Monthly Archives: January 2017

Some News From The Pastor’s Pen!

Dear Church Family,The Pastors Pen Logo small

Greetings to all. I hope you have taken the challenge to pray the Believer’s Warfare Prayer this past week. I hope you will continue to pray it often and also remember to focus on those three areas of prayer we have spoken of before.

Pray 3 minutes a day for:

  1. We will Love one another
  2. We will love others outside the church and have the eyes of the Lord Jesus for lost people
  3. We will pray for the pastor and the leaders of this church.

Think what God will do if we really and truly cry out to Him.

I share this because we said one of the things that made HCBC great in it’s prime was we were a Praying Church. So, we have focused on prayer some on Wednesday nights and here, in our Pastor’s Pen. I would like to do that again.

Let me share Five Lessons about Prayer from an All-Night Wrestling Match with God. You will find this story in Genesis 32.

Genesis 32 contains the fascinating story from the life of Jacob, where he wrestles all night with God. The whole wrestling match comes about in the midst of Jacob praying, and his physical struggle teaches us five lessons about prayer.

  1. The blessings of God are released into our lives through prayer.

Before Jacob was even born, God had prophesied that the blessing would be his and not his brother’s (Gen. 25:23). But it was not until Jacob took it in a prayer-wrestling match with God that it really became his. He laid hold of the promise of God through a night of prayer.

The Bible is a book full of promises—thousands of them! And while many of them apply to specific and unique situations, Paul calls all the promises of God yes in Jesus (2 Cor. 1:20). So in a Christ-centered way, every one of them is yes for me and for you.

So do not simply read through your Bible. Pray through it! The Bible is our primary prayer book, so read through it and lay hold of the promises of God!

  1. Sometimes the blessings of God are released into our lives through persistent prayer.

In a sermon on Genesis 32, Martin Luther pointed out that the story of Jacob wrestling with God gives us a picture of wrestling with a seemingly hostile God in prayer. As another example of this, he mentions the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman who came to Jesus to get healing for her daughter (Mark 7). Jesus’ response sounds rather harsh. He tells her that “it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (v. 27). Does Jesus actually want to send the woman away? No. He is going to heal her, but at first He appears hostile and indifferent.

What is going on here? God is not actually hostile and indifferent: the cross shows us how loving and engaged He is! But Jesus is showing us that praying often feels like that. Why? God often appears hostile to test the strength of our faith in His goodness: “Like a child trying to push against the hand of a parent, the parent gives only enough resistance to test the resolve of the child. So God resists us in prayer, to see our resolve in his goodness.”1

  1. The blessings of God are not obtained by our contriving.

At the end of this wrestling match, God asks Jacob for his name. He already knows the name, of course, but He wants Jacob to admit it. When Jacob had stolen the blessing, his daddy had asked for his name, and he lied: “My name is Esau.” But now he tells the truth: “My name is Jacob. I’m a deceiver.2 I’ve tried all my life to obtain these blessings for myself by my own manipulation. Now I am repenting.”

So God gives him a new name, Israel, which speaks of God giving the blessing, not Jacob wresting it for himself. The blessing you are searching for is not going to come from more striving or deceiving. It comes by submitting. Winning the blessing only comes by losing to God.

  1. God is Himself the blessing that we seek.

God does not end the encounter with Jacob by assuring him that everything will be fine. He simply says, “God to Esau. I am with you.” There is no promise that he will live through the next day. In fact, God has made Jacob limp, so he cannot even try to run away.

But Jacob got a blessing that was greater than earthly blessing: the restoration of relationship. Whatever you are searching for, I can guarantee you that it cannot replace God. Sometimes God withholds blessing you are seeking in order to teach you just that, because a relationship with God is better than any of his blessings.

God may not promise you that you will get the job or the boyfriend or the healing you desire. But He promises Himself. God does not always change your situation; sometimes He changes your identity. He changes you from a “Jacob” to an “Israel.” So you can say—even in the midst of the shadow of death—that God is with you, and that is enough.

