Friday, September 21, 2012

Day 12 of 50 Days of Prayer- All Calls from God Are Not Equal

All calls from God are not created equal. Consider these three calls of God from scripture:
·         Abraham: “Now the Lord said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee.”(Gen. 12:1).
·         Moses: “The cry of the children of Israel is come unto me: and I have seen [their] oppression…Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:9-10)
·         Jonah: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me” (Jonah 1:1)
All calls of God are not created equal. Abraham’s call was to leave His country for an unknown destination while Moses and Jonah knew exactly where they were headed. Moses’ call was to stand before the most powerful man in all of the known-world and demand the release of God’s people, Jonah’s call was to preach God’s message of impending judgment to a city completely given to evil and idolatry but Abraham wasn’t called to say anything. Abraham was called to go with his entire family, Moses was allowed to take Aaron along, but Jonah would be going alone. Moses received His call from a burning bush while Abraham and Jonah didn’t. All calls of God are not created equal.
When God calls there is only one right response: faithful obedience. When God called Abraham, he “departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him” (Gen. 12:4). After debating God about whether or not He had chosen the right man for the job, “Moses took his wife and his sons…and he returned to the land of Egypt” (Ex. 4:20). Abraham made it to Canaan and God multiplied His family just as He promised. Moses went into the court of Pharaoh and demanded the release of God’s people, and God brought deliverance to the people just as He promised.
Jonah took a different route. He went the opposite way- “Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa” (Jonah 1:3). One terrible storm and three nights in the belly of a great fish later, Jonah finally snapped to it. “So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord” (Jonah 3:3). Jonah made it to Nineveh, preached God’s message, and the entire city repented before God.
The only right response to God’s call is faithful obedience. Peter realized this important truth in a conversation he had with Jesus on the shores of Galilee. Jesus told Peter that when he grew older he would not enjoy the freedoms and the liberties he once had when he was young. Instead, He would be bound and led where he did not want to go (John 21:18). "This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he said unto him, 'Follow me'" (John 21:19). Jesus' call on Peter's life was to follow Jesus and give his life in that pursuit.
Peter sensed possible inequality in his call. He noticed another apostle nearby (John) and asked, "Lord, and what shall this man do?" Lord, are you going to ask him to do the same? Are you going to ask him to give his life for you as well? Is he going to have to sacrifice as much? Jesus' response was direct and to the point- "If I will that he tarry until I come, what is that to you? Follow thou me" (John 21:22).
Although all calls of God are not created equal, they are the same in two ways: 1) When God calls, He will be with you. If He asks you to uproot your family, go before Pharaoh, preach to a wicked city, walk into a fiery furnace, spend the night in a lion's den, build an ark, preach in some remote, unknown village of the world, pastor a church, serve as a greeter at the church, change diapers in the nursery, lead worship, serve as a deacon or give your life in pursuit of following Jesus- He will be with you. 2) The only proper response is faithful obedience.
The choice is yours. Stop worrying about inequality and focus on obedience. Disobedience will land you in the belly of a whale. Obedience will lead you to be what God has called you to be.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Day 5 of 50 Days of Prayer- Stop Being So Negative

"Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from destruction; who crowns thee with loving kindness and tender mercies; who satisfies your mouth with good thing so your youth is renewed like the eagle's." -Psalm 103:1-5

If you want to feel really great about life and the world, watch the evening news (you should be picking up on the sarcasm right here): struggling economy, West Nile virus, a divided country, anti-American protests in the Middle East, government corruption, and (fill in the blank here).

I came downstairs a few nights ago after putting the boys to bed and Leslie had a sad, troubled and frustrated look on her face. I instantly began to wonder, "Uh-oh, what did I do?" She then explained her frustration to me, "I can't watch the news anymore. It's so negative." It's true. It's a sad commentary on our society, but we're almost like piranhas feeding on negativity.

As I read Psalm 103 this morning and worshiped the Lord through music by listening to Matt Redman's 10,000 Reasons (listen to the song here), I fell under conviction about my own tendency to be a negative News Anchor for my life. "This morning Robby Pollard went to purchase gas and gas prices have risen yet again. In an unexpected turn of events Robby's son, Luke, had to go to the doctor. The co-pay was $25 and the medication was over $100. This isn't fair. That isn't fair. Why didn't this work out like I thought it should."

Sometimes my outlook is very different than David's. I choose to complain, David blessed the Lord. I have a tendency to focus on the sickness, David blessed the Lord for healing. I am prone to wallow in guilt over my sin and past failures, David blessed the Lord for forgiveness. I can become so easily focused on the destruction around the world, David blessed the Lord for redemption.

Stop being so negative. I'm not saying that we shouldn't face reality. What I am saying is that we should spend more time blessing God and less time complaining. Instead of griping about the cost of gas, bless the Lord for your job, your car and for living in this country! Instead of complaining over a $25 deductible, bless the Lord for doctors. Instead of complaining about the cost of medicine, bless the Lord for the $100 He provided for you to have that medicine. Bless the Lord for your children. Bless the Lord for your health. Bless the Lord for life. Instead of crying about what's fair, bless the Lord for the cross where God, in the ultimate act of selfless love and grace, gave His life for you.

