The New Pastor's

BASIC TRAINING MANUAL

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CONTENTS: Part I - The Call, Part II - The How-to, Nuts and Bolts, Part III - 117 Devotionals for Pastors
The Call to Preach - 19 Devotionals
Prayer - 19 Devotionals
The Word of God - 20 Devotionals
Spiritual Warfare - 20 Devotionals
Effective Ministry - 19 Devotionals
Evangelism - 20 Devotionals

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The How-to, Nuts and Bolts, Practical Basics.

by

Ed Wrather



This brief manual is a result of my own experiences in learning the down to earth basics of the pastor's work. Having become a pastor at the late age of 40 I bought all of the ministerial handbooks, but none of them had the real basics in them. I have written this manual in the belief that other beginning pastors have the same lack of knowledge. My hope is to eliminate much of the unnecessary frustration and anxiety by making available this practical information.

This manual is written from a Southern Baptist perspective. Also, it is written from the perspective of a pastor whose pastorates have been in Oklahoma. In communication with other pastors across the country, I know that from region to region specific customs and procedures vary widely. However, there should be much valuable information here for any evangelical pastor.



PART I
THE FUNERAL BASICS

One of the most difficult things that I have ever done was to preach my first funeral sermon. With each funeral it became easier to prepare and to perform the tasks necessary.

The second funeral in which I was responsible for the message/sermon, was for an eighteen year old girl who was killed in a traffic accident along with a friend. The funeral was held in the local school's gym with over 1000 people in attendance. The night before I struggled with the preparation of the message. After pausing for prayer the words seemed to flow out and in a brief period of time the sermon was ready.

The day of the funeral began with preparation of the church facility for the funeral luncheon (My first pastorate was in a small rural community.). The family arrived for the funeral luncheon shortly before noon and I greeted each person as they arrived. When the meal was ready I led in prayer asking the blessing on the meal and strength/comfort for the family as they went through the rest of the day.

As the family visited and finished the meal I went to the school. At the school facility I checked preparations and the public address system we would be using. Time was made for private prayer requesting God's empowerment and presence. I then met with the pianist, vocalists, and the pastor assisting. Together we prepared an order of service.

Through God's empowerment and help in every way, the funeral service and every aspect of ministering to the family went perfectly. Afer that experience, funerals have been much less difficult and I have been able to see them as opportunities to minister and share God's Word.

A few short years later, still in my first pastorate I had another funeral experience that I will never forget. A dear faithful lady in our church was murdered by her nephew who had been one of my clients while I was a parole officer. For several days it was not known what had happened to her. We only knew that she was missing. I helped the family to put together flyers and helped to distribute them. Each day I maintained contact with the family and tried to assist them in every way possible including helping to organize and participate in a large scale physical search of the community. Eventually her body was found and I went with the family to the FBI office where the news was broken to them. Just the presence of a minister seemed to alleviate some of the heartbreak.

Prior to my church member's death, we had begun an intercessory prayer group and she was one of the first to participate. One of her primary prayer requests was for the salvation of her son. After the funeral, several days later, I was able to approach her son and lead him to the Lord. Within a short period of time her son and son-in-law had been baptized in our church.

Through the funeral experience you can become closer to a family and minister more to them; than at any other time. The minister is given a high privilege from God to be allowed to touch lives in these times of grief. I am no longer frightened by the funeral experience, instead I am awed by the power of God to intervene in these situations. I am amazed and humbled to see God use me to soothe the souls of the grieving. God will use you as His ministering servant if you will seek His empowerment and give Him the glory.

The service without anyone assisting: (Note: Prior to the service and in ministering with the family you should have as much contact with them as they desire. The funeral message should be personalized for each individual sharing information about their lives along with sharing God's Word. Just prior to the service, if possible, a visit and prayer with the family will make everything easier for them and for you.)

1. Take your place on the stage 10 to 20 minutes before the scheduled starting time for the service.

2. When the usher begins to bring family members in for seating, have everyone stand in respect. This can usually be done simply by standing yourself and raising your arms.