The result of a night of prayer is not the resolution of all of your problems, but the restoration of your most desperately needed relationship.

  1. We know that God hears us because He became weak for us.

Jacob’s wrestling match was not an even fight. When you are in a wrestling match with someone beneath your weight class, you must hold yourself back. But what is God’s weight class? How much does omnipotence weigh? Jacob should have been crushed, which means that God voluntarily held Himself back. God became voluntarily weak.

God feigned weakness to bring Jacob salvation, but centuries later, the full weight that Jacob deserved came down on Christ. As Tim Keller says, “Jacob held on at the risk of his life to get the blessing for him; but Jesus held on at the cost of his life to get the blessing for us.”

So we can be sure that He hears us. It may seem like God is not listening. But He is. The cross assures us that He is. God cared enough to come down to Jacob and wrestle with him. God cared enough for us that He came down and took on our flesh, wrestling with our sin until it squeezed the life out of him. And now He has united Himself to us forever and said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Conclusion

God is not distant, waiting for us to say the magic words or to fix our lives before He will hear us in our prayers. He stands ready and willing to hear us even now. So press into Him in prayer, and never, ever give up.

I hope we individually are becoming more and more a people of prayer and that our prayer lives are being revitalized.

With Many Prayers and Christian Love,

Pastor Rick Signature

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When Under Spiritual Attack, Pray!

The Pastors Pen Logo smallDear Church Family,

We are in a Kingdom Battle!

We have embarked on a mission to see Henards Chapel Missionary Baptist Church Revitalized starting in 2017. I am tremendously encouraged by this past Sunday’s worship times, especially Sunday night as we unpacked the morning message and made direct application to HCBC.

HOWEVER, any time you individually or we, corporately, decided to get out of our comfort zone and off the spiritual couch and do something for the Lord, you can bet Satan will be fighting it all the way. We are inviting spiritual attack. But we are in a Kingdom battle!

That battle can be initiated by people or circumstances. It can attack your reputation, your finances, your health, or your family.

But because of your position and work in the Kingdom, there’s always a tie to the spiritual world. Paul says,

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).

If that’s the case, then maybe the best place to start in resolving whatever is coming against you is in a warfare prayer.

The Believer’s Warfare Prayer

In the early days of ministry, I felt spiritual pressure constantly and some sort of threat to the church’s existence daily.

Someone handed a printed prayer to me by seminary professor Victor Matthews called, “The Believer’s Warfare Prayer.” I never met Dr. Matthews, but his prayer has contributed significantly to my ministry.

I prayed his prayer out loud, verbatim that first day and the spiritual pressure I was feeling abated. The pressure returned the next day, so I prayed it out loud again. I found that every time I prayed the prayer, I felt relief. It was like the Lord and I were pushing back Satan, claiming territory and victory.

I began to pray the prayer daily. This went on for years.

As time went on, I continued to grow spiritually and our ministry matured, more and more people were lifting me up in prayer, so that I began to experience their “prayer shield.” I prayed my Warfare Prayer less often. I didn’t seem to need it as much.

Then, a few years ago, I began to notice the churches doing less and less. Fewer coming to the Lord and the work of the church seemed to accomplish les and became harder to do. Now we say we are going to return to the Lord and pray for and work toward revitalization. You can be sure that as we do, we will be painting a spiritual target on our back. The church and we individually will experienced spiritual attack.

Proverbs 15:22 tells me that plans fail for lack of counsel, so one day I went to see a counselor. You know what she told me?

“You should remember that these attacks you’re experiencing have a spiritual basis to them.”

Good call! I dug out my Believer’s Warfare Prayer and began praying it again. It’s helping. A lot.

Every Christian leader I know feels attacked, discouraged, disparaged or hopeless from time to time. Leaders are pro-active, so we start by addressing the symptom of our problem, but it makes sense to go deeper and attack the root. Sort of like Spiritual Round Up!

