Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Prayer of Resignation

In early 2006 things began to go backward with my health again. By April, I was in a state of exhaustion that was brought on by sleeplessness and new battles with debilitating fatigue. My immune system is compromised and the consequences are again physically real. My fatigue symptoms came back in almost every area since early 2006. I knew I was in trouble and I knew I had to find a solution or my ministry might be over, at least in public. In fact, I wondered if my life might be shortened through all of this. Anyone who has really been there will understand me when I say that in the middle of such a crisis you often privately wish that it would be over. But one thing is for sure-God had my full attention again.

So, when I saw my physician a few weeks ago we went over all the lab results and talked. I told him, “Tell me what I really need to hear since God has put you in my life to give his counsel to me.” He looked at me, paused, and answered: “What are you really trying to prove, John?” The Lord had once again powerfully addressed me deeply within myself. I knew I was hearing his voice and he desired for me to listen very carefully. My doctor and I then talked about me and the solutions to my life long struggle.

The end result is simple. I came home and accounted for my life, with new openness, to my lovely wife. I spoke to some board members and friends. I canceled all but two or three out-of-town ministry trips between now and September. (I am going to take some rest trips and see some baseball!) I also took out my appointment book and canceled almost everything in the book for the next few months and resolved to not fill up my days with going here and there. What I also did was resolve to write and complete books that have been sitting on the shelf of my busy mind for years. I believe God showed me myself very deeply, by showing me himself very deeply, and he said to me: “I love you, John. You are a competent minister because of my grace. Stop trying to prove this to everyone else, especially to yourself. Relax, enjoy me more intimately in private, discover my created world and love it, and most of all, love your friends (and family) and make more time for them.” I am learning the truth of what Larry Eisenberg meant when he said, “For peace of mind we need to resign as general manager of the universe.” For me, this resignation requires lifelong work but I hope to stay on the job for years to come.

===>Click headline to find the compelte article by John Armstrong . . .

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Prayer is a Wrestling Match

One Minute Uplift Devotional: Our Greatest Fights Are with God
Rick Ezell

"So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” Genesis 32:24

God is the divine intruder in our lives. He sometimes invades our lives not to bring comfort but to wage a war. As strange as it may sound, some of our greatest battles are with God. Please understand that I’m not implying that we don’t have fights with the devil or that spiritual warfare does not occur. Temptation is real. But often it is easier to say “No” to the devil than it is to say “Yes” to God.

Just ask Jacob. Jacob is alone the night before the arrival of his brother, Esau, and a most unusual thing happened. Thinking he is all by himself on a riverbank, Jacob is surprised by an aggressor, an attacker. How was he accosted? From the front? Hardly. If it were a frontal assault I think Jacob would have reasoned with him. “Listen, friend, we can work out this disagreement. Let’s have a drink and discuss the situation. We don’t need to fight.” The attacker, however, surprised him from the rear, throwing his arms around him so Jacob was forced to retaliate. Who was Jacob’s attacker? Was it Esau? Taking a page out of Jacob’s book, Esau could have schemed and deceived his brother with a surprise strategy. Good guess. But, no. Maybe it was one of Esau’s men—a loyal soldier who happened along and saw an opportunity to right the wrong that Jacob had done to Esau earlier in his life. Possibly. But, again, no.

Jacob’s attacker was none other than God himself. Alone at night, Jacob wrestled with God. And of all the fights that Jacob had experienced in his life, climbing and scheming to achievement and success, his most difficult fight was with The Almighty. In fact, on that night, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning “he struggles with God.”

The toughest bout you and I will face is not saying “no” to a profitable career, but saying “yes” to a divine prompting. It is not saying “no” to happiness, but saying “yes” to holiness. It is not saying “no” to temptation, but saying “yes” to righteousness. Please understand that God’s desire is not that we be miserable and unhappy. He does want to give us the desires of our hearts. But saying “yes” to God’s leadership can be a struggle, in not a downright battle.

Wrestling with God is the most difficult battle we will face.

Feel free to forward this email on to someone else to encourage and to uplift them. If you want to receive the One Minute Uplift regularly, let me know by emailing me at ===>Click headline to check out a listing of Rick's books . . .

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As You Pray Evangelistically...

As I drive the freeways of southern California, I often find myself praying, “Lord, how can I get all these people to slow down long enough to hear the Good News? How can I get their attention?”

===>Click headline to discover how this prayer led to potty training which opened a door to evangelism!

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Strengthen Your Prayer Shield

J. Michael Dixon

Father, as your dearly loved children, may we be imitators of God and live in loving service to people. May our pastor be an example to us in speech, life, love, faith and purity. We want to be filled with your Son’s character qualities so that our neighborhoods will see the grace of Christ and the glory of God.

God and Father, your dear son is our pastor. We know that his heart cries: “Join me in my agonizing struggle by praying to God for me.” Lord, deep down inside, we want to partner with him. We want to prove to be your children, blameless and pure, avoiding all complaining and arguing. We desire to remember that he speaks the Word of God to us and that we are supposed to submit to his authority. Then he will be able to freely watch over us as your servant. May his accounting to Christ, after the return of the King, be one joyfully rendered and not painfully given. Bless our brother, your man, our pastor. We ask all these things in the name of the chief Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Father God in heaven, your entire earthly family, the church, derives its name from you. Through your infinite mercies and grace you have become the Father of our spirits. Grant us spiritual life afresh as we pray for a very special man, your servant, our pastor. We lift him up as a greatly beloved person in the family of God. God, bless him amazingly! Grant him an enlarged heart of love as a leader in your household of believers. Expand his borders and influence. May your powerful hand rest upon pastor and guard him from harm and hardship.

