It was announced this week that the Freedom From Religion Foundation had sent a letter to the University of Tennessee advising them to cease and desist praying before their sporting events. When I first heard this, I expected UT to immediately comply with this group and drop prayer for a moment of silence.
I began my plan of action.
I thought about beginning a Facebook page encouraging the person leading the moment of silence to sneeze and 90 to 100,000 to reply, “God Bless You!!!”
If that didn’t work I thought about leading the entire stadium in the Lord’s Prayer during the moment of silence.
I thought what better way to protest this denial of years of tradition at our football games.
Instead, here’s what happened.
The University of Tennessee sent a letter to the foundation stating that after consulting with their legal team that having prayer before the games did not violate the constitution. Therefore, the prayers would continue before any events they are currently held at.
Depending on your viewpoint, you and I may disagree on whether or not this should happen. That’s fine. That’s not the real point of this post.
The point, that I tried to highlight in a very tongue in cheek way, was that I didn’t have any faith that what I wished to happen really would. I was cynical that prayer would remain at the games I attend.
I gave up.
And I was surprised by the results.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation may very well eventually get their way. They may go to court and manage to have prayer stopped before our games.
What they cannot stop is prayer. Anyone that wants to can continue to pray in basically any form they want. There is nothing they can do to stop that.
Now, if we could only get them to do something about the Pride of the Southland Band playing Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer multiple times every Saturday.
What do you think about the University of Tennessee’s stance?
I sat around today and wondered a few things yesterday.
I wondered about us joining churches when we cannot join the Church.
I wondered about how to give our money in ways that help widows and orphans and those that need justice and mercy.
I wondered about having fellowship instead of fellowships.
I wondered about us praying instead having a prayer meeting.
I wondered about us devoting ourselves to the apostle’s teachings more than other teachings.
I wondered about us breaking bread together instead of just breaking bread.
I was just wondering…..
The other day someone who is looking for a new church stopped me. He asked me to tell him about my church. Here is what I said.
We don’t have a pastor right now. I can’t tell you what that will be like right now.
My kids are older than yours. I don’t really have any experience with that age group. I can’t answer your questions.
We’re not really strong in [ X] area. That would definitely be one of our weaknesses. We need serious improvement there.
The honeymoon period is over. What I mean by that is that the warm, fuzzies are over. We just don’t think it’s perfect anymore.
Our music through worship is very strong, enjoyable and worshipful.
I don’t really like [X] area. We need to improve it immensely.
There was more to it, but I think you get the gist. I told this person about my church. I was honest. I told him some good things. I told him some bad things. I told him what needed to get better.
Too often when I talk to people about their church, everything I hear is great. Great kids program. Great adult program. Great music. Great preaching.
This all may be true, but it usually comes across to me as selling. I can’t imagine everything being so perfect and great.
When asked, I was honest. I could see a bit of shock and head scratching on my friends face. He seemed to wonder what my end game was.
We finally ended with me telling him to pray about whether he should visit our church. If he felt like he should try it, then I told him to come visit. It might be the place where God wants to plant him to make us stronger in some of those areas I mentioned. If not, then I told him to pray and keep looking for where the Lord wanted him.
What I didn’t do was try to sell him on my church.
Do you sell people on your church? Have others tried to sell you on their church? Which way is the way to go?
My local church is currently searching for a pastor. Another I know of is about to begin this process.
I have been through this many times before. At one church I was even on the search team.
One of the things that I hear and have heard is that God already has this pastor chosen. It is just the job of the team to find this man. They have to pray, seek suggestions and speak to different men in the interest of finding the right man.
We have even begun to meet and/or pray at 11 am each day to see this man.
My question is this: Why should we pray for this when God has already chosen the pastor for us?
My answer is this: This is exactly why we should pray for this process.
If God has chosen the man, then by praying we are admitting that we cannot control this process and that it is up to Him. We trust Him with guiding the process.
However, if we don’t believe that He is in control of the process or that it’s up to man’s free will, then you shouldn’t pray for the search of a pastor. You would be violating what you believe by asking Him to be involved in the proceedings.