The Believer’s Warfare prayer is a sound spiritual exercise. God can hear our inner-most thoughts, but Satan can’t. I find that praying it out loud has a two-fold benefit: God hears and responds, and demons hear, and flee.

My encouragement to every believer who feels attacked is to pray this daily until they find themselves back in a smooth place, and then to pray it weekly or monthly thereafter. The prayer takes six to eight minutes to pray out loud, and it’s well worth it.

I pray the prayer exactly as written. When I stumble over a sentence, I reread it accurately. Words matter, and Victor Matthews was a genius. His prayer is an excellently-crafted, well-rounded, Biblically-based prayer that contains crisp theology.

Now What?

Why not pray it right now? Then, download a copy so you can pray it often.

BELIEVER’S WARFARE PRAYER

(To be read aloud)

Heavenly Father, I bow in worship and praise before You. I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as my protection. I surrender myself completely and unreservedly in every area of my life to You. I take a stand against all the workings of Satan that would hinder me in my prayer life. I address myself only to the True and Living God and refuse any involvement of Satan in my prayer.

(I command Satan, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave my presence with all of his demons. I bring the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ between Satan and myself.)

Heavenly Father, I worship You and give You praise. I recognize that You are worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise. I renew my allegiance to You and pray that the Blessed Holy Spirit would enable me in this time of prayer. I am thankful, Heavenly Father, that You have loved me from past eternity and that You sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to die as my substitute. I am thankful that the Lord Jesus Christ came as my representative and that through Him You have completely forgiven me. You have adopted me into Your family; You have assumed all responsibility for me; You have given me eternal life; You have given me the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ so I am now justified. I am thankful that in Him You have made me complete, and that You have offered Yourself to me to be my daily help and strength.

Heavenly Father, open my eyes that I might see how great You are and how complete Your provision is for this day. I am thankful that the victory the Lord Jesus Christ won for me on the Cross and in His Resurrection has been given to me and that I am seated with the Lord Jesus Christ in the heavenlies. I take my place with Him in the heavenlies and recognize by faith that all wicked spirits and Satan himself are under my feet. I declare, therefore, that Satan and his wicked spirits are subject to me in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am thankful for the Armor You have provided. I put on the Girdle of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Sandals of Peace, and the Helmet of Salvation. I lift up the Shield of Faith against all the fiery darts of the enemy; and take in my hand the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. I choose to use Your Word against all the forces of evil in my life. I put on this Armor and live and pray in complete dependence upon You, Blessed Holy Spirit.

I am grateful, Heavenly Father, that the Lord Jesus Christ spoiled all principalities and powers and made a show of them openly and triumphed over them in Himself. I claim all that victory for my life today. I reject all the insinuations, and accusations, and the temptations of Satan. I affirm that the Word of God is true and I choose to live today in the light of God’s Word. I choose, Heavenly Father, to live in obedience to You and in fellowship with Yourself. Open my eyes and show me the areas of my life that do not please You. Work in me to cleanse me from all ground that would give Satan a foothold against me. I do in every way stand into all that it means to be Your adopted child and I welcome all the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

By faith and in dependence upon You I put off the old man and stand into all the victory of the Crucifixion where the Lord Jesus Christ provided cleansing from the old nature. I put on the new man and stand into all the victory of the Resurrection and the provision He has made for me to live above sin.

Therefore, today I put off the old nature with its selfishness and I put on the new nature with its love. I put off the old nature with its fear and I put on the new nature with its courage. I put off the old nature with its weakness and I put on the new nature with its strength. I put off the old nature with all its deceitful lusts and I put on the new nature with its righteousness, purity, and honesty.

In every way I stand into the victory of the ascension and glorification of the Lord Jesus Christ, whereby all the principalities and powers were made subject to Him. I claim my place in Christ as victorious with Him over all the enemies of my soul. Blessed Holy Spirit, I pray that You would fill me. Come into my life, break down every idol and cast out every foe.

