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Food For Thought

A listing of my favorite articles from this week. I pray it’s a blessing to you

The Darkest Deception of the Church: A great reminder from Justin Poythress that repentance is a continual process for Christians.

20 Scriptures to Guide Our Online Speech: In a world of keyboard warriors who share their “hot takes”, Chris Martin encourages Believers to think and pray BEFORE sharing

Quote of the Week: “Lament is a personal song that expresses our grief while embracing God’s goodness”

from Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop

Pastor, Jesus Does Not Care How Big Your Church Is: Solid truth from Jared Wilson that encourages ministers to define success by faithfulness instead of numerical growth

Nehemiah 1:6 Prayer Is Desperate

After turning from his sin (1:4) and focusing on the character of God (1:5), Nehemiah begs God for His presence and help in a time of need. It’s clear from the words of 1:6 that he was dependent only on God for help.

Crisis situations or “breaking points” like Nehemiah experienced are used by God to draw into a special kind of prayer…desperate prayer

The thing is, our prayer life usually wouldn’t be defined by the word “desperate”

  1. We almost never set aside a time specifically for it
  2. When we do, it’s incredibly random because we don’t have a purpose or plan in our prayer
  3. We find ourselves very easily distracted
  4. And five minutes can seem like an hour

Desperate prayer on the other hand is characterized by an intense focus on God, and an unwillingness to quit praying before an answer comes

The source of this desperation is our inability to fix a problem on our own. Sadly, it’s only we have been broken by God (all our strength taken away) that we turn to prayer. But the prayer of someone who has been broken by God brings great glory to Him.

“How is God glorified by desperate prayer?” you might ask

As noted above, there are two big ways.

Desperate Prayer Focuses on God

This is a different kind of focus that we see in 1:5 where Nehemiah thought about the characteristics of God. We see in this verse a “begging” of God for His power and presence in the life of Nehemiah.

Specifically he begs God to have open eyes. This may seem strange because God obviously sees and knows everything that goes on in the world, nothing surprises Him. What Nehemiah refers to here is the blessing and help of God. He’s begging God to give strength and help in a time of need. Secondly Nehemiah asks God to have an open ear. This refers to Gods heeding his prayer, or responding to his cries for help.

Through this desperate begging we hear Nehemiah clearly say, “Lord I need you!”

And this is the heart of desperate prayer

Passive prayer says “Lord it would be great if you can help me, but if not I can take care of things myself.” We may not actually say that, but our actions do. How many times do we pray once or twice about something, and then try to fix it ourselves? Desperate prayer knows that apart from God there is no hope.

which leads to our second point

Desperate Prayer is Unwilling to Quit Praying before the Answer Comes

The words “day and night” mean the prayer of Nehemiah was constant. Now he wasn’t able to literally pray twenty-four hours a day, but the need of Jerusalem was constantly on his mind. And Nehemiah was committed to praying until God answered.

often the crisis situations of life are used by God to “test us” and see how long we will wait. Desperate prayer knows that there could be quicker fixes to the problems of life. But apart from Gods help, we have no hope.

Few things bring God greater Glory than a child who will cling to Him in prayer like Ruth did to Naomi. Who like Jacob will “not let go until you bless me.”

This prayer may take a long time to answer, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

I can remember being in a very bad traffic accident (my only one) after College. Standing on the side of the road looking at two totaled vehicles, I said with my lips what my heart was crying out. “Lord I can’t fix this.”

Out of all the prayers that God hears, I believe one of the most precious cries out “Lord I can’t fix this!” And refuses to quit until He does

From the Archives: Ready for the Storm

Originally written July 24, 2020

Yesterday morning a tropical storm warning was issued for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and by the early afternoon it was changed to a hurricane watch. Right now this isn’t too serious since if a hurricane hits it would be a category one which just means lots of rain and wind. However that doesn’t mean you don’t prepare for the worst.

By now I’ve been through enough tropical storms to know how to prepare for them:

  1. Set aside as much water as possible because thats usually the first thing that’s turned off
  2. Get enough food for at least a few days
  3. Keep your phone almost fully charged at all times and flashlights nearby [there will be a power outage]
  4. And be prepared to spend a few days mostly at home

The truth is things like this tropical storm don’t worry me too much because there is time to prepare for it. The storms that you should worry about are the ones that come without warning.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had a very heavy storm (it would probably be referred to as a tropical storm) shortly after Christmas in 2010. If I understand correctly, the storm came the day after Christmas without warning. Many people were celebrating with friends at the sea, or in town so when the storm came it caught everyone by surprise. Though property damage was done, the greatest effect was people didn’t have the necessary food, or water for days.