3. The order of Service (varies-this is one which is used often.)

Song
Obituary
(Note: Just prior to reading of the obituary I usually make a statement that such as: "We are gathered here today to remember and to praise God for ...." Of course for a lost person and on other occasions the statement will need to be tailored for the specific situation.)
Scripture Reading (optional)
Prayer
Song
Message
Prayer
Song
(NOTE: Songs are optional and can be positioned where the family or song leader believes appropriate or where you believe that they are appropriate. Also, I have used many different orders of service and have been in services that varied widely depending upon the desires of the family. The concerns and desires of the family should always be carefully considered.)

4. After the service is completed, rise from chair and walk slowly to the back of the church. Pause to allow time for the funeral director to push casket short distance behind you.
(NOTE: In some churches, localities, and situations the casket will be opened for viewing at the front of the church. You will then at the conclusion of the service take your place by the casket there at the front.)

5. The casket is usually opened for viewing at this time as the people file out of the church. Stand at the head of the body to shake hands with those coming through the line that desire to do so.

6. After the viewing has been completed lead those carrying the casket out to the hearse. It may be that you will need to open the door of the hearse for placement of the casket. Often you will be able to ride in the hearse to the cemtery and this can be convenient.

7. At the cemetery, again lead those carrying the casket to the burial plot. At the burial plot stand at the head of the body if possible. Be careful where you step and stand. I have read stories of pastors falling into the grave.

8. Allow time for the family to be seated and for others to arrive before beginning the committal service. Sometimes the funeral director will indicate when it is time to begin.

9. THE COMMITTAL: This can be a time for a few personal words if desired but they are not necessary. You can simply read a passage of Scripture such as the 23rd Psalm and close with prayer. The families' condition, the weather, the individual, other factors and primarily the leading of the Holy Spirit will determine what is appropriate at the cemetery. I have seen some very elaborate cermonies at the cemetery after an elaborate cermony has been already performed in the church. We must remember the family and especially elderly members in the family when planning this portion of the service.

The service when assisted by another minister:

1. Usually the duties will be divided. One minister will read the obituary and lead in the opening prayer (Usually the assisting minister's duty.).

2. The minister giving the message will take the lead and the minister assisting will help out as requested.

3. At the cemetery, usually, one minister will read Scripture and the other will pray. Both may say perosnal words of comfort or comment in regard to God's Word.

4. At the conclusion of the service at the cemetery it is usually possible to go by each family member and give individual words of comfort/encouragement.

The Graveside service:

1. Allow time for family members to be seated and others to gather. The funeral director may indicate when it is appropriate to begin.

2. Begin with prayer, or a hymn, or simply by reading Scripture.

3. Bring a short message. Five minutes or even less may be appropriate in some situations.

4. Close with prayer. Shake hands with the seated family members and say personal words of comfort that may be appropriate.



PART II
THE LORD'S SUPPER
(From a Southern Baptist Perspective.)

The Lord's Supper is one of the two ordinances of the church. Baptism is the other ordinance and before participating in the Lord's Supper, a person should be saved (Receive Jesus as their personal Savior/be born again.)and baptized. As for who actually participates, this varies widely from church to church and I leave it to the individual after discussing the instructions given in Scripture. I stress that the Lord's Supper is a time for self-examination and confession of sin. Also stressed is that if we are not in a right relationship with others than we should not participate until the relationship has been mended or at least we have attempted to do so. 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 makes it clear that the Lord's Supper is very serious business.

The Lord's Supper is symbolic, we participate in it in remembrance of what our Lord did for us. This is much like the participation of the Jewish people in the Passover, it is so they will not forget God's deliverance of them from the death angel. The Passover celebration is symbolic. When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper it was at the Passover time and Jesus presented Himself as the Passover Lamb. He would be the One whose blood would save forever everyone who believes in Him. Eternal punishment passes over all those who receive Jesus as their Savior.