I am thankful, Heavenly Father, for the expression of Your will for my daily life as You have shown me in Your Word. I therefore, claim all the will of God for today. I am thankful that You have blessed me with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. I am thankful that You have begotten me unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I am thankful that You have made a provision so that today I can live filled with the Spirit of God with love and joy and peace, with longsuffering, gentleness and goodness, with meekness, faithfulness, and self-control in my life. I recognize that this is Your will for me and I therefore reject and resist all the endeavors of Satan and his wicked spirits to rob me of the will of God. I refuse in this day to believe my feelings and I hold up the shield of faith against all the accusations and distortion and insinuations that Satan would put into my mind. I claim the fullness of the will of God for my life today.

In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ I completely surrender myself to You, Heavenly Father, as a living sacrifice. I choose not to be conformed to this world. I choose to be transformed by the renewing of my mind, and I pray that You would show me Your will and enable me to walk in all the fullness of Your will today.

I am thankful, Heavenly Father, that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, to the casting down of imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and to bring every thought into obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, in my own life today I tear down the strongholds of Satan and smash the plans of Satan that have been formed against me. I tear down the strongholds of Satan against my mind, and I surrender my mind to You, Blessed Holy Spirit. I affirm, Heavenly Father, that You have not given me the spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I break and smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my emotions today and I give my emotions to You. I smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my will today, I give my will to You, and choose to make the right decisions of faith. I smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my body today, I give my body to You recognizing that I am Your temple. I rejoice in Your mercy and goodness.

Heavenly Father, I pray that now and through this day You would strengthen and enlighten me, show me the way Satan is hindering and tempting and lying and distorting the truth in my life. Enable me to be the kind of person that would please You. Enable me to be aggressive in prayer and faith. Enable me to be aggressive mentally, to think about and practice Your Word, and to give You Your rightful place in my life.

Again, I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and pray that You, Blessed Holy Spirit, would bring all the work of the Crucifixion, all the work of the Resurrection, all the work of the Glorification, and all the work of Pentecost into my life today. I surrender myself to You. I refuse to be discouraged. You are the God of all hope. You have proven Your power by resurrecting Jesus Christ from the dead, and I claim in every way this victory over all Satanic forces in my life. I pray in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ with thanksgiving. Amen.

Well, I am ready! Are you? Let’s remember to pray when Satan Attacks, let’s fight back in prayer. God is going to do GREAT THINGS among us!

With Many Prayers and Christian Love,

Pastor Rick Signature

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GENEROSITY: God’s Grace & Our Finances?

The Pastors Pen Logo smallDear Church Family,

Gracious Generosity is a wonderful things. We all like to have wonderfully gracious and generous persons in our life. And really, we all want to be generous and gracious in our giving to others and especially the cause of Christ.

Generosity has been defined as the quality of being kind and generous.

Ice cream is popular in the summer. But not all stores serve portions that are the same size. Some establishments are generous with their scoops, others are fair, and one or two seem stingy with the frozen treat. It doesn’t take long for customers to learn the “standard” that is used by a particular store.

God uses a very generous measure with us, making His grace abound to us so we have all we need to serve and obey Him (2 Cor. 9:8). And He ensures that His grace-in other words, His unmerited favor and goodness-will affect all areas of life, including our finances. He does this so we can generously invest in His kingdom with our resources and our lives.

But the definition of generosity varies greatly. Some Christians understand God’s principles and give willingly and liberally. These believers have learned that God applies grace to our finances so we can be generous toward others rather than concerned simply about our own prosperity. For others, giving is “fair”- they faithfully give an “adequate amount.” But sadly, too many of God’s children appear stingy toward Him: they either refuse to share much of what they have or spend most of it on themselves.

Someone has said there are 3 types of givers: One type is like a piece of flint. It has to be struck by some object to give, and then only produces sparks and chips. Another type is like a sponge. The more it is squeezed, the more it gives. Then there is the type like the honeycomb. It continually gives, always overflowing with sweetness. Which type are you?

