What’s Your Continual Prayer

This woman told our team that she prayed 40 years for a church to come to Compound Village where she lives in Sierra Leone. Africa for Jesus recently opened Believers Church and it is the first ever Christian Church in a village with over 3,000 people. I was amazed by her faith and consistent prayer.

For what or whom have you been continually praying?

Advice for Men after the Wife Says the Marriage is Over

I hope you don’t need this post. It is for a select audience.

After I have answered a question too many times to count, I figure more people have the same question. One of the issues I see frequently is what happens to men when their marriage caves in around them and their wife no longer wants the marriage to work. This could be because of simple neglect over the years or an affair, but she wants out and he wants her to stay. When this happens, a man often becomes a vulnerable puppy of a man and literally doesn’t know what to do next. (I’ve sadly seen it so many times, especially recently.) It could be his fault or her fault, but at this point, the man just wants to save his marriage.

Here are a few suggestions I gave a while ago to a man in this situation. Although this is a personal reply to one man, I believe it may have application for many man in this situation. One thing needs to be clear, however; you must own your decision. You know your situation far better than anyone else. These suggestions are based on experience with dozens of marriage situations, but they are simply my opinions and not designed as professional advice.

If you are in the immediate days and weeks after your wife has indicated she thinks the marriage is over, this is what I suggest:

1. Don’t beg. You are likely much more broken and emotional right now than normal, but women are attracted to a man’s strength, not as much his emotional side. (Even if they say they are…over time they want to see strength.) She needs to know you are hurting, but not see you as weak. That balance is hard to strike, but important to find.

2. Sometimes writing a letter works better than talking in person, because you can share your true heart, think through your words, etc, without all the emotions being involved. When the relationship is especially strained, we tend to say the wrong things, which backs the other spouse into a corner, causing defenses to rise and emotions to take over the conversation. Read THIS POST about how to write this type letter.

3. As hard as it is, after you’ve told your spouse your heart and what you want, you have to give her some space. Honestly, she’s probably feeling crowded right now. After a woman has wrestled through this as long as she has, when she’s done, she’s done. That doesn’t mean her heart can’t change later, but for now she feels smothered almost to be around you. I’m not trying to add to your hurt here. I am simply giving you the reality from what I have seen many times. That’s why she may talk about one of you moving from the house. Chances are this was a very long process for her and you just found out how severe it is for her. That’s typical.

4. Build yourself up physically, emotionally and spiritually as much as trying to save your marriage. You’ll need that in days to come regardless of what happens and it will make you more attractive. In these days, you should draw closer to the heart of God than you ever have before.

5. Seek professional help. You probably aren’t as capable right now of making wise decisions. Find someone to help you do this. Ideally this would be professional Christian counseling with you and your wife, but could be a mature friend or minister. Regardless, get personal help if your wife will not go with you.

6. Do your best not to make stupid mistakes during this time. It’s hard to do, because you are vulnerable, but you don’t want the marriage set back further than it is. Spend time in personal reflection, asking God and yourself what you did to contribute to this situation. If you already know your blame, seek God’s forgiveness, your spouse’s and anyone else you have injured.

7. Surround yourself with a few other men you can trust. Be accountable, open and honest with them. It’s especially helpful, and they are plentiful, to find men who have walked where you are walking and survived.

8. Realize that any change of heart in your spouse is going to take longer than you would hope it would. A woman’s heart usually changes slower than a man’s heart. Be patient. Pray that God brings the right people and influences in her life and that her heart changes towards you.

Please know I’m praying for you as I type this. My prayer is that your marriage will be saved, your wife’s heart will change, and the two of you will grow a marriage that glorifies God. Also, again, this post is not professional counsel. You didn’t pay me to receive this, so don’t hold me accountable for it’s success. I can’t stress enough that every situation is different. I would suggest, although, that these situations often have similar characteristics. Hopefully some of this will help.

Men/Women, what would you add to this?

10 Confessions I Need to Make

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16

I look good online. I appear to be all the things I’m not. Here’s the truth you need to know:

I can be greedy…
I can be prideful…
I can be arrogant…
I can be stubborn…
I can be lustful…
I can be unforgiving…
I can be judgmental…
I can be egotistical…
I can be selfish….
I can be uncaring…

There’s my list…Thankful, as always, for His grace…

I don’t want my prayers hindered in any way because I’m pretending to be someone I’m not. I feel better letting you know who I really am some days.

What do you need to confess today?

Memorial Day Thanks to Our Soldiers and Families

“But your servants, every man armed for battle, will cross over to fight before the LORD, just as our lord says.”
Numbers 32:27

Living in a military town and serving as pastor of a church in this city, Cheryl and I have the privilege of knowing hundreds of military families who serve our nation to keep us free.  Grace Community Church is a better church because of the hundreds of these families who choose to worship, serve and grow with us.

