Posts tagged ‘prayer’

February 5, 2013

Trials Make You Stronger

by pastortimfowler

rejoice1

I know its been a while and the blogs are further in between this year so far. Things have been very hectic and very trying in this first part of 2013. While I was planning on blogging through the Bible, I have found it hard to find the time to do as much as I originally planned. Today as I was preparing for my men’s Bible study on Thursday nights, I was reading in 2 Thessalonians and was inspired and encouraged by Paul’s words to this early bunch of Christians. 2 Thessalonians 1:5 … Your suffering proves that God’s judgment is right and that you are considered worthy of his kingdom.
I am not comparing my suffering to that of a martyr or even that of the early church, but I have learned that anyone’s sufferings are real and challenging to them at the time. As I told you a while back, our church had a fire that smoked out a whole side of our building that included my office. My office is my sanctuary for study and thought and prayer and I do a lot of planning for our church there. Not being able to use it makes me feel like I am out of touch or at least out of sync with the church. That and the fact that dealing with insurance and contractors can be enough to challenge anyone’s faith, has made it a long 3 months.

Spiritual warfare comes in many forms. It can be as simple as strained relationships and as complex as attacks on one’s faith. It seems that mine have been on many levels. During this time I try to keep a smile on my face and my focus on helping others, but the smiles seem to be forced more than natural and the faith of knowing I am doing God’s will has been challenged with each decision. I have to continually remind myself that I am fighting battles that are not about people or me, but about people’s souls. The strained relationships cause tensions that make it hard to show love and feel love. Although I know love is not about one’s feelings, I also know that without the feelings it must be continually reminded in order to not forget who you love.
God has promised us victory over our enemies. He has promised to be with us in every situation and that His love is greater than my love. My challenge is to depend on His love when mine is weakened. Showing love is not always about a smile. It can be about difficult circumstance that makes happiness depend more on joy and peace rather than good times and good feelings.

So as I was reading this, I was reminded that suffering for Christ of any kind is part of being worthy of God’s kingdom. Worthy only because of what Christ did and never because of what I do and what I feel. That makes me feel better.
So if you find yourself feeling down and out or like you can’t stand anymore in the face of the attacks that are surrounding you, remember that Christ suffered for doing no wrong. He suffered for my wrong and your wrong and gladly bore our sins on the cross so that we could be forgiven and made righteous and worthy of His kingdom.

I thank God that my feelings do not mean I am not loved. I thank God that He feels the same about me regardless of my feelings and that His feelings for me are pure love and unchanging. I thank Him that I am counted worthy to suffer for His cause and that I am in the battles that mean so much. Even if I fail, He will not. And if I fail while loving and serving Him, then I am ever bit as worthy of His kingdom and will never be condemned because of Christ’s work and not my own. Trials make you stronger because the Bible says when we are weak, then He is strong. Thanks God. I await your strength and thank you for the trials.

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July 6, 2012

Youth Gone Wild

by pastortimfowler

Today I saw our church youth and their leaders off for their first ever retreat and mission trip. Because our church is a young church, only 6 years old, missions has been slow to develop and certainly youth missions have lagged. But God has been doing some incredible stuff this past few months and is preparing our church to be a mission minded church. For those of you who aren’t “churchy”, missions is the command from Jesus that says to go into all the world and preach the gospel. It includes helping those in need and sharing a message of hope.
In the last year our church has had the opportunity to help several missionaries as well as take a few trips, including our recent trip to Cuba. Our youth are going to the beach to have a time of bonding and growing spiritually and to serve at a campground in the area as the missions part of the trip. I know it sounds minor, but before you can walk you must first crawl.
At last count there are 13 youth and 7 adults who are gone. I worry about the adults, especially those who are taking their first trip of this type. I can only imagine the fun that they are going to have. We had prayer with them before they left and I told the youth to behave, but I feel like perhaps I should pray for angels to surround the adults. When all is said and done, they will return with many stories of jokes and pranks and good times that will cause them all to be closer with each other and hopefully, closer to God.
So to end this very short blog, please pray for our youth and the leaders who took them. If you don’t believe in prayer, then buy the upcoming video, Youth Gone Wild, featuring youth from our church duct taping youth leaders from our church to various utility poles all around the Myrtle Beach area.