Try it today. When you feel the urge to be negative or complain, bless the Lord instead. Stop being so negative. Stop playing the part of the negative News Anchor of your life, and bless the Lord.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 4 of 50 Days of Prayer- More than You Can Imagine

"Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Eph. 3:20-21)

He is able to do more than we dare to ask, think or imagine. That's an interesting thought. because, as a follower of Christ, I believe God can do anything He chooses to do. In other words, He is limitless in knowledge, power, ability, wisdom, love, holiness. He is better than good- He is perfect.

Yet my thoughts about God aren't quite high enough. He is able to do exceedingly above all that we ask or think. Incredible. He is more perfect than my idea of perfection. He is more powerful than my thoughts about what all-powerful means. He is more loving than my thoughts about perfect love may be.

He is able to go above it all. In this exhortation to the church in Ephesus, Paul challenges our thinking about God:
  1. God's work in the church is ultimately for His glory.
  2. His power at work in you is to bring glory to Himself.
  3. He is able to do above what you ask or think.
So why not go to Him with lofty prayers for the church? Why place limits on what He can do? Approach His throne today and ask Him to do the very best- because your idea of "best" isn't "best" enough. Then sit back and watch His best radiate in your life and in your church- all for His glory.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day 3 of 50 Days of Prayer: His Way or the Highway

"No, Luke! That's not how you play!"
"Stop it, Noah- I want to play this way."
"But Luke, this is my game and I'm the boss!"
"Fine, I'm not playing this game. I'm going to play my own game."

I watched this conversation take place right in front of my eyes as I laid down on our game room floor for a little "Trouble! Scooby Doo Edition." For those of you who have not played the game before, here's a simple breakdown: each player has four pieces which start in your base. You take turns "popping" the dice (it's in a little plastic dome). You have to get a "1" or a "6" to get out of your base and start moving around the board. The first person to get all four pieces out of your base, around the board and into your "home" is the winner.

But here's the catch, and the frustrating part of the game (and the reason for the above conversation): if another player's game piece lands on your game piece, that game piece is returned to base and you have to start all over. Now that you know the rules, here's what happened:

Luke and I were having fairly favorable rolls (or pops) of the dice and we were moving around the board with ease. Noah, however, was having trouble popping a "1" or a "6" to get started. He finally rolled a "1" and was super excited. However, the trouble came on the next turn when Luke popped a 4 and landed on Noah's game piece. Noah got upset. He didn't like the rules. He wanted the rules to change to suit him. over.

As I watched this scene unfold I thought about what hinders my relationship with God so many time: selfishness. What I have learned about myself and my kids is that no one had to train us to be selfish. We do it quite naturally, and we're pretty good at it.

That's what makes Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane so powerful, divine and intriguing: "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42). The "cup" Jesus prayed to be removed was the cup of suffering and death. Make no mistake about it: Jesus knew what He was here to do. He came to earth to give His life on the cross as a payment for my sin and for yours.

In the ultimate act of selflessness, he prayed: "It's not about me, it's about you." Why don't you make this your prayer today: "God, it's not about me, it's about you. Not my will, but yours be done." It might just alleviate your frustration. It will probably end the fighting in your life. And doing His will always leads to victory.

The cross and the empty tomb are proof.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Day 1 of 50 Days of Prayer: Living On Mission

The mission of the church matters, so Jesus instructed his disciples to "pray about it." Let's be honest: for many Christians this phrase has become a cop out and at times an excuse for disobedience. Unfortunately we spend our time praying about things that, quite frankly, we shouldn't be praying about.

What is the mission of the church? Go. Make disciples. (Matt. 28:19-20, Mk. 16:15, Lk. 24:46-47, Jn. 20:21, Acts 1:8). If Jesus said it, there's no need to pray about it. It's what we are supposed to do. No need to seek God's will: it has been revealed.

Yet Jesus instructed his disciples to pray about it in Matt. 9:38. Having just healed a paralyzed man (Matt. 9:1-8), stood down religious snobs who questioned why he was eating with dirty low-lifes (9:9-17), healed a woman of her sickness, raising a girl from the dead (9:18-25), healing two blind men (9:26-31) and delivering a man from the prison of demon-possession (9:32-34), throngs of people came out to see Him, listen to Him teach and be healed (9:35). When Jesus saw the multitudes, "he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd" (9:36).

Jesus knew the needs were great. He knew that He had been sent to the earth to do something about it. He was here to make disciples. He was here to heal the hurting, give hope to the hopeless and bring salvation to the hearts of those who would believe. He didn't have to pray about it, but His disciples did. He told them, "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest" (9:38).

Do you see why Jesus didn't have to pray and his disciples did? Jesus was living on mission. He was doing the work of the kingdom. He was sent to make disciples and that's what he was doing. You don't need to pray about whether the needs in your community are great. They are. You don't need to pray about whether or not you have been placed in your community to make a difference for God's kingdom. You have. You don't need to pray about whether or not God wants to use you to do something great for Him. He does.

What you need to pray today is not, "Lord, do you want me to make a difference? Lord, do you want me to be serious about your commission? Lord, do you want me to try and lead someone to Jesus today?" What you need to pray is simple, "Lord of the harvest, send me forth into the harvest."

The mission of the church matters, so pray about it. Then live it.