In 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 Paul points out principles found in the Word of God as well as those drawn from experience to show why and how we are to give. L. Kraft, head of the Kraft Cheese Corp., who had given approximately 25% of his enormous income to the church and other Christian causes for many years, said, “The only investment I ever made which has paid consistently increasing dividends is the money I have given to the Lord.” (W. A. Criswell, A Guidebook for Pastors, p. 154).

Paul points out:

  1. The givers are blessed (vv. 6 10).
  2. The receivers needs are met (vv. 11 12).
  3. The Lord receives glory (vv. 13 15).

Warren Wiersbe says, “Giving is not something we do, but something we are.” When the material things of life or selfish preference are placed first, God is usually excluded, but when the “kingdom of God” is placed first (Matthew 6:33), God sees to it that all of our needs are met (Philippians 4:19). The following principles of life can be seen in this passage:

  1. We reap what we sow (v. 6) Just as the more seed a farmer sows, the better chance he will have for a bigger harvest; the more we invest in the Lord’s work, the more “fruit” will abound to our account (Philippians 4:10 20).
  2. We reap as we sow with right motives (v. 7) Whether the farmer’s motive for reaping is money, pleasure or pride makes very little difference. However, the Christian’s motive for giving is very important and God cannot bless the giver unless his heart is right.
  3. We reap even while we are sowing (vv. 8 11) The farmer has to wait for his harvest, but the believer begins to reap a harvest immediately as he invests in the Lord’s work.

I need to consider if I am a generous sower or is it something I do reluctantly. This applies to more than my money. Generosity toward the Lord also includes my time and my talents. I always need to be looking for opportunities to get the gospel out to others not hoarded up within the walls of my life or the church.

If we don’t give, the future of ministry is at stake. Linda, Donna and I were in a financial conference this past week and learned some startling facts and trends. These are not my made up facts, they can be verified by these ladies of our church who help oversee the finances of our work for the Lord, which by the way is being cut due to our lack of giving and priorities.

Only 1/3 to 1/2 of US Conservative Evangelical Church Members financially support their church.

6-9 % of American Born-Again adults “tithe” / Church giving is dropping. In 1985 average giving was 3.11% not 10%; in 2008 it went to 2.43%; again, that is a far cry from 10% which is the biblical base, the starting point for a tithe. You have not given an offering until you surpass the tithe.

Boomers are giving 25% less than the previous generations.

Donations are projected to continue to decrease unless a great change  Down: 30% in 10 yrs; 50% in 15 yrs. ; 70% in 20 yrs.

46% of giving is by persons 65 years of age and over

22%                     by               55-64

17%                     by               45 -54

11%                     by               35-44

4%                       by                under 35

Generosity is a matter of the heart and a way of life. Generosity is one of the characteristics of a person who is a disciple of Jesus Christ. With a focus on others, giving is to be done freely and cheerfully. People with this attitude trust God to meet their needs and are set free to give away even what they long to keep. No matter how little we have, the Lord wants us to be magnanimous people. Do I, do you know someone who is considered generous? Is it you?

Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.

With Many Prayers and Christian Love,

Pastor Rick Signature

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The Pain And Danger of Bitterness

1 Samuel 13:5-14 / 1 Samuel 18:1-30Pastors Pen Logo

1 Samuel 13:5-14 (KJV) 5  And the Philistines gathered themselves together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude: and they came up, and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Bethaven. 6  When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait, (for the people were distressed,) then the people did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in high places, and in pits. 7  And some of the Hebrews went over Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. 8  And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. 9  And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering. 10  And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him. 11  And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; 12  Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. 13  And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. 14  But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.

INTORDUCTION:

What comes to mind when you hear the word Bitterness? You might think of  a bitter taste, something unsweet that puts our teeth on edge. And while bitterness is anything but sweet, that is not what we are talking about here. Bitterness is an emotion that grows out of being hurt, slighted or offended. It is an emotion out of control growing into anger, wrong thinking, fear, rejection, dread and leads often to wrongful deceitful actions.

