It’s working! I suspected that it would. It always has. I’m talking about prayer. I’ve been working with the leadership of Vancouver (Canada) Focus in starting new churches in the metro Vancouver area. I agreed to take on the responsibility for the Frasier River Delta, an area between the city of Vancouver and the U.S. border. The population of the three cities in this area – White Rock, Ladner, and Tsawwassen – is approaching 100,000 and there are no Southern Baptist churches. Jesus told His disciples to “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:38; Luke 10:2). We produced a virtual prayer walk video of the area, recruited a global prayer team, and began to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would start a church or churches in the Frasier River Delta. Almost immediately, one of the church starters in Vancouver received a phone call from a lady in White Rock inquiring about a potential new church start there. Last week, two Seminary students walked into my office, completely unannounced and un-recruited. One grew up in Ladner and wants to return to that area upon graduation to start a church. The other is from the state of Washington, just a few miles from the Canadian border, and was asking about going with me in May during an Urban Practicum in Vancouver to explore the area for a possible church start. Was Jesus correct? Can we really pray the Lord of the harvest and get results? Absolutely! It’s working! If you’d like to be a part of the global prayer team and receive updates, click on www.discipleallnations.org and then click on the skyline of Vancouver on the right side of the page to view the 13 minute virtual prayerwalk. Then e-mail me at email@example.com and tell me you want to join the prayer team and receive updates.
By the way, we need your assistance in recruiting new subscribers to “Dr. Dan’s Monday Morning Memo.” When we get sixteen more subscribers we can switch to a much more sophisticated delivery system. Don’t you know someone you could contact today and encourage to subscribe?
Occasionally we become so familiar with God’s supernatural blessings that we begin to take them for granted. Health. Friends. Housing. Transportation. Food. Now there’s the one that caught the Israelites. Rather than allow them to go hungry in the wilderness, God supernaturally provided manna for their food. Manna, a word that literally means, “what is it?” was sweet “bread from heaven” (Jn. 6:31), called by the Psalmist, “angels’ food” (Ps. 78:25) and in Numbers 11:8, “sweet pastry.” Could the eating of sweet angels’ food pastry from heaven ever get routine? It did for the Israelites. In fact it became so routine that they complained to God about it, saying, “there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread” (Num. 21:5). “Loathes?” That word means they became so disgusted with God’s supernatural provision that they became nauseated (actually the word is a bit stronger than that, but let’s stick with “nauseated”). I can’t really blame them – forty years (Ex. 16:35) of the same food, might make me complain also. But that’s what happens when the supernatural becomes natural. Join me this week in thanking God for the supernatural provisions that may have become routine.
On many an occasion, someone has quoted to me, “Joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). Why do you think the morning is so special? Why doesn’t joy come in the middle of the afternoon, or at midnight? Is there something about the night that generates joy, so that first thing in the morning we are joyful? Maybe we ought to look at the context of the statement. The Psalmist precedes this statement with the words, “weeping may endure for a night” (Ps. 30:5). Ah ha! Joy follows weeping. No! That can’t be true. Sometimes night weeping is followed by morning weeping. Sometimes joy doesn’t come in the morning. Sometimes joy comes at noon. Enough speculation! Joy does not usually come as a result of the trouble-free, casual times of life, but rather joy is distilled from a unique mixture of challenge, stress, risk, and hope. Helen Keller, who knew both joy and weeping, said, “We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.” So be patient, even in the midst of tears. Joy is on the way – and, like weeping, it may come when you least expect it.
“What if they don’t accept me” the student asked. He had been invited to interview for a position and his anxious condition caused him to seek my advice. His concern was a universal one. Everyone seeks acceptance of some kind, even those who boast they don’t care what anyone else thinks about them. Counselors tell us that acceptance is a necessary element in the development of our personality. People look to various sources to find this acceptance. Some seek it from other people. Some seek it from God. The apostle Paul tells us how to gain acceptance from God. It comes through Jesus Christ, “the Beloved.” “. . . He (God) has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). Once we feel accepted by God, it is easier to feel good about who we are. “So,” I said to the student, “if you are accepted by God and you accept yourself as God made you, then leave the interview in God’s hands.” The real challenge is not acceptance. Jesus died to make that available for us. The real challenge is that acceptance is not equal to arrival. Through Jesus, God accepts us where we are, allows us to accept ourselves, and then walks with us along the way. Acceptance is the beginning of a wonderful journey; arrival is the end of the journey. The closer I get to the end, the more I appreciate the beginning. How about you?
