In my book, The Prayer-Shaped Disciple, I list three reasons why ministers need a prayer support team: (1) leaders have a greater responsibility than followers, (2) spiritual leaders are more frequent victims of spiritual conflict, (3) because of their greater visibility, Satan loves to discredit leaders and damage their ministry. I want to challenge you to pray daily for your pastor and other ministers who have influence on your life. In recent weeks I have heard more stories than I care to count, of ministers in desperate need of prayer support – staring at monumental decisions, under heavy stress, burdened by family challenges, weighed down by physical health issues, facing church division, and some facing issues that weren’t even on the radar five years ago. James 5:16 instructs us to “pray for one another.” Very few “one anothers” in your life need your prayer support more than your pastor or spiritual leader. Would you pause right now and pray for your pastor/spiritual leader? Then would you please pray for me, asking that my Monday Morning Memos would be so Holy Spirit directed that, whatever the subject matter, they would minister to you, week by week?
If you’d like to join the Disciple All Nations Prayer Team, just send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and give me your name and e-mail address. You will receive, via e-mail, my monthly prayer reports/praises/requests as well as any in-between information of significance. Also, newly added to the home page is a bibliography of books on prayer.
I made an “F” on Thanksgiving again. Can’t seem to do any better than Family, Food, and Football. I overdosed on all of them, even to the point of digging out my old model train set to show my almost-four-year-old-grandson, who has recently become enamored with trains. My Dad attached my model train village to two large pieces of plywood, so it could be stored in the attic in the “off-season.” On the day after Thanksgiving each year we would bring the train set down and set it up for Christmas. I could always count on Santa adding to my train collection. I’ve still got a lot of that collection. Wonder what old 40s and 50s style Lionel trains are worth these days? Probably worth a fortune. There’s another Thanksgiving “F” – Fortune. Thanksgiving memories! I have collected a fortune in memories. Repeatedly (1Kings, Psalms, Ezekiel, Mark, 2 Timothy, Hebrews) the idea of being “called to remembrance” appears in the Bible. So, before we get too far removed from Thanksgiving, let me call you to remembrance for a fortune of times, events, and people, for which you are thankful. Maybe you’d like to click below and “post a comment to this memo” sharing something out of your fortune of Thanksgiving memories. It would be Fun to share these with each other.
A few Thanksgivings ago I re-read Paul’s comments in Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you . . .” Then I decided to do an out-of-the-ordinary thing, which has become an annual ritual. I selected a few people for whom I had been especially thankful that year and let them know it as a part of my Thanksgiving observance. While I was thankful to God, I also wanted these special people to know of my gratitude for them. I assumed it would be a private thing and the blessing would be mostly mine. About the third year I did this, one of the recipients of my Thanksgiving messages was a former student of mine who was successfully serving as pastor in a town of some long-time friends . Although they were not members of his church these friends shared with me the high regard in which my former student was held by all in the town. I simply wrote him and thanked him. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I challenged the members of the church where I was serving as Interim Pastor to join me in this practice of sharing gratitude. Two Sundays following Thanksgiving, the “small, small world” syndrome kicked in. My former student, the recipient of my thanksgiving letter, was the pastor of my church member’s mother. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, my former student had shared my letter in the pulpit as an example of how to add meaning to Thanksgiving. And word spread. My Thanksgiving blessing was no longer mine alone. Why not join me this year. Select a few special people and let them know your gratitude . . . and don’t forget to also thank God for the role these special people have played in your life.
I received an e-mail this past week informing me I had been nominated and elected to the Alumni Association of my alma mater, Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. Do they do background checks for these positions? Like many, my college years were not the brightest lights on my tree. Too much freedom resulted in too low grades. Too many creative ideas resulted in too many pranks. Too cheap gasoline prices (I actually pumped it at $.14.9 per gallon on occasion) resulted in too many road trips. Too many late night card games resulted in too few early morning classes attended. But what great memories and what great friends I made. And now it appears one of those “friends” has nominated me for the Alumni Association. I do owe a lot to my school. I spent four very formative years there and somehow, in spite of myself; I learned much that served me well later in life. I majored in Bible and learned early that the Bible is a book of second chances. I remember an Old Testament professor who thrilled us with his version of Jonah and the line from Jonah 3:1 stuck with me, “Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time.” I’m glad I’ve been given a second chance to make a contribution to my alma mater. Aren’t you glad God speaks a second time, and a third, and a fourth . . . in spite of the background check?
I’ve been thinking and reading about holiness lately. Holiness is not knowledge-Balaam had knowledge; nor great position-Judas Iscariot had position; nor doing many things-Herod did many things; nor zeal for certain religious matters-Jehu had zeal; nor outward respectability-the young ruler was respected; nor taking pleasure in hearing preachers-the Jews in Ezekiel’s day enjoyed that; nor keeping company with godly people-Demas did that. Blood-parents cannot give it to their children by inheritance. Ministers cannot give it to their members by baptism. Holiness is the result of vital union with Jesus Christ. It is the fruit of being an abiding and living branch off the True Vine. He is the Physician to whom you must go if you would keep well. He is the Manna which you must eat, and the Well from which you must drink. He is the Rock on which you must rest. His arm is the arm on which you must lean. Have a holy week.
