Do Not Be Dismayed

This week I have been reminded of the importance of putting on the whole armor of God daily. You can bet that if you’re working anywhere close to the front lines of ministry that you will battle the enemy, who seeks to silence you, discourage you, and thwart your efforts on behalf of the Kingdom of God. Do not be dismayed.

The Apostle Paul gave the Christians worshipping in Ephesus some very sound sage advice, explaining to them to be prepared for combat not only against things seen, but also things unseen. Paul understood that powerful forces existed then, as they do now, desiring to derail our ministry and destroy our witness as we seek to share the love of Jesus with a hurting and ailing world.

Fortunately, our power and strength does not rest in ourselves, but in the Almighty God we serve. Therefore, we can go forward with confidence that God is with us, fighting on our behalf, clearing the path of obstacles attempting to be roadblocks as we go about doing the work He has called us to do.

How can I pray for you?

Blessings.

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“When the enemy comes with shame and blame, tell him to go measure the distance from east to west and get back to you.”-Louie Giglio

The Whole Armor of God

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we  are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Ephesians 6:10-18 (NLT)

 

Like Love, Prayer Is a Verb

The line of men waiting to pray last Friday night after chapel was long. I lead a team from our church that travels down to the Union Gospel Mission once a month on 4th Friday to minister to the 300 or so men at the shelter. Some of them are staying there, participating in the discipleship program. Others are there for the night, while some are bussed in for the evening from other shelters, to have a meal and hear a message. While a group of volunteers and staff are feeding the men physically, our job is to feed them spiritually. Our job is to meet them where they are, much like Jesus did when he sat down next to the Samaritan woman. We worship with them, we share a biblical grounded message with them, and we pray with them, corporately multiple times throughout the service and one-on-one at the close of service.

This past Friday I had the opportunity to experience powerful prayer time with several of the men. I prayed with one man who wasn’t sure that he could trust God. I prayed with another man who was in dire need of physical healing from a disease that may lead to his death. I found myself dumbfounded and nearly speechless as I prayed with a man who confessed to me that he had contemplated suicide and that our being there that night saved his life because he heard us speak of a God who loves him and values him. He understood that even though he was homeless and his life had been turned upside down, he still mattered and God had not forgotten nor forsaken him. I prayed with a young man, full of joy, who prayed Psalm 23–the Lord is my shepherd–in my ear as I prayed for him. These are just a few samplings of the prayers expressed Friday night. It is a glimpse of the prayers we hear each time we go. It is through these prayers, God affirms that He is in control and He is indeed at work in this world.

Prayer Works

Lately, I’ve seen and heard a lot of discourse about acting “apart from prayer” or “instead of prayer.” There are even people who are convinced prayer is a waste of time because it doesn’t work. And I guess if you’re not a believer, that should be the response I expect.

I think that prayer, like faith, should often be accompanied by additional action. But prayer isn’t like an ATM machine either. In fact, it’s more of a conversation between me and the God of the universe. Perhaps you find my belief in God, let alone a powerful, personal God alive and at work in the universe, a fool-hardy endeavor. That’s certainly your right. You don’t have to believe what I believe. You don’t have to agree with what I think. But for me, it’s too hard not to believe that there is a God. I’ve simply seen Him at work too often. I’ve experienced answers to prayers too many times. I’ve witnessed God at work in my life and in the life of others. I’ve found myself in far too many God moments to discount that He exists.

Yes, prayer alone may not end gun violence. But that’s not my prayer. I’m praying for God to transform minds and change hearts. To reduce incidents of gun violence, including mass-shootings, drive-by violence, and domestic disputes, certainly requires we act. I don’t believe locking up everyone’s guns is the answer. I know it’s not. People have been killing each other far longer than we’ve had guns. I grew up when gun laws weren’t as strict as they are today, yet it seemed like we had less gun violence. I agree, something’s changed.

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I think we value our own life more and we value the lives of others less. We are more transactional than we are relational. The only god we worship tends to be the one we see in the mirror.

Personally, I don’t think the effort to decrease the permanence of faith in the various aspects of our lives is unrelated to the outcome that faces us today. As imperfect people, we don’t always express our faith perfectly in our daily walk. Yet, faith values life. All life. The born. The unborn. The living and the dead. The here and now and the eternal hereafter.