February 14, 2012

Shepherd Leadeship

by pastortimfowler

This weekend is our church’s big annual leadership meeting. We meet informally several times a year in smaller groups, but once a year I like to get everyone together for a pep talk and brainstorming session. Leadership is a not something that comes natural for most people. In our society we have cultivated a mentality of followers where leadership is an idea or an object is the driving force. You see it in the push to accept culturally relative issues like views on marriage and religion. In our political realm we are being lead by class warfare and guilt trips rather than desires that help all.
Churches have fallen into a mode of leadership voids that do not reflect what God intended for us. We have committees and groups that tell the pastors how they should act and popularity contests that elect our deacons and elders. We have lost the God given authority of leaders to a more comfortable group format. An old pastor friend of mine once said this. “In nature, where there is more than one head on a creature, it is a freak. Where there is no head, it is either a worm or dead.” Is it any wonder our churches are looked upon with such low regard by society?
The biblical leadership example given in the Bible for those who would lead God’s people is most always the shepherd. Sure there were kings and dictators, but that was not by God’s design. Even those kings that were most revered by God were those who were first shepherds, like David. Jesus is called the Good Shepherd. We are His sheep. Sheep do not form committees and have power struggles with their shepherd. They do trust the shepherd and submit to his leadership.
A shepherd is the one who is responsible for the well being of the flock. If he fails at his job, the whole flock can be lost. You can sum up the shepherd’s job like this. He is to provide a safe healthy place for the sheep to live and reproduce. The shepherd does not reproduce sheep. Sheep do that. But in many churches the people have somehow gotten the idea that their job is to find someone who will grow the church for them. Meanwhile they can eat and relax inside the comforts of the building and not have to worry.
A shepherd leader knows his sheep. He does not ask them if they want to eat from this pasture or the other. He leads them to the best food. He does not ask them if they want to drink from the stagnate pool or the trickling stream, he takes them to the good water. He does not let sick sheep infect the entire flock. He may have to carry one or even remove one from time to time to save the whole flock. And the shepherd does not have to ask his sheep if they want to reproduce, because healthy sheep like to do that and do it naturally.
The leader that God wants will lead the sheep to where they need to go. Protect them from any dangers. He stays in the field and is always alert for threats that want to sneak in and kill or steal. A shepherd often smells like a sheep and rarely smells like a king. And no king is ever loved by the sheep like the shepherd is loved by the sheep. Sheep trust the shepherd because he is who leads them with their best interest at heart.
I love teaching our leaders this philosophy. They seem to get it. Maybe that is why our church is seeing people bring their friends to church and to Jesus. Shepherding is not easy, but is very rewarding. One day the shepherd will meet the King and my prayer is that the humble shepherds will hear the King say, “Well done!”

August 31, 2011

How Long Does It Take?

by pastortimfowler

Have you ever seen someone who a few months ago was doing really well and today they are hardly recognizable as the person you thought that you knew? What I am talking about is the type person that use to come to church, was very active in worship and serving and seemed to have their act together, and one day they just quit coming. So you run into them and they have began to live a lifestyle that has no resemblance to who you knew them to be just a little while ago. How does this happen?
Today I finished reading 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament. It chronicles the time in the Jewish history after the period of judges up to the captivity of the Babylonian empire. In short summaries we hear of each king and their actions and how their rule effected the people of Israel. Those kings who followed the ways of God and passed that on to their people were blessed and the nation was blessed and those who did not follow God’s ways brought on misery for the themselves and the people.
Because these are short summaries of each king’s reign it often looks like a rapid decline in morality, when in reality things progressed over a few years, but from time to time you could see the fall take place within months. In these cases the kings before them who tried to follow God, often forgot or refused to destroy the places where idols were worshiped. They would try to make people happy on both sides and play church when it was convenient and please the idol worshipers when that was convenient. As a result, when a king would come in behind him who did not follow God at all, the fall of the people happened very fast and often in months.
Becoming a Christian happens at the blink of an eye. The very moment that we repent and accept Christ as Savior, we become a Christian. The growth of Christians takes time and effort. We must build new habits and tear down the things that are not pleasing to God. Often times we will leave those bad things alone and just try to build our Christian faith around it. We do all the right things and ignore those that are counter productive to our growth. Often in this period of Israel’s history, a new king would come along and try to restore things to God but leave the idols and their alters in place. The effort was always full of conflict because it is easy to worship something that does not hold you accountable. Idols don’t, God does.
God wants us to tear down and destroy the things that distract us from following Him fully. If they are destroyed they can’t tempt later. But the people who fall away, like I mentioned in the beginning, are those who usually just tried to build around the old ways and not get rid of them.
There is no way the we can ever live a totally sinless life as long as we are flesh and blood. But the Holy Spirit in us does allow us to continually work toward holiness. We do need to build new ways into our lives. We need to lay a new foundation and use fresh, new material that God provides. But often before we build we need to spend time doing a bit of demolition. We must tear out the old foundation and things that our lives had been built upon. God is giving us a new foundation in Jesus Christ.
So when you see someone who has fallen away and it seems like they have only taken a short time to fall a long way, remember this. God wants the old stuff destroyed, not moved around or built around. He wants us to start over with newness and build on one solid foundation, not covering up the old one because we like it too much to get rid of.
I tell my staff all the time that we are all closer than we will ever want to admit to falling into our old ways. I warn them and they warn me of things of the past that need to be torn down and gotten rid of. I encourage you to take a few minutes in prayer and ask God to play building inspector and look around to see if there might be some things you need to work on. I surely don’t want to run into you one day and see you in a broken mess and wonder, how long did it take?

