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Sermon Series on Prayer

Dr. Dan

1 2 3 91

Special in God’s Plans

I was hosting a video-based training program for the Evangelism Section of the SBC Home Mission Board in the late 1980s and I needed to interview someone who was a local church prayer coordinator.  I was introduced to Elaine Helms, who served with the Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia.  She graciously agreed to the interview.  Later the same day of her interview I was informed that there was a glitch in the tape that created a loss of sound of several minutes right in the middle of the interview.  In some degree of fear, I called Elaine and asked her if she would return the next day and allow us to re-tape the missing portion of the interview.  Then I boldly asked her to wear the same dress with the same jewelry and to fix her hair the same way, so the new video would match the previous portion.  I was greatly relieved that she agreed. In the years to follow, I watched God use Elaine, a little-known local church prayer leader, to become a national prayer personality, an often-used speaker at prayer conferences, a fellow-member of America’s National Prayer Committee, and a best-selling author, who honored me by asking me to endorse two of her books. She even graciously wrote a chapter for one of my books, often reminding me of my strange request regarding her dress, jewelry and hair. I just received the news that Elaine arrived in heaven one week ago. She taught me to treat everyone you meet as if God plans to use them in mighty ways. I am just glad I got to be a part of Elaine’s journey. When you meet new people this week, treat them like they are special in God’s plans. They just might be one whom, “God has chosen . . . for Himself, a special treasure” (Deuteronomy 7:6).

A Story Finally Told

The full story can now be told.  We were good friends and collegiate ministry colleagues for a lot of years.  In the early years, he served at Texas Tech University, and I was at Pan American University.  Every March  we took a few of our missions-minded students to Southwestern Baptist Seminary for the Student Missions Conference.  During this particular March, because it was also March Madness, the T.C.U. Men’s Basketball team was hosting Dayton University in an NCAA Tournament game. Knowing my friend was a huge basketball fan, I suggested we skip the Saturday evening session of the Missions Conference and attend the basketball game.  He first refused saying he had agreed to assist with the invitation time at the conclusion of the session.  Then he reasoned that if I drove and got him back to Truett Auditorium before the end of the session, he could go to the game.  We thoroughly enjoyed the game and as requested, I drove, getting him back to the front doors of Truett Auditorium just in time.  In fact, as he walked through the rotunda and into the back door of the auditorium, the invitation music was just beginning.   He walked down the aisle to the front, turned around, and began greeting students who were responding to the invitation.  Until now, it has been assumed that he was in the Missions Conference through the entire Saturday session, not just the invitation.  The full story could not be told until now, because within a few years, he became my boss.  Today, I will attend the Celebration of Life Service for my friend and former boss, Jack Greever.  “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

 

It’s My Office and I’m Proud of It

I moved several hundred books on prayer out of my office last week.  It reminded me that someone once said, “Show me a man’s office and I’ll tell you about the man.”  In my twenty-two years on the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Seminary I had six offices in two buildings.  In retirement I have a seventh office in a third building.  I shared three of those offices in a suite with esteemed colleagues.  I have deeply appreciated each office. Around the top of the walls of my present office are fifty-nine small frames containing currency and patches from the countries where I have visited and ministered. I’ve given up displaying the one hundred plus university mugs from campuses where I spoke or served. Only a few remain displayed. Interspersed among the books on the shelves are family pictures and international reminders.  Same could be said about the few pictures on the walls.  The prayer bench has remained through three offices surrounded by prayer-prompts – reminders from every country that I’ve visited to pray for that country! A book of missionary pictures sits on the prayer top, along with an open Bible. The window overlooking part of the campus contains a cactus plant that my wife assures me I can’t kill. I have two chairs because I refuse to sit on the other side of a desk while communicating with a student. Lots and lots of books, even though I’ve given away hundreds to three other institutions. A Peanuts cartoon said, “Good books make good friends.” I’m blessed with lots of friends. The desk is a bit cluttered.  Supposedly it was Einstein who said, “A cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind.”  Someone else responded, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”  I will allow someone else to decide what my office says about me.  I just know I’m proud to call it mine, while it is still mine.  Someday, what the psalmist said of another will be said of me, “Let his days be few, and let another take his office’ (Psalm 109:8).

Dr. Dan R. Crawford, Senior Professor, Chair of Prayer Emeritus; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. Former Head of Task Force for the Teaching of Prayer in Theological Education for America’s National Prayer Committee.  Administrative Consultant for the Valley Baptist Missions Education Center. President of Disciple All Nations, Inc.