Do we need to figure out how to keep weapons out of the hands of madmen? Absolutely. Do we need to improve our outreach to those who find themselves on the fringes of society? Probably. I’m not sure they want to be reached. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Do we need to recognize that our self-identity shouldn’t rest on the opinions of others or measured by our level of celebrity? Damn Skippy. As a believer my identity rests in Christ. I am who he says I am. Redeemed. Forgiven. Free. Servant. Minister. Warrior.

Prayer is an essential part of my life. It serves as a reminder that I have much to be grateful for and it helps me get out of my own narcissistic perspective and train my thoughts on the concerns of others. It helps me work through my own stuff too. Which is good, because I’m a hot mess most days.

When I’m praying, I am doing something. Just ask the people I pray with, pray for, and pray over.

Like love, prayer is a verb. It is one of the most powerful actions I can take. I have personally witnessed prayer change lives, circumvent courses of direction, and alter outcomes. I’ve witnessed the healing power of prayer as well as experienced the comforting solace prayer brings. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a physical component that needs to accompany our prayers, just like love is often accompanied by a smile, a hug, or a kiss. Believe it or not, prayer works. 

Blessings.

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My Two Cents: Be All In

Recently, after attending an Easter celebration at my alma mater, Dallas Baptist University, Sweet T and I drove through the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery. Terri’s mom, Joyce, accompanied us that evening. We were in awe of all the rows of headstones marking lives of service and sacrifice.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to honor and remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the United States of America. Rooted in early traditions of mothers decorating the graves of their sons who had fallen in battle, Memorial Day grew nationally out of the ashes of the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history that pitted brother against brother and claimed the lives of over 600,000 soldiers. The ashes of that war still glow dimly in our nation today.

Our nation’s story rests on the remains of those who gave their all for a greater purpose than themselves. They did not seek glory. They did not desire praise. They only wanted to ensure victory over the enemies that seek to do us harm.

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Sacrifice seems like a fitting theme for this annual holiday weekend. Many of us will celebrate, cooking out, consuming food and drink, maybe taking a trip out on the boat on a local lake or floating on a raft or innertube down a nearby river. We will rejoice in the freedom that thousands of men and women made throughout America’s history. We live in a land where we are free to agree and disagree. It is a privilege paid for by the blood of those who, as their generation called upon them, paid the ultimate price. Like the Cross, the further removed we become from those moments of sacrifice, the easier it is for us to forget. That’s why we pause throughout the year to reflect on the service and the sacrifice of others.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.” ~ Ruby Page (my junior high Texas History teacher).

Do you remember the moment you were saved? Do you recall when you turned your life over to Christ and how you beamed with joy and burned with an inner fire, ready to follow the Lord wherever He called you to go? Like the widow in our passage, our cup of faith overflowed.

Jesus spent a lot of his time on Earth devoted to teaching the disciples. He taught them everywhere they went, sharing valuable truths on the way between point A and point B. He loved to teach in parables (stories).

The story of the widow giving everything she had is found in two gospels: Mark and Luke.

Mark 12:41-44 (ESV)

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.

Luke 21:1-4 (ESV)

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, 2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 And he said, Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Mark and Luke, along with Matthew, are known as the Synoptic Gospels because they share a lot of the same material, although each often gives us their distinct perspective on the events that they communicate to us.

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In the passage about the widow, Jesus teaches us, like He taught the audience back then, about the difference between authentic faith and pretend faith. In other words, we can have a faith that is true or carry a faith that is false.

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” ~ Pastor A.W. Tozer

What we believe about God should inform our attitude toward things like money and possessions. Do you share freely or do you hoard what you got? Do you pay God first or last?

Years ago, when I first came to know the Lord, my father and I had an interesting discussion about how I came to benefit from the blessings we had. Was it my Dad—my earthly father—who was responsible for providing the roof over our head and the food on the table that we enjoyed OR was it God-my heavenly father-who had provided these blessings for us?

What would you say? How would you respond? Are you a self-made individual who credits yourself with all that you have? Or do you recognize that God is the one who ultimately provided you with all that you can say grace over?

My take, from reading and studying the passage, is that the widow believed that God was the source of everything she had. She credited the Lord with providing for her. She was not worried about giving God all that she had. She trusted that He would provide for her just as He had in the past. Her faith, her belief in who God is and how God worked, informed her life. She didn’t hesitate to throw her two cents in the offering plate.