One thing some soldiers often do is to leave behind a letter to his or her spouse and/or family in the event that something tragic should happen to them while deployed.  They sign the seal of the envelope and ask that it not be opened unless the worst should occur.  At times, they leave the letter with another family member and other times with a trusted friend. Some of the most sobering moments of my life have been receiving one of these signature-sealed envelopes from a solder leaving for war.  Each time I felt honored and humble by being asked to hold such a letter, but it has always been a sobering reminder to me of the harsh realities of war.

Thankfully, I have never had to deliver one of these letters.  I hope I never do.  Usually when the soldier returns, he or she will request the letter back from me.  At times, I’m asked to continue holding it due to the volatile nature of their career.

I’m also reminded, however, as Memorial Day is designed to do, that many families have had to endure the delivering of their own “letter” from a fallen soldier.   Today I’m praying God comforts them with the memories of happy times together and with the pride of knowing and enjoying the freedom their loved one gave his or her life to protect.

In my experience, soldiers are brave men and women, with families and friends they love, but who choose sacrifice and service over personal pleasure because of a special calling to serve for the cause of freedom.  These are men and women who love their country, respect what freedom brings to a nation, and are courageously willing to put their life on the line to protect it. Many of our Fort Campbell soldiers are deployed this year and Cheryl and I are praying for their continued safety and for the comfort of loving families waiting for their return.

Some of Cheryl and my best and lifetime friends have been military families.  My father and brother are both veterans, along with many of my extended family.  My pride, gratitude and thankfulness for their service to our country cannot be described in words.  I still get goose bumps hearing the National Anthem or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  Today, to our soldiers and their families, please accept Cheryl and my sincere appreciation for your service.  We couldn’t do the ministry God has called us to do if you didn’t do what you were called to do.  God bless you and keep you safe!

What do you think of when you think of our soldiers and their families?

Jeremiah 18, Part 2

“Go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made. I will speak to you while you are there.” Jeremiah 18:2 NLT

In order to hear a word from God we have to meet God on His terms. God will go to extreme measures to reach one of His children, but to hear from God requires us to be in a listening position with God. In the life of a believer, for example, sin can hinder our relationship with God, as other relationships are hindered by infractions in the relationship, and that broken fellowship can keep us from hearing God when He speaks. Our own busyness and the normal distractions of life can also keep us from hearing God.

God wanted to speak to Jeremiah and He was going to use pottery as a part of His discussion. Sometimes God will use situations in our life to gain our attention and illustrate for us His agenda. You and I, if we want to hear from God, must continually rid our lives of distractions, strive to walk in obedience with Him daily, free our life of unneeded clutter, slow down long enough to listen for the voice of God, and watch and listen for God’s voice in the midst of the normal routine and places of life.

God is not trying to hide His voice from you or me. In fact, if we aren’t hearing when God speaks, it’s most likely because we aren’t listening. Let’s do whatever it takes to hear the voice of God. He has great things for us to know. He sees the path before us and He wants to lead us down it within His will. Let’s listen!

What’s the biggest distraction in your life from spending time alone with God?

Who Is Praying for You?

So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer. Ezra 8:23

There is something special about knowing people are praying for you. Cheryl received a text from someone recently wanting to know if we were okay. This sweet prayer warrior had been woken at 4:30 AM that morning with an overwhelming sense that we needed prayer. It was the same morning we received the news that my father had passed away unexpectedly. What an awesome encouragement!

I’m curious:

Do you appreciate knowing people are praying for you?

Who do you know that you are certain is consistently praying for you?

Whom are you remembering in your prayers today?

Share your prayer concerns here and then some of you who are prayer warriors may want to write out a quick prayer in reply to their concerns.

Thanks for praying with us!

How to Be in Continual Prayer, Without Babbling

I have been asked numerous times about a seeming contradiction in the Bible. Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, wrote that we are to “pray about everything” (Philippians 4:6), “pray continually”, (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and “be in constant prayer” (Romans 12:12).  Paul seems to have believed that something in us could live in a state of continual prayer and that we should keep talking repeatedly to God.

Here’s where the seeming contradiction comes in the Bible to some people.  In Matthew 6:7-8 Jesus says, “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Jesus almost appears to be telling the reader NOT to pray continually.

The verses do not contradict each other.  We must consider these verses in the context of the entirety of Scripture. Throughout the Bible we realize that God is always more concerned about the heart of a matter than He is actions we take (1 Samuel 16:7), so it helps if we examine this subject with that understanding.