I am about to say something you will seldom ever hear me say. I am about to use the word never. And the words never and always are words of extremism and seldom accurate to be used. However there are some occasions  that it is correct to use these extreme words. Let me give you a couple of examples. 1) Sin is always wrong and against God. 2) Bitterness is never a proper response for a child of God. It poisons the mind, emotions, and spirit. We might then ask ourselves, When did this resentful attitude take root in Saul? Let’s look at two events in his life for clues.

Saul couldn’t go to battle until Samuel arrived to offer the burnt sacrifice as God had commanded. Before the prophet arrived, though, Saul’s men became scared of the enemy and started to leave, so the king took action and made the sacred offering himself. He may have thought, This has to be done right away.

Why shouldn’t I do it? He failed to see the necessity of obeying divine commands to the letter. God saw this as a serious act of rebellion, which brought judgment: Saul’s kingdom wouldn’t endure. God would one day appoint someone else to take over as ruler instead of Saul’s descendants. Imagine Saul’s reaction to hearing the kingdom would not belong to his family.

During the war against the Amalekites, King Saul once again failed to follow the Lord’s instructions fully. When Samuel confronted him about his misdeed, he 1ied and claimed that he had obeyed. Later, however, Saul attempted to justify his disobedience. His unrepentant heart grieved the Lord and resulted in further judgment: he, the king, was now rejected by God (1 Sam. 15:10-11, 26).

I believe Saul’s descent into bitterness began with the news that his disobedience would cost him the kingdom.

Be sure to take your disappointments and anger immediately to the Lord. Pour them out before Him, and ask that He help you let them go. Your spiritual health depends on it.

King Saul had it all: God’s anointing on him as ruler; the prophet Samuel to guide him; the power and wealth of the kingdom of Israel; and the applause of the people. Yet he died a bitter man. What steps led to his downfall?

  • Anger. When Goliath was defeated, the crowds praised Saul as a killer of thousands but David as a slayer of tens of thousands. Instead of rejoicing that God had raised up someone to slay the giant, Saul grew angry with David for receiving more praise than he did.
  • Wrong thinking. Saul’s flaring temper affected his mind, and he became suspicious of David’s motives. He started thinking that since the Lord was with David, the young man would want to take over the kingdom right away.
  • Fear. Saul’s fear led to plotting against David and throwing spears at him.
  • Rejection. The king sent David away from his presence.
  • Dread. Saul’s fear grew stronger with David’s military success and the people’s growing love for the younger man.
  • Deceitful action. Twice the king tried to manipulate David by offering one of his daughters in marriage. Both times he plotted to get David killed by the Philistines, and each attempt failed.

Saul’s response was to become David’s enemy for the rest of his days. From then on, bitterness reigned.

Although the details of our lives differ from Saul’s, the steps to bitterness and ruin are the same. What unresolved hurt, slight or offense has led to anger What anger do you allow to fester? Whom do you avoid because of ill will? Won’t you confess your sin, turn to God, and be set free? God wants you to.

Pastor Rick Signature

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HOW ARE WE DOING?

The Pastors Pen Logo smallDear Church Family,

It seems we may do some things in reverse. Instead of checking as we go along on how we are doing, we often wait until the end of the year when it is too late to make appropriate adjustments in response to our evaluation. So, right now, in the second week of this new year I ask again, How Are We Doing?

It is interesting that studies show that by now many if not most who made new year’s resolutions relating to health and weight have already abandoned their resolve. We often say we want something but are not willing to pay the price. And many times we don’t look honestly at what we need. We see but we don’t see. And this must have been and still is a big issue because God goes over it time and time again in His word. Jeremiah 5:21-22 (KJV) 21  Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not: 22  Fear ye not me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?  Isaiah 6:10 (KJV) 10  Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.  Ezekiel 12:2 (KJV) 2  Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house. Matthew 13:15 (KJV) 15  For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. And again in Mark 8:18 and Acts 28:27 and again and again, we could go on. So Let’s look at how we are doing and ask God to really open our eyes and show us the truth. And, I pray we are willing to be lead and follow the Lord when we see His truth.