Things like this tell us what we really believe about God. Is He a God who is involved and decrees what happens? Or is He a God who allows man to make choices on his own.
Which will it be?
What do you believe about God’s sovereignty? Is God in control? Or is man?
Jesus continues to pray for his disciples in John 17. This week we tackle verses 13 thru 21. There are six requests Jesus makes of the Father in these verses.
Jesus tells the Father that He is praying this prayer so that they will have His joy made full in them. They are about to face a traumatic time with Christ dying on the cross. His time with them is growing shorter and shorter. Their lives are going to change forever. What does He want for them? Joy. His joy.
CHANGE OF STATUS
Jesus declares to the Father that the disciples are not of the world any longer, just like Jesus is not of the world. He has given them the Father’s word and the world hates them now, just as the world hates Jesus. (By the way, this is the same world that God loves so much that He sent His only begotten Son.)
KEPT FROM THE EVIL ONE
Jesus then asks that they not be taken out of the world, but to be kept out of the power of the evil one. I imagine that the saying I have heard much of my life, “In the world, not of the world” comes from. The implication is that the world is run by the evil one. Jesus is praying that the world will not have any hold over His disciples.
Jesus then asks the Father to sanctify the disciples. Sanctify is a delightfully old-fashioned word that most of us don’t use on an everyday basis. It means to set apart and make holy. Jesus is asking that the disciples will be made more like Him. He even tells the Father how it can be done. How? Through His word. He had previously said that the Father’s word had been given to them. This word had power to make them holy, to set them apart.
Jesus then says that He is sending them into the world as He has been sent into the world. He describes that He has been sanctified for their sakes. What Jesus is saying is that He is not asking the disciples to do anything that He has not already done and set the example for.
Finally, Jesus once more asks that the disciples be unified just like He and the Father are. The wonderful thing is that He says that this prayer is not just for these remaining eleven disciples. It is also for those who believe in Him through their words. So, this prayer is for all followers of Christ throughout the history of the Church.
How does it make you feel to know that Jesus prayed these things for you 2000 years ago?
Prayer is something that we never master. Maybe you disagree with that, but we will just have to agree to disagree if that’s the case. I believe that it is a lifelong pursuit in which we will discover new depths and riches as we go.
I spoke from John 16 last month in the campground I preach at. Last Sunday I spoke about five teaching that I think Jesus shows us in this chapter.
1. Jesus Teaches Prayer Has No Limits
Jesus teaches his disciples that they can ask anything in prayer. They don’t have to ask only for big things. They aren’t to ask for special things. They are not to ask about bad things. They can ask ANYTHING!!! I don’t know about you, but I don’t alway grasp that anything means anything. That is pretty incredible and much bigger than I believe we really conceive.
2. Jesus Teaches Prayer Has An Attitude
Jesus teaches that prayer must carry a special attitude. Sure, you can ask anything, but it must be done in His name. What does that mean? Does that mean we tag the words “In Jesus Name” at the end of our prayers. I don’t advise against it, but you know a well as I do that doesn’t mean you are asking in His name. Asking in Jesus’ name means that you are praying in unity with the Father. You are praying so that the Father and Christ get the glory. You are praying that God’s will is done.
3. Jesus Teaches Prayer Results In Joy
God does not owe us anything. He has given us salvation and that could be enough. Instead, Jesus says that if we ask in His name, we will receive and our joy will be made full. Imagine that for a minute. God wants our joy to be full. He wants us to live. He wants us to have joy in the midst of this life.
4. Jesus Teaches We Have Access
Jesus goes on to say that we gain a new access as He leaves. We have a different access to the Father than others had. It seems that we can ask the Father directly, rather than having someone (Him) make requests for us. Is that something else we take for granted? That we can make these requests directly to the Father like Christ could?
5. Jesus Teaches So That We Will Have Peace
Jesus concludes the chapter by saying that he has spoken these things so that his disciples will have peace. He wants them to understand what to do when anxieties and troubles come. They are to pray. What happens when you don’t pray? You won’t display a life that trusts in the Lord and exhibits peace. What does prayer prove? It proves that we dont’ trust in the things of this world, but in the One who has overcome the world.