The Lord's Supper basics:

The pastor will usually meet with the deacons prior to the worship or at another designated time. The purpose of the meeting is to make sure everyone knows their positions during the service. While I was serving as a deacon in a large church it was very helpful to me to have this time to know where I was to be in a large facility. It is helpful to know as a deacon which aisle you are responsible for and who is responsible for which sections of the balcony and so on. You will want to make sure one of the deacons is assigned to serve the pianist, organist, nursery workers, etc. After everyone is sure of their responsibility, close in prayer.

2. After the invitation, have the people to be seated. You can say something like this, "Please be seated as we prepare to observe the Lord's Supper. Will the deacons please come forward." You will take your place behind the Lord's Supper table facing the people and the deacons on the opposite side facing you. In a larger church it may be that you will hand the elements of the Supper to the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Deacons (Or others designated.) and they in turn will pass these elements to the other Deacons. When the church has 30 or 40 or more Deacons this will be a necessity.

3. If the elements (bread/crackers and fruit of the vine/juice) are covered with a cloth, two of the deacons will carefully fold the cloth. (There was once an extended discussion in our state Baptist paper about whether the elements should be covered or uncovered. It seemed to be that the covering of the elements grew out of a time when services were held outdoors, or windows were open in the church building. I personally like to see the formality of the covering of the elements and of the deacons folding the cloth. But it is a personal preference.)

4. If the bread is covered with a lid, carefully remove the lid and sit it on the table. Ask one of the deacons to say a prayer. You can say something like this, "__________will you say a prayer of thanksgiving for the bread, which represents our Lord's body which was bruised for our sins on the cross."

5. After the prayer, carefully pick up the bread holder and hand it to a deacon or deacons (There may be several bread trays.) who will serve the people.

6. When the deacons return, they will hand the bread holders to you and you will carefully place all but the last one on the table. You will need to keep holding one so that you may serve the deacons. After you have served all of the deacons, have the Chairman of Deacons hold the plate and serve you. Then you will again take the plate and place it on the table. Pick up your Bible (Which you should have open to the appropriate passage.) and while holding the bread in the other hand read a verse of Scripture (Such as: 1 Corinthians 11:24) and then eat the bread.

7. Repeat the process above for the fruit of the vine or juice.

8. When asking a deacon to lead in prayer, you may say, "__________ will you say a prayer of thanksgiving for the juice, which represents the blood of our Lord which was shed for our sins."

9. After everyone has been served, including yourself, read a verse of Scripture (Such as: 1 Corinthians 11:25) and drink the juice.

10. Next read another verse or verses of Scripture (Such as: 1 Corinthians 11:26.). Then, you can have everyone join hands around the table (Yourself and Deacons) or join congregation in forming huge circle or join hands across the aisle. Dismiss in prayer yourself or ask someone else to say the dismissal prayer.

11. Instead of closing in prayer you may decide to use an optional text Mark 14:22-26, and close by singing a hymn such as "Blest Be the tie," or "Family of God." When singing a hymn many believe that to be true to the Scripture that you should go out in silence to mark the seriousness of the occasion. It seems to be rarely done nowadays (Going out in silence.).

There are many variations and special worship services that may be planned around the Lord's Supper. However, the above is a basic service that I have used again and again while I have served as a deacon and which I now use as a pastor.



PART III
THE BAPTISM

Baptism is one of the two ordinances of the church. Baptism is a public testimony of what has already happened inside a person's heart. Baptism should only be performed after a person has received Christ as their personal Savior (Has been born again.). Baptism is performed in obedience to our Lord's Command in the Great Commission. We are being obedient in performing the baptism and the candidate is being obedient in following the Lord's will for their life. Baptism is a picture of a burial and resurrection.

The Baptism basics:

1. Meet with candidate prior to baptism to explain meaning and mechanics of baptism. Obtain permission from parents or guardians before baptizing children.

2. Baptism may be held at any place in the service. It may be held at the beginning of the service or at the end. The baptism may be in the morning service or the evening service or at any other specified time appointed by the church.

3. If the placement of the baptism is at the end of a service (Which is done frequently in small churches, rarely, if ever in larger churches.), after the invitation, ask the candidates to prepare for baptism. Have the music director to lead in hymns as you and the candidates prepare.