 

Satan’s Shenanigans and God’s Plans

I was excited about the chance to speak on a subject I had not spoken on in several years.  I worked hard updating old notes and adding new thoughts.  I even spent several hours preparing a power point presentation to accompany my notes.  An invitation went out to area churches including and emphasizing the live-stream links that would be available for those who could not attend in person.  To the very best of my ability, I was prayed up and prepared, but I was totally unexpecting a series of events. On the evening before my presentation, I was informed that no one was available to facilitate the live stream.  For the first fifteen minutes of my scheduled presentation time, men worked unsuccessfully to connect my power point.  Approaching bad weather had reduced the size of the anticipated crowd. As if that were not enough to depress me, on the way home, a truck threw a rock into my windshield, creating a rapidly spreading crack.  Reflecting on such, I’d just like to blame Satan.  However, I don’t think he is smart enough to put together such a scenario.  Here is what I think Satan does.  He takes such a series of life circumstances, for which does he gets zero credit, and capitalizes on them to his advantage and to the discouragement of those who are trying to serve God. I hope you never have a twenty-four-hour period like I had.  If you do, just do what I did next – read your Bible (In my case, The Message paraphrase) until you get to 1 Peter 5:8-11, “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So, keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.” Pause there and meditate for a while.   Then thank God for the opportunity to serve Him and pray that the people were blessed by your service in spite of Satan’s shenanigans.

Sheathe your Swords!

I attended my first Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois when I was 8 years old. Needless to say, I have attended my share of conventions and enough for the share of some others.  I enjoyed every one, partly because it was a place and a time to see friends, former students, past colleagues, etc., but also because it was always the best show in town (well, with exception of when it met in the city of a major league baseball team when they were playing home games). There seemed to always be a conflict, a disagreement, a debate on the floor, motions amended, and on and on.  Because my pastor-father knew the insides of most of these, I learned from him.  I’ll never forget the year someone made a motion that we pray for rain.  There was a  second and a unanimous vote in favor of praying.  My Dad turned to me and said, “First unanimous vote I’ve seen in years.”  This past week, we had another disagreement.  This time is was over an amendment that would withdraw fellowship from churches who had women on their ministerial staff who carried the title of “pastor” – such as Children’s Pastor, Student Pastor, Women’s Pastor, Senior Pastor, etc. The vote was 61.45% for and 38.38 against.  Because the amendment needed a 2/3 majority to pass, it failed, and social media was flooded with the bad attitudes of the losers.  Now that the vote is over, I would just like to encourage messengers on both sides of the vote to re-read the words of Jesus in Matthew 52:26, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Sheathe your swords, my friends, sheathe your swords.

What’s in a Title?

This week, the Southern Baptist Convention convenes for its annual meeting, There will be much discussion, perhaps another amendment or two,  and then a vote on the issue of churches who have female staff members who carry the title of “pastor.”  My feelings on the issue are forged by two experiences.  The first goes back to my teenage years.  During my sophomore year of High School, I was in an accident in which the second vertebra of my neck was broken.  I spent the next nine months, homebound, out of school, off the athletic teams, away from many friends, recovering.  My only real connection to my outside world was through the Youth Pastor at the church where my dad was Senior Pastor.  Had it not been for this God called and deeply committed Youth Pastor, I might not have made it through the experience, much less felt God’s call to ministry.  The second experience was in one of the twenty-nine churches where I have served as Interim Pastor.  The Children’s Pastor at this church was an absolute joy with whom to serve. Hardly a month went by that children weren’t baptized – most of whom were personally led to the Lord by this Children’s Pastor then adequately discipled by the same.  I thank God for both of these pastors.  Unfortunately, the Youth Pastor was named Robbie and the Children’s Pastor was named Candy. To think that these two churches could be voted out of the Southern Baptist Convention for having a female staff member with the title of “pastor” is beyond my ability to reason. We are a diverse convention – “many members in one body” (Romans 12:4), always have been, always will be.  We will not all agree with the final vote, whatever it is.  I just pray that wise heads prevail.