So How are you doing on those New Year Resolutions? Are you still on track. It might be a good idea to evaluate now and make the needed adjustments now rather than waiting too far down the line.

How are we doing as a church? We are sure taking some hard looks at our finances. I pray we are seeking God’s Leading there so that we do not hold to prestige or position over ministry.

A cardiologist speaks with his patient and tells him that unless he changes his diet and stops ingesting harmful products into his system, he will surely have a heart attack and risk death.

The patient then has a choice. He can accept the doctor’s advice as based on truth and begin to make fundamental lifestyle changes, or he can ignore the instructions and proceed with few if any changes. The patient may or may not be in immediate danger, but surely over an undefined period his health will begin to decline and his life will be in danger.

On the other hand the patient may choose to heed the doctor’s guidance and begin to make difficult yet necessary changes. There may be no noticeable changes at first. There are no short cuts or magic pills that make it easy. His cardiac health did not get into this condition overnight and it won’t get out in 24 hours either. However, as weeks tum into months and then into years observable changes begin to occur. The patient has more energy and strength. His weight loss is noticed by others and he begins to enjoy life in a way once thought unimaginable. He is alive again!

This portrays in some ways the choice facing many churches across America today, including us! Some studies show that as many as 75-80% of churches are stagnant or in decline. More troublesome is the fact that as many as 10% of Southern Baptist Churches will cease to exist in the next ten years unless fundamental changes are made. There are many diverse reasons for this condition, with no one solution fitting every case. However, there are various strategies and solutions to employ that will assist the God-called leadership of these church in fostering revitalization for these congregations.

The Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Ministries has committed to coming alongside us and churches throughout our state facing these conditions. Our Church Revitalization Ministry initiatives have set as our objective the revitalization of 500 churches by 2024. That is an enormous task. With over 3000 churches affiliated with the TBC that means we and they seek to help 20% of our churches experience genuine revitalization and renewal.

Only God knows the future. Our efforts will be in vain if we seek to simply roll out another program.  What I desire is a Spirit-led movement that recognizes the dire circumstances of our church and the lost condition of millions of Tennesseans. Therefore, we seek the Lord and pray and prepare for such a Revitalization movement. It’s already happening in pockets across our state and around the nation. I want to see Tennessee be in the forefront of this movement. And I want to see Henards Chapel in the forefront of the Upper East Tennessee movement of God. I know that God can make any church come alive, but its people must turn to the Lord and experience revitalization His way. This will not occur without faithful and committed leadership to lead the way. God-called leaders must gather around the following four principles of church revitalization that will drive our efforts and be in place for every church to experience revitalization:

  • A Renewed vision from the Lord that is biblically based.
  • A Restored unity among the people around the Lordship of Christ.
  • A Responsive and deployed membership sharing the gospel with a missional lifestyle.
  • A Received Life-giving empowerment from the Holy Spirit.

Church Revitalization is a process by which a church plateaued or in decline is redirected toward a healthy and sustained:

  1. Exaltation of Christ;
  2. Proclamation of the gospel to the lost;
  3. Utilization of the Word for direction;
  4. Expression of God’s love in their communities.

Generally speaking, a church in the process of revitalization will experience some if not all of the following:

  • Increases in worship attendance
  • A rise in people coming to Christ and following in believer’s baptism
  • Increases in Bible Study participation
  • Faithfulness in stewardship
  • Growth in mission involvement both nationally and internationally
  • A commitment to a Church Planting movement
  • Heightened connection with their community
  • Visible changes in the spiritual climate as discerned by the church leadership God clearly wants His people to be a gospel movement of change in our community.

I have been called first by God and second by you, the membership of this church to be your Pastor, Spiritual Leader. But I CANNOT lead IF none will follow!  Even Jesus knew no limits in His miracle working power except in His home town of Nazareth where the scripture says, Matthew 13:58 (KJV) 58  And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

With Many Prayers and Christian Love,

Pastor Rick Signature

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