4. You will enter the baptismal waters first. If desired you may briefly address those in attendance explaining that baptism is an ordinance of the church and it is a public testimony and done in obedience to our Lord's command. The repeating of the first part of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) would be appropriate.

5. Ladies are usually baptized first.

6. After the candidate enters the water have them stand sideways to you facing to your right (I'm right handed!). Place your right hand under the candidates hands which will be extended to about water level. Raise your left hand as if signalling a left turn with palm open (The open palm will be toward the audience.).

7. If desired you may say a personal word about the candidate's salvation experience. Then say, "Because of your profession of faith in Jesus and in obedience to His command I baptize you my brother (or sister)," say their first and last names, "in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

8. Place your left hand on their upper back, this will be a signal for the candidate to raise their hands to hold their nose, or to cross their arms across their chest. (Some believe that it is inappropriate for the candidate to hold their nose as they are representing a burial. However, the practicalities of the matter is that holding of the nose keeps a person from being choked by the water especially going into the water backwards.). With your right hand hold onto their right forearm and gently push backwards. The candidate should have previously been instructed to fold at their knees leaning over backwards at this point. The candidate should be pushed under the water until completely covered. As the candidate is going backwards into the water you may say, "buried with Him in death to sin." As the candidate is rising out of the water with the gentle pressure from your left hand, you may say, "raised to walk in new life." You may then say "God bless you" to the candidate as they leave the waters.

Recently on a TV bloopers show I watched as a pastor attempted to baptize a lady and there was not enough room allowed. So, the ladies' head was slammed into the side of the tank. She was placed under the water but I'm sure that she had a hurting head and she and the pastor never forgot that baptism!

9. After all the candidates have been baptized you may turn to the people and say, "And all the people said__________," having them say "Amen" loudly. Next ask someone to dismiss in prayer (If at end of service, if not the song leader may lead in a hymn at this point.)



PART IV
MISCELLANEOUS MINISTRY HELPS

Weddings:

An appropriate greeting to be used during the first part of the ceremony is to say to those gathered, "On behalf of (say bride and grooms first names) I want to welcome you today. Your presence here demonstrates your love and support for them."

At the end of the ceremony, after the new husband has kissed his new wife, you may say, "I present to you Mr. and Mrs. _________." After they have left and if there is a reception to which all the guests are invited, you may say, "On behalf of (say their first names) I want to thank you for coming and invite you to the reception which is being held at_________."

In order to legally perform weddings you will need to register your ordination certificate with the county court clerk (or similar agency in your state.).

Hospital Visitation:

In a small church the pastor will be expected to visit regularly all church members who are hospitalized. In addition, you should visit if possible, the close relatives and friends of church members. Those who have been attending or who are prospects should also be visited if they are hospitalized. If you are in a small community, you should try to visit anyone from your community that is hospitalized.

When members, etc. are having a planned major surgery, try to be present prior to the procedure to have prayer with the patient and fmaily. In a small church you will be expected to remain with the family during the surgery and until the patient comes out of recovery.

Counseling:

Counseling with those of the opposite sex or even those of the same sex these days can be dangerous and should be approached cautiously. Counseling should be done when at all possible with someone else close by whom you can trust. If the counseling is done in your study, leave the door open and ask someone to remain close by outside the study.

Pastoral counseling is still of value and opportunities to minister will be missed if counseling is avoided. Prior to becoming a pastor I worked as a state probation and parole officer for several years. In the course of a normal day I would counsel with several people who had undergone traumatic experiences. Counseling was certainly of value to those that I counseled then, and I believe it is of even greater value to those I counsel as a pastor.

The greatest asset a pastor has is the Holy Spirit. Prior to a counseling session and during the session we should be much in prayer. We should be in prayer that the Holy Spirit will minister to the person, speaking to them words of healing and comfort. Each session should be started and ended with prayer.

Perhaps the greatest healing tool of all is to listen. Really listen to the person you are counseling, allow them to pour their heart out. I have rule, that as long as a person is sincere and wants to tell me their problems I let them. You will be amazed at the healing power of listening, especially when this is combined with the almighty power of the Holy Spirit. You see, the Holy Spirit will be working all the time you are listening (And of course, He will also be working while you are speaking.)