I made my first visit to Vancouver in the late 70s. It was love at first sight, as well as an instant addition to my prayer list. If memory serves me correct, there were eight Southern Baptist churches in metro Vancouver in the late 70s. In recent years I have visited Vancouver at least once a year, usually more than once. By 2004 there were 34 Southern Baptist churches in metro Vancouver. I was in Vancouver last week. There are now 64 Southern Baptist churches – doubling in three years. The associational goal is 100 churches by 2010. They will make it and go beyond. How can I be so confident? Because thirty years ago I met a few faithful servants of the Lord and a handful of prayer warriors who were faithfully calling out to “the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Mt. 9:38). Some of these saints have gone on to their heavenly reward. I hope the Lord communicates to them that the harvest is underway. It is so refreshing and encouraging to be in a place where the fervent prayers of the faithful are finally being answered. In my teaching on prayer I always say there is no such thing as unanswered prayer. Sometimes the answer is not a clear-cut “yes” or “no” but “wait.” For Vancouver, the long “wait” is over. Harvest is underway. For the rest of the world, pray on! God’s responses sometimes appear to be delayed, but they are always right on time.
If you know someone who is patiently (or not so patiently) enduring a “wait” answer to prayer, you might forward this to them as an encouragement.
All along I thought I was having “senior moments.” This past week a friend told me that he didn’t have “senior moments,” but rather suffered from “intellectual interruptions.” Since I’ve had this problem long before I became a senior, I think I like the new term better. Whether your memory lapses are “senior moments” or “intellectual interruptions” or “losing the train of thought” or “drawing a blank” as my grandfather used to call it, the key is to re-focus. The mind is a wonderful gift from God, but it’s a lot like that machine at the Cleaners that takes my shirts around and around the building – when a shirt is missed, I must wait for it to come back around. Thoughts are similar, but the older one gets the slower that machine runs. The Bible tells us to use our minds to focus on “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report . . .” So, while I’m thinking about it, I want to “think on these things” (Phil. 4:8). Would you join me this week – as you remember to do so?
Recently, a friend shared a quote with me – “Prayer is the slender nerve that moves the muscle of omnipotence.” I was impressed with the quote and being a professor who is in the habit of looking for footnotes, I asked who made the statement. He didn’t know. In curiosity, I began a search. I “Googled it!” as they say these days. In various places I found the quote attributed to the following persons: Edwin Hartsell, Martin Farquhar Tupper, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, and Archbishop Seraphim. Variations of the quote were attributed to a half-dozen other persons. The entire process reminded me of a couple of things: (1) If something comes from God, it doesn’t really matter who gets the credit; and (2) In a generation or two, most of what I say will either be lost or repeated by someone else. So if God has given you something to say, say it the way He said it to you, and let the credit go where it may. In Proverbs 25:11, Solomon (or perhaps someone before him) said, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” whoever says it! (the last three words are mine – I think.)
Waiting in the Denver airport terminal this past week for my connecting flight, I heard a familiar announcement with a new ending. The airline employee, with routine discipline, announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are ready to begin boarding our flight to Rapid City. Please have your boarding passes out and ready for the gate attendant.” Then with obvious negative experiences in her past, she added, “We are not taking a DNA test this morning, so please do not put your boarding pass in your mouth or under your arm.” Now, with everyone’s full attention, she added one final comment, “Besides, that’s really gross!” Her professional training gave way to honest additions. Perhaps this was similar to what Paul was feeling when he wrote of his crowd that they were, “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). This Monday Morning Memo is far too short for me to tell you how many times I’ve made a routine, traditional statement, and been tempted to add an honest addition. Well, maybe I’ll share just one. I’ll put my honest additions in parenthesis (where they belong). “It is time in our service for the offering (would someone clue the ushers they’re already supposed to be down front), and I know you’ll give generously as unto the Lord (besides part of this pays my salary so don’t hold back!).” Feel free to click on “Post a comment to this memo” and share your own honest additions. Maybe we ought to go ahead with the boldness of the gate attendant and share the “truth” of our honest additions (and then again maybe not).
One of the indicators that the years are passing by is that you attend more funerals than you do weddings. I’ve attended my share of weddings, performed a few of them, and now the funeral count is catching up. I attended another funeral last week. If funerals must be attended (I only know of one way to avoid it and I’m not ready for my own funeral yet) I’d rather attend funerals of Christians than funerals of non-believers. I’ve been to both. While both involve grief, Christians do not grieve as, “others who have no hope” (1 Thes. 4:13). Certainly no less intense, Christian grief is different. It is mixed with hope. Both the music and the message of Christian funerals are hope-ful. Come to think of it what is the music of the non-Christian funeral? So in the midst of last week’s funeral, of a faithful, long-time, servant of God, I received a new dose of hope. This memo then is not about death and funerals. It is about life – abundant and eternal – and the hope that is within us – hope for reunion and hope for reward. I’m sure of it! Aren’t you?