In their culture, just as in ours today, humans tend to value the amount of the gift rather than the sacrifice that went into it. That’s easily demonstrated in the cards we get at birthdays, Christmas, or other special occasions. When you open a card do you open it and read it first or do you look to see if somebody put a little sumthin’ in it? I confess, I am often guilty of looking for the cash first. I love me some “surprise money.” Trust me, if you ever want to give me something and you don’t know what to get me, I like cold, hard cash.

This incident described in this passage contrasts the spiritual poverty and physical prosperity of the scribes with the physical poverty and spiritual prosperity of the widow. It also contrasts the greed of the scribes with the generosity of the widow.

We see the widow follow her convictions. She knew where her blessings came from. What she lacked for in physical wealth, she more than made up for in spiritual riches.

Are you following your convictions? Would someone know what you believe about Jesus if they saw you going about your daily routines?

We are either pointing people to Jesus or pushing them away. Our job is to point them to Christ.” ~ Worship Pastor Mark W. Jones

By now, the disciples had learned that they needed to pay attention when Jesus uttered the phrase “Truly, I say to you” or “I tell you the truth.” Those words meant, “Pay Attention! I’m about to tell you something IMPORTANT!”

It was Jesus’ way of saying “Watch this…”

Mark 12:41-44 (NET)

41 Then he sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. 43 He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. 44 For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”

Luke 21:1-4 (NET)

21 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. 3 He said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. 4 For they all offered their gifts out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had to live on.”

The scribes had made their donation when the widow walked up in the middle of them and tossed in her two cents. In her poverty, Jesus saw her wealth. Her riches were not stored up where moths or vermin could destroy them or where thieves could come and steal them in the middle of the night.

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The widow’s gift demonstrated her love for God, her complete faith and trust in Him, and that He would provide everything she needed. Her faith proved to be real. It was authentic. Her beliefs informed her actions.

On the other hand, the priests and the scribes—the rich men—they gave more in dollar amount, but only that which didn’t cause them any difficulty. They probably didn’t even feel the money lighten their wallet—although I can hear them now, bemoaning how much they gave.

The widow did not lust for money. She did not covet material things. She did not make idols of her possessions. She simply trusted God and recognized He was in control of the outcome She didn’t hold back. She was all in.

You can be earthly rich and heavenly poor. You can have everything there is to have in the here and now, only to inherit nothing in eternity tomorrow. You can be physically rich and spiritually broke.

That which costs you nothing is not sacrifice. Sacrifice comes with a price tag. If it cost you nothing, it probably is worth even less. Except for salvation—you and I only brought our sin to the cross. That’s our contribution. Our sin. God gave His Son-Jesus. You can’t out-give God.

God values wholehearted commitment to Him. He delights in it.

Don’t be lukewarm when it comes to God. Don’t be half in, half out. Don’t be in the world but be set apart from it so that people will know that there is something different about you. Let them see Jesus in you. That doesn’t mean you go hide up in some mountain far, far away from people. No…you do like Jesus did and walk right up in the middle of the people—the challenge is not to become like them but to reflect Christ in such a way that they want to be like you. They should want what you have. You don’t need what they’re peddling. You’ve been there done that, no need to go back. As believers, we are forever changed because of the atoning sacrifice Jesus made on that Cross some two centuries ago. Let the fire of the Gospel burn brightly in you, so that others might come to know Him too.

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Just like the freedoms we enjoy living in America today did not come without sacrifice, freeing us from our chains of sin came at a great cost.

When it comes to you, God is all in.

When it comes to God—Be All In.

That’s my two cents…

I pray you’ll have a fantastic Memorial Day weekend. Pause a moment over the weekend to reflect on the sacrifice of others. I hope you’ll consider the meaning of the Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross as well. Peace be with you and yours.

Blessings.

Mark 12:41-44 (The Message)

41 Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. 42 One poor widow came up and put in two small coins-a measly two cents. 43 Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. 44 All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford-she gave her all.”

Luke 21:1-4 (The Message)

21 Just then he looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. 2 Then he saw a poor widow put in two pennies. 3 He said, “The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. 4 All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford-she gave her all!”

My Two Cents

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