If a person is suicidal or their problems seem far beyond your abilities, seek help. It's okay to not have all the answers. Be honest that you don't know everything. I know that I certainly don't and have had to send people on to others or bring others into counseling sessions. In severe cases I have had to have the court to intervene (Through contacting Law Enforcement) to refer people to residential treatment.

Prayer:

For you to be effective as a pastor you will have to bathe everything in prayer. You will need to lead your church to grow in their prayer life. Start an intercessory prayer group, ask people to pray for you and for your church. It's true prayer changes things and if we don't pray very little if anything will happen. In addition, if we don't pray we will begin to self-destruct physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, pray, and pray some more!

Since becoming a pastor I have increasingly learned of the value of fasting. Fasting is difficult for me as I believe it is for the average person. However, fasting seems to get God's attention and as Ronnie Floyd says it is the gateway to supernatural power. Whenever we are facing critical decisions we should include a time of fasting before making those decisions if at all possible.

There is a Korean student here at the college in Weatherford who shared with me about how his home church started out as a very small church until now it is very large. When I asked him about what his pastor did to help bring this about he responded by saying his pastor, "Prays lot." He went on to say that his pastor fasted and prayed beginning on Thursday through the services on Sunday. We also know that in Korea they have a morning prayer meeting every morning at five and on Fridays they pray all night even though most have to work on Saturday.

Sermon preparation:

The best training I had for the ministry was the memorization of God's Word. It is a constant asset when preparing the message and is an invaluable tool while preaching the message. The Navigators have excellent Scripture memory methods which are readily available at most Christian bookstores.

The sermon preparation will be easy or hard depending upon how much time or lack of time we spend in prayer and study of God's Word.



DEVOTIONALS FOR PASTORS


DAY 1

We Know Why

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:13-16.

We know why we continue to have school shootings, work place shootings, domestic violence and all the rest. The situation in the United States is symptomatic of its citizens. The United States says on its currency “In God We Trust.” Yet, at the same time the government tries to strip morality through the separation of church and state doctrine. In the place or religious morality is left some kind of bland humanist nonsense, which tries to justify the lack of morality in the name of human progress. But if we look at the citizens of this country we see much the same. The majority of the people of the United States say they believe in God. They just don’t live it with their lives.

As a result of our lip service to God we have millions of babies being murdered every year in the name of expedience. We call it abortion but God calls it murder. We have violence on television, in movies, in video games, in our homes, in our work places, on the streets, and even in our churches. Our national sport is football and basketball is a close second, which is sometimes like football without the pads. That’s not even to mention ice hockey, or wrestling, or boxing, or martial arts! How could a nice boy who is an honor student and goes to church point a gun at his fellow students and begin firing? Wake up America! We know why! The question is when will we do something about it?

Edward Gibbon in “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” says there were several major causes for the decline and then the fall of the Roman Empire. Here are a few of them:

1. The mounting desire for pleasure and the brutalization of sports.

2. The breakdown of the family and the increase of divorce.

3. The decay of religion into many confusing forms, leaving the people without a uniform faith.

Sound familiar?

This country can change. This world can change. It begins with each one of us. We let our light shine. We become the salt that preserves. We begin with ourselves and branch out from there. What will you do today to make this a better world?


DAY 2

Lover of Souls

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” - I John 3:16.

In 1999, Julia Hill had literally been up a tree for the past two years. The name of the tree is “Luna.” It is an old growth redwood 15 feet across and 18 stories tall. “Luna” is representative of the trees Julia and others wanted to see saved from the logging companies. Julia endured much trying to save these trees. She cooked meals on a propane stove, took sponge baths, used a bucket for a bathroom, and was never completely warm during the winter. To deal with temperatures in the 40s and lower she was wore several layers of clothing. She communicated with the outside world through a cell phone. What she missed most was the ground beneath her feet. Many came to the tree to talk with Julia including Woody Harrelson, Bonnie Raitt, and Joan Baez. For the love of a tree Julia has gone above and beyond what most have ever done before.