A More Profound Hallelujah

I recently spent more than three hours at a concert listening to old-fashioned, southern gospel quartet music.  I have loved this style of music since my very early days in deep east Texas, where “quarterly singings,” sometimes called “fifth Sunday singings” were common. Last week was a journey back into those early days of yesteryear. We got our tickets early, so we were seated in row K – eleven rows from the stage. On the front row were some folks whose worship style was very outgoing.  They spent the evening standing with arms raised, pointing at the performers and shouting words of encouragement.  On three of the rows in between us and the stage was a group of members from the same church – a very physically involved group.  They too, stood up and down repeatedly and waved at the performers. Directly in front of us, were a couple who sat mostly quiet and still, much like us, enjoying their worship. Continual shouts of “Amen” and “Hallelujah” were heard all over the auditorium.  It was obvious that the audience was diverse in their worship styles and appreciation.  However, no one protested.  No one shouted at those unlike themselves. It made me wonder, if perhaps this was a foretaste of heaven.  Surely there will be diversity there (“They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God.” Luke 13:29). and I seriously doubt the music will be southern gospel, but there will be agreement.  Why?  Because, even with the earthly reunions that will be on going, the major focus will be on the “Lord of heaven” (Acts 17:24) and, in the words of an older hymn, our worship will have “moved us to a more profound hallelujah!”

 

Mother’s Day, 2024

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. While such a day is not mentioned in the Bible, and in fact, only made it onto the U.S. calendar in 1914, many mothers are mentioned and honored. In fact, the sixth commandment says to “honor your mother” (Exodus 20:12). In honor and memory of mothers, here are a few of my favorite mother quotes:

  • “Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” —Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • “Mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled.” —Emily Dickinson
  • “Motherhood: All love begins and ends there. ” —Robert Browning
  • “God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” —Rudyard Kipling
  • “There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it.” —Chinese Proverb
  • “Life doesn’t come with a manual; it comes with a mother.” — Unknown
  • No list of quotes on motherhood would be complete without a quote from Erma Bombeck: “When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.”
  • And my mother’s favorite line: no matter how difficult the circumstances, her response was, “It will be better tomorrow.”   Most of the time, she was correct.

 

Favorite Prayer Quotes

Last Thursday was America’s National Day of Prayer.  I was reviewing my favorite quotes on prayer. Allow me to share ten of them with you.

  • “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” – Oswald Chambers
  • “True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” – Charles Spurgeon
  • “Prayer should not be regarded as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.” – E.M. Bounds
  • “Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue; God’s voice is its most essential part. Listening to God’s voiceis the secret of the assurance that He will listen to mine.” – Andrew Murray
  • “Quit playing, start praying. Quit feasting, start fasting. Talk less with men, talk more with God. Listen less to men, listen to the words of God. Skip travel, start travail.” – Leonard Ravenhill
  • “Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure.” – D. L. Moody
  • “The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray.” – Samuel Chadwick
  • “There is no way that Christians, in a private capacity, can do so much to promote the work of God and advance the kingdom of Christ as by prayer.” – Jonathan Edwards
  • “Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons, but they are helpless against our prayers.” – J. Sidlow Baxter
  • “History is silent about revivals that did not begin with prayer.” – Edwin Orr

National Day of Prayer, 2024

In 1952 the U.S. Congress passed a bill instructing the President to set aside one day each year as a National Day of Prayer.  As the years went by this was observed rather sporadically and often without much advance notice as to the selected day.  In 1998 the U.S. Congress passed another bill naming the first Thursday in May as the day for the observance of the National Day of Prayer.  Obviously, some Presidents have been more involved than others in leading or even supporting the events of this day.  America’s National Prayer Committee, on which I am privileged to serve, meets twice each year and one of those meetings is in Washington D.C. during the National Day of Prayer. In recent years the events of that evening have been televised. Due to flight restrictions, I am unable to attend this year, but I know it to be a meaningful and crucial time.  Our nation is in need of more spiritual guidance, than a President holding a Bible upside down for a photo opt or a candidate selling Bibles with his name on them.  Nor do we need the spiritual misguidance of a President who says he believes one thing but acts differently.  By Thursday, I will have spoken twice this week in two different churches on the subject of prayer from Luke 11:1, “Lord, teach us to pray.” This coming Thursday, the National Day of Prayer, I will share lunch and prayer with my Pastor.  Then I will drive around my part of my city and pray for each church I see.  What will you do this coming Thursday?  I realize that many non-Americans read this Manna regularly.  I challenge you to pray this Thursday for your own country, and then honor us by interceding for America as well.

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