August 26, 2011

Just Talk To Me

by pastortimfowler

Copyrighted photo  http://www.flickr.com/photos/ithicuspictures/2852196227/

 

I had the privilege of sitting in on our Thursday night Lady’s Bible study last night. It is one of the perks that comes with being the pastor. The study was on how to have and effective prayer life and the discussions were interesting and thought-provoking. You would be amazed at how much women can talk when they get together.
When I was a new Christian I use to love listening to the old deacons of the church pray. They had the deep voice and spoke like they were from England only with a southern accent. They would say stuff like, Thou art holy and righteous and henceforth we must be cleansed of our unrighteousness and go hither to over yonder, thus saith the Lord for ever and ever Amen, or something like that. It sounded good and for the longest time I was obsessed with reading Shakespeare and the King James Bible so that I could pray like that.
As I read the Bible more and more I got the feeling that I was not getting this prayer thing right. God was talking to me through His word, and if I did not use the KJV I could get some plain English from God, and, I never really understood why God wanted to talk like that to begin with. The guys that Jesus chose to follow Him back then did not talk to Him like He was in a stage production. They just had a conversation with Him. They would talk, He would listen, then respond and so forth, hither to…(LOL). I got to thinking that maybe our prayers that we hear so much in church are not as much talking to God as they were a speech for others to hear.
It was about 15 years ago that I heard this man praying at a conference that I think I started wanting to quit giving speeches and start talking to God. It happened a couple of times before I got it, but he would start praying and it sounded as if he had just quit talking to the audience and started talking to someone else, God. I did not even catch the fact that he was praying until I looked and saw that he had bowed his head. Then I realized that was how I spoke to my wife, with head bowed in reverence, and he must be talking to God. So I started trying to talk and not sound different. It as hard, but something about it felt good.
Later, like about 2 years ago, I learned another really cool thing about prayer from someone else who prayed different from the rest of us, my grandson Nicholas. He would just switch gears and talk to God as if He was right there in the room with us. Once he heard me tell my wife, with my head bowed, that my back hurts and I wished it would stop because the next day I had something to do that hurt backs did not mix well with. Nicholas looked at me and asked if he should pray for me. I said sure, and he did. “Jesus. You heard that Papa’s back is hurting and tomorrow he needs it to feel better, so when he wakes up, please make it feel better. I will be sleeping in Mimi’s bed and he will be on the couch, that way you will know where his back is. Thanks” Then he continues talking to everyone else in the room. I am glad he told God where I would be that night because strangely enough my back felt better the next morning. I have heard him pray about any number of things and it always seems as if he is talking to someone right there with him. Maybe that is because God is always right there with us and not sitting up in heaven waiting for us to sound all holy and old.
For a Christian we are told that God is our Heavenly Father and we have been given the right to call Him Daddy. The only time I ever talked to my dad with Victorian English I think I remember getting whacked and told not to be a smart a–. Most of my conversations with dad were right there, right now and real. I talked perfect southern English, much like I do today, and dad understood and responded like a dad should.
God wants us to pray. Prayer is modeled in the Bible over and over. Most of it is a man of woman talking to someone they love. It was not in Victorian English or any other English, it was translated from the language of that day. I think that when we are told to pray without ceasing and to pray about everything, God is saying…Just talk to me.