My prayer is that each of us will take prayer more serious in our lives going forward.
Do you live a life of prayer?
As you may know by now, I began my annual preaching ministry at a campground near my home. One of the questions I had when we began attending and joined our new church was if they would support this ministry.
Let’s just say that I haven’t been disappointed.
A member of our Sunday school class remembered last Sunday that we would be beginning this week and prayed for us. There was even this past Sunday talk about our Sunday School class coming one Sunday and attending.
A member of the church asked Jan about it Wednesday night and is interested in helping us pass out fliers on Saturday nights.
My friend David, the youth minister, wants me to speak to the youth about it Wednesday night. The youth may come up and help pass out fliers some.
Another member of the church sent me a message on Facebook Saturday night making sure that we were starting this week and offering prayer support.
It is awesome to be a part of a church that is supportive and cares about what you are doing ministry-wise. As much as anything, this is one of the main reasons we are part of this body of believers and I love it.
Are you part of a ministry that isn’t confined within the four walls of the church? Does your church support you?
Today marks a special edition of First Church Year. It is the first such post to occur on Tuesday, instead of Monday. That makes it special, right? I hope that you got over to Michael Perkins The Handwritten yesterday. I hope you continue to check it out and it becomes one of your favorite blogs like it has become one of mine. Now, on with the first church year recap.
The focus on this week at church has to be three things: Sharing your faith, missions and prayer.
Our Sunday school class went in together to visit another class. The purpose of the class is to give people help in sharing their faith. Few people other than who was in our class decided to take time to spend learning how to better tell others about their life with Christ.
In both worship services, we had missionaries speak. One missionary had spent a great deal of time in Asia. The other missionaries had spent their time in Peru. It’s amazing to listen to those who have given their lives to live in another culture away from everything they know.
At 5 pm each Sunday evening, our church is gathering to pray together for our church. This Sunday our prayer focused on our future pastor, his family, the search team and the future of our church.
How was your Lord’s day this week?
What can I say about this week’s church experience that I haven’t already said?
Solid preaching from our interim pastor.
Worshipful music that leads to a corporate experience with God.
However, that isn’t what I want to focus on today.
I want to zero in on what happened after the worship service yesterday.
We had a potato/chili luncheon to raise money to send the youth to a conference.
It was fantastic to see the response of so many people bringing chili and potatoes to support the youth.
But even that isn’t what I really want to talk about.
Jan and I spent time with a couple who shared how much they led and loved the youth when they were younger. Now, some of those youth are now having children and they are loving those children. They also shared with how God has blessed them at different times in their lives.
We also got to spend time with another couple. One of them is having surgery on Friday, so we have an opportunity to pray this week for them. On a side note, they also own cattle. Growing up, my family had cattle as well. It’s great to get to know people who you have things in common with.
The bottom line is that we are truly beginning to feel connected in this church. We love it and it is becoming home.
How are things going in your church?
Thanks for joining me in the continuing adventures of our first year in our new church. If I simply give a rundown of what happened each week, this thing could get boring. I’m going to try to give a unique picture each week of what is going on.
Something exciting happened in Sunday School. Last week we had prayed for a lady who was having surgery for a tumor. Her husband reported that the tumor was a little worse than expected. It was malignant and wrapped around the small intestine. The exciting part is that the surgeon successfully removed it all and she is cancer free.
A funny thing happened before the service. I was asked by the gentleman who coordinates the taking up of the offering to help. I think a few of the other guys looked at me wondering who I was.
An older pastor preached yesterday. More than likely he will be the interim pastor while they begin the search for a new pastor soon. Without saying it this way, I felt like his message was basically, “Folks, you’ve been through a rough time. Get over it. Focus on going forward.” Of course, that is a good message for anyone and he said this is a caring, loving way.
Some events are coming up that should help us assimilate even more into the church. There is going to be a game night in a week or so. I look forward to playing some games and kicking some folks rear ends. That should help me introduce myself to some people. There will also be a chili/soup fellowship to help raise money to send the youth to a youth conference.
All in all, it was a pretty good Sunday at church.
How was your assembling of the saints this week?