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Sermon Series on Prayer

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.

Laugh and Last

Friends (and a few who were not friends) have commented on my sense of humor. Both of my grandfathers possessed great senses of humor as did my father, so I guess I inherited it. Nevertheless, it has kept me balanced and sane.  William Arthur Ward, a Christian motivational writer said, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.”  Mark Twain once wrote, “The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” The quote, “Laughter is the best medicine” has been attributed to numerous persons. As one who has faced a share of challenges – challenges that could either be faced with tears or laughter – I confess that humor has been instrumental in survival. It is even said of the Lord, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh” (Psalm 2:4).  So, look for humor, find occasion to laugh, enjoy life. (My book, “Mud Hen in a Peacock Parade” is a collection of humorous stories from my life.  The Second Edition is available on amazon.com.)

Bigger and Better

During a March Spring Break week in the early 1970s a small group of university students from then, Pan American University, made their way to South Padre Island, where several hundred fellow college students had gathered.  There was a difference in their purposes.  The hundreds were there for the S’s – sun, surf, sand, suds, sex. The group from Pan Am was there to minister.  Complete with a mobile medical clinic, they cared for 150 persons – mostly sunburn, Jellyfish stings, and overdoses – and they shared the Gospel.  They continued to return each spring break, until leaders in other campus ministry groups decided to join.  I personally travelled to numerous campuses, teaching beach ministry methods and recruiting students.  Soon there were hundreds of ministering students for thousands of others.  My pastor-father once told me, “No matter what you do, someday, someone will come along and do it bigger and better.”  Sure enough, as the years went by, the ministry opportunity took on a name – “Beach Reach” and gained participants.  This month, 1256 committed students from thirty-five Texas campuses plus five out-of-state campuses made their way to South Padre Island to minister to the multiple needs of several thousand others – and eventually shared the Gospel with 11,795 others.  Two hundred seventy-six students went to the beach seeking something that started with a S, and found Salvation. Seventy-nine were baptized in the Gulf waters. I remain so very proud of those few Pan American (now University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) students who in the early 1970s began something that so many others have continued to do.  Do your best, then cheer on those who are doing it bigger and better.

God is a First-Responder

I didn’t cry much when I was young but when I did, someone was always there to care for me – grandmother, mother, aunt.  As I grew older, my need for someone to respond to my cries decreased, even as my times of crying were reduced.  I grew up with the philosophy of life that says, grown men don’t cry.  But I never completely stopped crying. I spent a lot of time bottling up my tears, believing that if there was “no crying in baseball “ (a line from one of my favorite movies), there ought not be crying anywhere else.  Then one day I cried and my faithful responders had all departed for heaven.  The occasion and details of my tears are unnecessary here, but the fact is, I cried, and no one responded. I began to ask myself, if a grown man cries and no one hears, is it still a valid cry?  When I wasn’t really looking for it, I found a comforting verse.  On an occasion, Isaiah assured the people that God, “will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you” (Isaiah 30:19). Even if no one else hears and responds, God does. That’s all I really needed to know, and pass on to you.  Go ahead and cry when the occasion calls for tears.  God is a first-responder.


The ABCs of Ministry

It happened again.  I’ll spare the details. This time it was one of my former Seminary students, a winsome, deeply committed young man. He had risen too fast from the small church where he began to serve, to a larger church with too much responsibility for his age and experience.  He remembered a classroom lecture I once shared entitled, “Satan’s Great Track Record,” with three points: Sex, Power, and Money, but he said he assumed it was for others in the room. In delivering such a message to my want-a-be-ministers, I had an advantage – I grew up as the Preacher’s kid. With a Pastor as my father, I wasn’t allowed to do certain things, go certain places, participate in certain events, date certain girls, etc.  When I was dropped off at a small Baptist college, located a long way from home, my father said., “Son, remember who you are when no one knows who you are.” His statement both guided me and haunted me.  Not everyone grows up in that kind of environment, with that kind of advice. John Maxwell report-ably said, “When leaders believe they can do whatever they want in private even if it contradicts what they do in public, they violate their calling.”  Again, my advantage – I had a strong upbringing and a powerful calling.  I tried to pass it on to my students.  Sometimes it worked, other times, it failed. What God asked of Ezekiel, He needs to ask again to those who have influence over the young ministers, “Have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us’” (Ezekiel 8:12).  Pass on to those who follow you, the simple ABCs of ministry: Acknowledge God’s call.  Behave yourself. Cling to the cross (more on this point later).


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