July 12, 2011

I Need Your Prayers

by pastortimfowler

I feel very blessed to have people as wonderful as my church folks in my life. I have so little to complain about and even when I do have stuff I try to keep them under wraps. I am constantly reminded of how fortunate I am and I know that God has blessed me far more than I deserve. From time to time I get feeling overwhelmed at how awesome God is and how I deserve nothing as amazing as my life is.
It is hard to follow such statements as I just made with a prayer request, but I do need your prayers. For years I have suffered with chronic back pain. On good days the pain is like a that of a bad headache and on the worse days it is like having a knife lodged in my lower back that causes shooting pain if I move the wrong way. Normal days it is like a bad toothache and few things help to give any relief. It effects my sleep because being in any one position for too long hurts, so sleep is rarely more than an hour uninterrupted.
That said, I don’t want sympathy. I can function and have learned to accept it. But I do want your prayers because it sometimes wears me down and in times of spiritual battles and stressful situations this can be a challenge. Now is one of those times. There are many things happening that require my focus and Satan is masterful at taking advantage of our weakness. One thing he can’t defeat is the prayers of God’s people.
The Apostle Paul had a physical problem that He wrote about and God told him the His grace was sufficient. Paul accepted that and I do too. But Paul also knew the power of prayer and often asked for it from those he loved and was not ashamed to do so. Even Jesus asked for prayers in His moments of pain and stress. So I guess I have nothing to be ashamed about, I am in good company among those who have asked for prayer.
Usually, these things level off in a week or so, and I even have a vacation coming up next week. But in the mean time, if you be so kind as to pray for me, I would be grateful.
God is so awesome and He never gives us more than we can handle. We just need learn when to pass some stuff off to others and say, I need your prayers.

April 5, 2011

How to Pray

by pastortimfowler

I am often asked by the new Christians in our church about prayer. I feel good about this since Jesus had His disciples ask Him to teach them how to pray. I know that there are several opinions about prayer out there and I am not writing a thesis, I am writing a blog, so be kind.
Last night we started a men’s Bible study about taking 7 steps closer to God and the first part of it was about prayer. The statement is that to get closer to God our prayers must honor Him. So I looked for scripture that specifically said ‘this prayer honored God” and the closest I came was this:
Luke 18:9-14 (GW)
9 Jesus also used this illustration with some who were sure that God approved of them while they looked down on everyone else.
10 He said, “Two men went into the temple courtyard to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people! I’m not a robber or a dishonest person. I haven’t committed adultery. I’m not even like this tax collector.
12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my entire income.’
13 “But the tax collector was standing at a distance. He wouldn’t even look up to heaven. Instead, he became very upset, and he said, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
14 “I can guarantee that this tax collector went home with God’s approval, but the Pharisee didn’t. Everyone who honors himself will be humbled, but the person who humbles himself will be honored.”

So I subscribe to the K.I.S.S. method. Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Simply confessing to God that we are sinners and asking for mercy honors God more than prayers of telling God how good we are. ALL have sinned and ALL continue to sin no matter how hard we try not to. The Bible says that if we say we have no sin we make God a liar.
Humility is very difficult for people who think that they are special. God’s people are special, but not based on what we do, but based on what Christ did to make us special. Approaching God with a list of accomplishments says look at me. Approaching God not even feeling worthy to be in His presence says that we know that He is Holy and we are not.
The other prayers that I see God honored by are prayers for the souls of others. In Exodus 32:31,32, Moses told God that if He would not forgive the people who Moses himself did not want to live. That honors God. In Genesis 18:9-14, Abraham prayed for God to spare Sodom, a very perverted and sinful city and kept asking God to seek fewer and fewer reasons to destroy them and God never quit saying yes to the request of mercy.
I believe that prayers for the sick, safety for those in harm’s way, and blessings for good works all have a time and a place in our prayer time. But if we are not focused on the forgiveness of sin, then we are not praying a prayer of priority nor are we honoring God in our prayers.
So, if you and when you pray, first learn from the sinner who cried out for mercy and had Jesus say, ‘I like that prayer’ and learn from the times when God was swayed from punishing sin by the prayer of a person who was seeking salvation for others ahead of their own wants and desires.
That is how you pray.