He is a “father” to us. Enable him to lead us with love, with integrity of heart and with skillful hands. Your church is the bride of Christ so uphold him to love the church as Christ loved the church and laid his life down for her. Make him large upon his knees in your presence. Grant pastor a spirit of grace and intercession so that he will pray unceasingly. May he see your greatness, by faith, so that he can humble himself. Though we need him, help us to realize that his precious wife and children have first claim upon his life’s devotion. May he be divinely enabled to keep his priorities straight, and may we honor him as he obeys you.

Help him to be strong in faith. Cause the truths of salvation to be alive in his thinking. May he remember his identity as your beloved child. He died with the Lord Jesus and arose with him in newness of life. Fill him with the power of the resurrection. Let the truth that Christ is his very life fill his entire inner being with light and joy. Fill pastor with a kindred spirit so that he will be a true family man in the household of faith. Give him the experience of the Bible coming alive to his heart and mind every time he opens it. Cause him to be so full of the Lord Jesus that he naturally tells lost people about your salvation. So work in our brother’s heart that he will have a passion for purity in his body, soul and spirit.

Give him the Spirit’s gift of self control so that he will be a good and wise steward of his health and energies. Make him strong! Protect him from diseases, accidents and injuries. Let him freely forgive any past enemies or current critics. Cause pastor to have the heart of a learner, always teachable. Help him be purpose driven, loving and organized. Give our pastor new victories every day in bringing his every thought and motive under Christ’s control.

Lord, he is the main spiritual leader of our church family. Make him a wise and strategic planner. Make pastor emotionally healthy and loving. Fill him with joy, vision and faith. Give all of us a heart to stand as one person behind him. May we not fight one another but instead strive with one mind for the faith of the gospel. If any one in our church comes to the place where he can no longer follow pastor’s leadership, or benefit from his Bible teaching ministry, give him the willingness to leave quietly to find another church home where he can thrive. Grant us the wisdom to do as Jesus advised Peter: “Don’t worry about others; you follow me.” May we all use our spiritual gifts. Let us serve you with glad and sincere hearts. May our pastor’s gifts, strengths and abilities shine. Help him be true to what you made him to be, and be himself. Let him abide in Christ and bear much fruit. And may his spiritual vitality and enthusiasm be so contagious that we grow the church together.

Our pastor needs much wisdom. So remind him of your greatness and of his need for you. Help him remember how you saved him and led him into the ministry. May he marvel at the joy of this: he has received the gift of your grace through the working of your power. And he has the great privilege of preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to the lost. Grant a spirit of harmony as he works with the other church leaders in guiding us into the fullness of your will. It must be so difficult for them to discern your leading, to decide about cases of church discipline and to love us when we are sometimes so hard to love. Help them! May they be “a band of men whose hearts God has touched.” Let us be peace makers. Grant each church member the grace to pray for others in the body and help people grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Give us forgiving spirits and deliver us from pettiness. Let the mercies of your love be so gripping to our hearts that each of us will hold the attitude that, “It is me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”

God, make us like the early church: constantly devoted to praying, listening intently to the teaching of your Word, loving each other in family fellowship and worshiping you in spirit and truth. When our pastor sits down to study for his Bible message give him a crystal clear word for our hearts. When pastoral needs arise and he has trouble pulling it together may we thank you that he loves us and shares the Bible with us. May he speak a timely and relevant word and help us to learn how to live practically for you. Give us, each Lord’s day, something to believe, or to understand better, or to repent from, or to thank or praise you for. Fill pastor with the power of the Holy Spirit so that he will lift Jesus high. Enable us, at each worship gathering, to rise up higher so that we as a “temple” of praise might function fully in your grace. Bind the evil one and unleash your saving power! Let a spirit of revival prevail among our church, not only when we assemble in Christ’s name, but also when we scatter to serve. May the Lord Jesus Christ reign supreme among us and in all of your precious assemblies worldwide. Father, we are your family, so fill us with love so that new members may be adopted into your home. “God sets the lonely in families.” May prodigals return home. Let it happen more and more at our church: new worshipers, becoming true worshipers!

As a family we were placed in this community to be a blessing to society. Use us to help earthly families avoid divorce and sadness. May bound people be set free through Jesus’ truth. Help us to follow Jesus and bring healing and love to our towns. We are your agents of change, salt and light. Help us to remember what we know our pastor knows, and is concerned about: it is not about us. We have been saved to serve. The only reason you did not immediately rapture us is that we are to be people on a mission for God. Our pastor is “an angelic messenger from Christ” to us. Please, risen and exalted Lord, walk among your churches and purify us! Please don’t let us cause you to remove our lamp stand of witness here. Aid our pastor greatly in his desire to aid us in witness. May he so love, teach, lead and feed us that we shine like stars in the darkness and declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness and into his wonderful light.

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