I watched the super bowl last night. What a game! In the midst of all the on-field excitement and the funny commercials I couldn’t help but notice that the camera kept showing the backup quarterback on the sidelines. He was excited and kept shouting encouragement to his teammates, even though there was little chance of him getting into the game. With the exception of born super-stars, most want-to-be athletes have spent some time “warming the bench.” Somewhere I read that there are four stages of benchwarmers: (1) I can do better (2) Coach doesn’t know what he is doing (3) I hope someone gets injured (4) I hope we lose. While the Christian life is often compared to a game, it is more. And the last thing we need is benchwarmers. We need to clear the bench and get everyone in the game. After all, “we are members of one another” (Rom. 12:5). I don’t need you on the bench offering encouragement to me. I need you in the game, moving together toward the same objective. I stand amazed at how far we Christians have diverted from this simple truth.
I just returned from the semi-annual meeting of America’s National Prayer Committee. What a great group of cross-denominational folks. I’m one of only a few Southern Baptists on the committee of approximately 100 and possibly the only one from the academic world. I love being with them. No one cares who I am or what I am. I’m just Dan. In one of the many prayer times, someone prayed the prayer of Jehoshaphat (could this be a new book title?) – “Lord, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You” (II Chronicles 20:12). How many times have I felt this way, not knowing exactly what to do, yet trusting with all my being on God’s directions? What an encouragement on days when confusion or uncertainty reigns. Jehoshaphat was troubled because a “great multitude” of the enemy was coming against him. Did God answer the prayer? Sure did! God sent Jahaziel to say, “Do not be afraid or dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (II Chronicles 20:15). Do you face a multitude of concerns this week? How about joining me in praying the prayer of Jehoshaphat?
Ideas from other cultures fascinate me. For instance, the Hebrews spoke of the future as though it was behind them, rather than in front, believing that you could see what was in front of you, but not what was behind you. Thus the unseen future was described as behind one, while the known past was described as in front of one. Maybe that’s what inspired the intriguing quote by 19th century Dutch philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, who said, “ Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” I’m no philosopher and not much of a theologian, but I have learned this much along the way – the future, wherever it is perceived to be, is in God’s hands. The Psalmist proclaimed that our God, “will be our guide even to death” (Ps. 48:14) and I’m fairly sure death is in the future, not the past. So, with your hand in God’s hand, join me in having a good day – yesterday.
Is there ever a time when God cannot provide? Have you ever doubted God’s ability to provide? I have. I can now confess that I was not sure God could provide enough income for me in retirement. How foolish! In Psalm 78:20-33 others wondered if God could provide. This time there was doubt that God could provide a table in the wilderness. In spite of God’s provisions in the past, the people still wondered. God had provided a miraculous exodus from Egypt as well as reminders of His presence along the way – water from rock, manna, etc. Their sin was not in wanting food in the wilderness, but in doubting God could provide food. It was not a sin against another person, but against the God, who had delivered them. They doubted that God, who had delivered them, could now provide them the basic necessities of life. Human nature is such that if God performs a miracle there, we doubt He will do it here and if He does one here, we doubt He’ll do it again. Let’s establish a fact: God provides, even in the wildernesses of our lives. He will provide for me this week – and for you as well. Rejoice!
I was asked in a recent internet interview, “What key concepts (of prayer) do you present to your students; future leaders in the Church?” I teach first that prayer is biblical, throughout the Bible from the first mention in Genesis to the final verses of Revelation, as well as modeled by Jesus. The most often used verb in the ministry of Jesus is not preach, teach, or heal, but pray. There is a popular bumper sticker that reads, “The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it!” Well the Bible teaches prayer and that settles it whether you believe it or not. I also teach the principles and methods of corporate prayer and personal prayer. I teach simple, often overlooked truths, like – We don’t talk “to” God, we talk “with” God. And never talk to people about God until you’ve talked to God about the people. Then I always teach the global implications of prayer. If God’s purpose is for the nations, then how can we pray for less? The bottom line, like with other disciplines, is that prayer is more caught than taught. So, in addition to my classroom teaching, I try to model a life of prayer for my students.
To read the entire December 7 Internet interview on “Praying Pastor Blog” click here.
I finally did it. I took a week’s vacation that was not connected in any way to a ministry assignment. It took me forty-four years in the ministry before I accomplished this feat. I know, I know. Save the sermons! I’ve preached those same sermons to others. But I finally did it. Joanne and I took the Copper Canyon Train tour into Mexico – a train ride through six canyons, five of which are larger than the Grand Canyon. As I sat on the hotel balcony, more than 8000 feet above sea level, overlooking the canyon at sunset (Pictures are on the Disciple All Nations web site. Click on “Our Photo Gallery” in the left side menu.) I remembered a passage of Scripture. I guess you can take me out of a ministry situation, but you can’t take the ministry out of me. The Psalmist declared of God, “Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep” (Ps. 36:6). While God’s righteousness is as easily visible as the mountains in all their majesty and strength, God’s judgments are often as unknown to us as the secrets of the deep canyons between the mountains. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “God’s dealings with men are not to be fathomed by every boaster who demands to see a why for every wherefore.” While we are privileged to walk by sight in the high mountains., we must walk by faith through the deep canyons. That’s a good thought for a new year that will be filled with both mountains and canyons. Walk on!