When Jesus said not to babble in prayer, because God already knows our needs, He was speaking to people who tried to impress others with their flowery words.  That is not what Paul is suggesting to us in his writings.

Paul’s encouragement for continual prayer, in action at least, is obviously not even possible. Some people have a hard time walking and chewing gum at the same time.  Expecting people to pray while they do anything else is a challenge. Paul is not referring to an action as much as he is an attitude. He’s encouraging our heart to be in a continual spirit of prayer; a constant journey of seeking our Father’s will and communing with our Heavenly Daddy.

This is made possible with the help of God’s Spirit, who “intercedes for us”. If our heart is firmly set on Christ, we can be “continually praying”.   If we go to the marketplace, Christ goes with us in prayer. If we are driving a car, Christ is with us in prayer. If we read a book to our children, if Christ is in our heart, we can be in an attitude of prayer, because God’s Spirit intercedes for our spirit.

Put your heart and mind firmly on Christ today and you will continue to live in a spirit of prayer.

Do you have any specific prayer requests? Leave them here.  I’m finding my readers really do pray for others.

Struggling With What To Say In Prayer?

I received a great email of concern this week on an issue I think others may have as a concern as well.  I know I have asked questions like this personally at times.

The email said, “I believe in prayer, but I never know what to say.  What if I say the wrong thing?  Does that make sense?”

Here was my answer:

Yes, it makes perfect sense, but I wonder if you are making prayer more difficult than it is intended to be.  Consider for a moment that God is the “friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  What if God were a person, who is actually in the room with you, that knows you better than anyone has ever known you, that would never betray you, so you could trust Him with anything, that loves you unconditionally whether you do the right things or not, and that always has your best interests at heart…could you talk to that person?

That’s who He is…now talk….

Do you ever struggle with what to say in your prayers? Could it be you are treating prayer as more of a religious formality than a conversation with someone with whom you have a relationship?

What tips can you offer to help others in their prayer life?    What questions about prayer do you have?

October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

n39520409352_465Can I be completely honest with you about something?

I don’t understand cancer. I hate it.

I know all about sin and how this world is corrupt and broken and how everything will one day be redeemed, but there is something mysterious and scary about cancer.

I have so many friends who have been affected. It’s rampant in my own family right now. I hate it.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Perhaps no other cancer has been so prevalent in our church. We have numerous breast cancer survivors at Grace Community Church. These women encourage me with their faith and resolve to not only fight the disease, but to make the world a better place in spite of their sickness. Some of the heroes of faith to me right now are these women.

This month our local Clarksville Family Magazine featured one such woman, Kelly Blevins. Kelly, and fellow Grace girl Lynne Woodson, have decided to use their experience with cancer to launch a local support group for other breast cancer patients. This type ministry fires me up, because it addresses real and practical needs. I want to be their biggest cheerleader!

Have you experienced the devastation of cancer in your life, either personally or with people you love?

Have you marveled at the faith of those with cancer?

Take some time today to pray for a cure, to pray for God’s comfort, and to pray for those families struggling with cancer.

From Pastor To Dad (Reflections on A Day)

Today my role very quickly switched from pastor to dad. I was in a meeting preparing for a potential new ministry our church is considering. We were talking about the future, with big dreams of ministry and new ways of helping people. I love thinking Kingdom-building strategy.

I received a call that went straight to my voice mail. In consideration of those I was meeting with, I decided not to be interrupted. Then there was another call; then a text; then another. I decided I needed to figure out what was the urgency. Sadly, the news was tragic. One of my son Nate’s childhood friends had been killed in an auto accident this morning. The girl’s mother was one of Nate’s favorite teachers.

Nate and his friend Kathleen had been together since kindergarten. They were like brother and sister. They had remained in touch over the last month, both attending school away from home, and even talked within the last day or two. At the point when I got the message, my only concern was getting to Nate before he heard the news in passing. At that point, I was no longer a pastor in a meeting. I was a dad hurrying to comfort a son. Nothing else seemed to matter much the rest of the day.

It’s so hard to make sense of death and tragedy. There are more questions than answers tonight in so many minds. The phrase I heard continually today from Nate and others was, “I can’t wrap my mind around this.” There are no words to say. Eighteen is not supposed to be the age of death. I do know one thing, however. The truth of God’s Word is not altered, even after the tragic news of the day. God truly is close to the broken-hearted.

Nate and a large group of friends from his class were extremely close, but recently scattered to many different colleges. They will be home this weekend, for a very sad occasion, and, in many ways, it will be a reunion. Their coming together will honor their friendship, but also be a tribute to the memory of a good friend, who tragically left this earth too soon.

Please join me in praying for this family and the friends who mourn.