan). If you would, please keep me in your prayers. Also, if you have a good idea for a new catchy title, pass it on in the comment section. Meanwhile, this is a good article to keep in mind as you listen to the rhetoric of the political candidates this season.

Picking a President Book CoverProverbs 15   Anger Does Not Give Birth to Wisdom.

A soft answer turns away wrath,
     but a harsh word stirs up anger.

A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
     but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

The Lord is far from the wicked,
     but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

Proverbs 15:1, 18, 29


Vitriol, bitterness, rancor, wrath, incendiary language, pejorative language, fierce and disdainful language, harsh, short fuses, in short—angry voices and tones seem to be the norm in the political arena at this moment in our history. There is more heat than light and more polarization than unity. Our nation is divided in a sea of mistrust and miscommunication. Yes, there are real and qualitative differences between the so-called Left and the so-called Right. But …

In the Midwest, where I live, just outside of the city of Chicago there is what I call “the corridor of dueling billboards.” One talk radio station on the “right” has a billboard that proudly declares, “Liberals Hate Us” and then the call letters of its radio station. Just a few miles up the road, is another billboard. This one declares with equal pride and a bit of humor, “Liberals Love Us.” Neither station purports to be a Christian station, but both have staked out their territory on the political landscape.

One day on the two hour long trip to pick up my daughter from college, I decided to listen to one talk radio station on “each side of the aisle” on each leg of the trip. Wow! What an education. What became clear listening to both stations was that neither one was listening, truly listening to the other. They each had their straw men concerning the other’s positions and were more than willing to pound away with “shock and awe” type language to impress their already converted audiences. Rancor, condemnation, harsh and judgmental bitterness were the rule of the day in most of what I heard from both stations.

But anger and bitterness rarely give birth to wisdom. The angry politician, like the angry neighbor is neither pleasant nor wise. And it is to that reality that Solomon speaks in chapter 15 of Proverbs.

1   A soft answer turns away wrath,
              but a harsh word stirs up anger.

18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
               but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.

How my soul longs for candidates who will reason rather than shill, who will seek to quiet contention rather than stir up strife. This text says in effect, that the longing in my heart is valid. It is consistent with the way of wisdom laid down in God’s word. Pray for God to raise up candidates in our local, state, and national elections that will resort to reason and rational arguments rather than politicizing every issue for narrow political and personal gain. We need men and women who will listen and apply the wise counsel of the first half of Proverbs 15:2:

“The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable,”

If we can’t find those candidates, we will be doomed to live with the second half of the verse:

“But the mouth of the fool spouts folly.” (NASB95)

Let’s pray for the former so we don’t end up with the latter. Persevere in prayer. Don’t get discouraged. Remember Solomon’s words later in the same chapter (v. 29).

The Lord is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

Praying for your leaders, present and future, is a righteous act. It is a commanded act in God’s word (cf. 1 Tim. 2:2). And it will be blessed by God. Pray for your leaders on both sides of the political spectrum.

Ends and Odds and Weekend Quotes

Sunday Musings

Forgiveness in ChineseKentland, IN
For the first time on a Sunday morning, I was able to visit our outreach in Kentland, IN. It was a good morning of sweet fellowship with some familiar faces who are bringing the gospel of Christ to the Kentland community. Everyone did a super job and it was exciting to see that the group has embraced an “all hands on deck” every-member ministry philosophy.

Everyone had a job. Everyone was involved in serving and the everyone was filled with joy in the service they gave. Pray for this “new” work. They have big plans and are passionate about reaching their neighbors for Christ.

Lunch and Kankakee
After worship, my bride and I drove to Kankakee for a date-lunch and then to the AT&T store to get a problem fixed on my phone. It is always a joy to look across the table and see the treasure of a wife that God has given to me. As we were leaving the restaurant we saw three members of our Watseka campus coming in for lunch and briefly exchanged hellos. Then, when we left the AT&T store we saw someone from the Ashkum campus. What a joy to see the body of Christ growing and expanding in both presence and influence. God is good and the good news of Christ is advancing.

Weekend Quotes from My Reading

The Importance of Teamwork

“A zoologist once informed me that a tiger will defeat a lion in a battle; but five lions will defeat five tigers because the lions fight together and the tigers do not, so the five lions take on one tiger at a time.”  

(The Celtic Way of Evangelism, 18.)

Did C.S. Lewis anticipate modern climate-extremists?

“You know as well as I do that Man’s power over Nature means the power of some men over other men with Nature as the instrument.”

C.S. Lewis, in That Hideous Strength, 178.

The Importance of Prayer

“God has been pleased to constitute prayer to be antecedent to the bestowment of mercy; and He is pleased to bestow mercy in consequence of prayer, as though He were prevailed on by prayer. When the people of God are stirred up to prayer, it is the effect of His intention to show mercy; therefore He pours out the spirit of grace and supplication.”

Jonathan Edwards,
“The Most High: a Prayer-Hearing God”
cited in A Hunger for God, by John Piper, 174.

First Ride of the Year

Saturday Musings

bicycle 2The weather was beautiful today. A 50 degree day in January with spotty sunshine is a good day to get some exercise on the bike. So I came home from work, told my bride I was hitting the road, dressed warm and took a short ride of seven+ miles. It was a good easy, relaxing pace. I needed it.

There has been more than a little stress this past month and it was good to have 30 minutes of wind, and air, and fields waiting for Spring. For me, saddle time on the bike is time to think and pray and reflect on what is happening in both my life and the church. It is time to start thoughts that will one day produce greater glory for the King.

Here’s a thought to guide the heart in the New Year from Augustine.

“He loves Thee too little
who loves anything together with Thee
which he loves not for Thy sake.” 

The Confessions of Augustine

Being Small and Despised Isn’t So Bad

Friday is for Heart Songs

praying the psalms

“I am” declarations in Psalm 119:

  • “I am a stranger in the earth”   vs. 19
  • “I am the companion of all those who fear You”   vs. 63
  • “I am Yours”   vs. 94
  • “I am exceedingly afflicted”   vs. 107
  • “I am Your servant”   vs. 125
  • “I am small and despised”   vs. 141

If I am a stranger in the earth it is because I am a citizen of heaven.
If I am a companion of those who fear God, I will be despised by those who don’t.
If I belong to YHWH I cannot belong to the world.
If I am exceedingly afflicted it is not outside of God’s sovereign and good hand.
If I am the servant of God it is for His purposes that I breathe.
And If I am small and despised it is a reminder that it is for His glory not mine that He has called me to be a stranger on the earth.

Lord, help me to remember the truth of Your word. Help me to declare with the whole of my being what the Psalmist declares here. Make me Your servant for Your purposes, for Your glory. Amen.