This led people to begin taking storm preparation seriously. They will catch rain water, fill barrels with tap water ahead of time, and make sure that extra food like canned goods is set aside. While experiencing my first tropical storm around four years ago, I was told to fill up buckets with water by seven or eight people!

If only being prepared for the trials and temptations of life would be that easy…..

while being prepared for a physical storm is quite simple, the spiritual storms of life take much more than a barrel of water, and some canned goods.

We’ve all experienced the unexpected storm that attacks us out of nowhere.

That unexpected phone call….

That extra expense you don’t have money for…

That strong relationship that is suddenly broken…

While we can’t prepare for everything, the good news is that we CAN be prepared for the storms one life! This is done not by relying on ourselves, but abiding in Christ.

Paul in Colossians 2:4-7 encourages the Believers to remain firmly planted in the Lord

Col. 2:4   And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. 5 For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. 6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: 7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 

Though the immediate context is about guarding against false doctrine, it can also be applied to a life of faithfulness to Christ. Being rooted or stablished (firm) in Him means to stay as close as possible to the Lord, spending as much time as we can in Him.

So those who remain close to Christ grow to be strong oak trees while those who rely on themselves are small weak saplings. We therefore must be close to the Lord NOW so that we are ready for what comes

Life has a way of revealing who is an oak tree and who is a sapling. May we prepare ourselves for the storms that come without warning, and stand firm while others are blown away by the wind.

From the Archives: Why Missions Needs Boundaries

originally published January 5, 2019

One of the greatest challenges in missions is balancing our love for people, with our understanding that they have a sin-nature.

I had a conversation this morning with a woman who had begun allowing one of her grand-daughters friends to come over and play at their house. She was always careful to feed him, and give him money for a treat if her grand-daughter got one. It wasn’t till recently she learned he had been stealing her money a little bit at a time.

  • My heart goes out to this grandmother because she saw a child in need, and helped him.
  • But I see how that love created an attitude of entitlement on his part,  which eventually led to taking what he wanted from her

Sadly this isn’t anything new…early in ministry I realized the hard way meeting all the needs of those around you just creates an attitude of dependence because people with a sin-nature will never truly be satisfied.

This, of course, doesn’t mean we don’t meet any of their needs or think that those needs aren’t important. Instead it means we don’t meet every one of them.

In other words there must be boundaries….

For me some of those boundaries are built on two important rules:

  1. nobody in my house without my permission
  2. and nobody comes onto the porch without my inviting them there

And since rules must be enforced of course, I have a guard dog named Vincy on the porch who makes sure people don’t come through the gate without permission.

Honestly I wish life wasn’t this way

  • I wish you could leave your door unlocked and open without fear of anyone stealing
  • Or walk alone at night without worrying about what might happen
  • Or let everyone into your home freely
  • But you can’t

Because the world is never truly satisfied, sometimes you have to set up boundaries and guard-dogs. And remember sometimes saying no is the most loving thing you can do.

Sitting with the Hurting….Celebrating wiht the Rejoicing

A few weeks ago, I read a statement from a missionary friend in Togo, Africa describing missions that really spoke to me.

Feed the hungry

Sit with the hurting

Celebrate with the joyous

The more I read those words, the more I realised the he was right. A massive part of missions is simply developing relationships. Evangelism is done as we develop relationships with the unsaved, and share the Gospel. Discipleship is done as we develop relationships with Believers, and teach Gods truth.

Because relationships are some important, they must be constantly nurtured and cared for so you don’t drift apart.

Of course, life happens, and sometimes you have to rebuild those relationships

One of the greatest effects my cataracts had on ministry is I no longer interacted with people. Not because I didn’t want to, but because the poor eyesight made it incredibly difficult to recognise people. As the medical furlough got closer, I spent more and more time at home.

While I am grateful for the time in America getting my eye surgery, thats more time apart from the people of Saint Vincent.

The sad fact is, by the time I get back, my close friends will be acquaintances 1. So I must rebuild those relationships.

  1. With meaningful conversations (direct eye contact, listening ear, kind words)
  2. With quality time just being present
  3. With genuine concern
  4. And with constant communication

More than anything else….its just being there for them.

A big part of me wants to hit the ground running when I get back to Saint Vincent in daily activity.

But the best thing I can do is just sit with people

Mourn with those who are hurting (without trying to fix the problem)

Listen to those who are struggling

And rejoice with those who are blessed

  1. People you know, but don’t have a close relationship with
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