We now know what some will do for the love of a tree. What would someone do for the love of a soul? Would they give up the comfort of riches to live in poverty? Would they give up a pain free life to ultimately die an excruciating death? Yes, they would!! Jesus did exactly that because God “so loved the world (John 3:16)” that Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).” True disciples of Jesus have been following His example ever since. Do you have a passion for the lost?

We may not love trees as much as Julia but we ought to have a love for the souls around us. What can we do? We can pray for those lost souls. We can pray for opportunities and make opportunities to witness to them. We can pray for more workers for the harvest fields. We can demonstrate our love through acts of compassion and kindness. We can pray and give to support those who are reaching the lost. Shouldn’t we have at least as much passion for souls as Julia has for trees?


DAY 3

Time For Action

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.’” - Exodus 14:15-16.

Pharaoh had allowed the Israelites to leave after the final plague of death upon the first born sons of Egypt. But then Pharaoh had a change of heart and decided he would reclaim his slaves. He has them trapped between his chariots and the Red Sea. Soon he will either have them as his slaves or will destroy them all. For Moses and the Israelites it is a time of urgency and Moses knows their deliverance lies in the strong arm of the Lord. Moses has been trained by God and given the instrument needed to bring about their deliverance. God in effect says to Moses, “Don’t waste time talking to me when you know what to do. Use the rod I have given you.” Some situations are so urgent that we must pray as we go. In some situations we do not have time for a week of fasting and praying. Instead we must depend upon the instruction in righteousness that we have been given and the leadership of the Holy Spirit as we move forward in action.

John Eliot (1604-1609) is called the “Apostle to the native Americans.” His translation of the Bible into Algonquin was the first Bible printed in the United States. He visited Native American tribes throughout New England. He preached, taught, and baptized. John Eliot once said, “We must not sit still and look for miracles; up and be doing, and the Lord will be with thee. Prayer and pains, through faith in Christ Jesus will do anything.”

Dwight L. Moody was another man of action. Once when he was discussing an idea for outreach with a church leader he asked the man, “What do you think?” “We’ve been aimin’ to do it for two years,” the church leader replied. “Well now,” says Moody, “don’t you think it’s time to fire?”

Has God been speaking to you about something He wants you to do? Maybe it is time to do something!


DAY 4

A Change in Plans

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” - James 4:13-15.

In December 1999, just prior to the morning service I was reminded again of the providence of God. We had made our plans. It seemed as we had set the date that this would be the only time possible for the choir’s Christmas Cantata. So our choir had been practicing and the preparations had been made for the Christmas Cantata to be performed. I had also been preparing. I had prepared for a short devotional message after the program, which was along the same theme. Our plans and preparations had been made but God had other plans.

About 30 minutes prior to the start of the morning worship service I was informed that our worship leader was ill. Greg was so ill that he had to leave which I think was a first for him and us. Our assistant worship leader had called earlier and was also ill and would not be able to come to church. The decision was immediately made to return to the normal order of service. A man who had rarely led our choir would direct it. I had been planning to preach a sermon for the Sunday after Christmas, which was suddenly the only choice for that day. All went well with our service except for a few minor glitches. We all knew that God was at work and there were those present who needed to hear the message that was presented.

Sometimes even our best plans and preparations may be overruled by God. We must be alert to what He wants to accomplish. The Bible makes it clear that we are only here on this earth for a short time. We have only one opportunity to see God’s will be done in our lives. Even though the world calls, the world beckons, the world allures, we must stay the course. The course is God’s plan, God’s will, God’s call upon our lives. Pray for God’s perfect plan, and will to be fulfilled in your life. Pray for God’s call and purpose in your life to be fulfilled to the ultimate degree.


DAY 5

Having A Day Seizure

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” - I Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Carpe Diem meaning to seize the day seems to be a popular theme. One morning things just were not going as I had planned and my mind seemed to be a blank as far as an idea for a devotional. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had not seized the day; instead I had been seized by the day! The day had me in its grips and was using up the minutes.

Usually that is all that happens when we are seized by the day. Time is just wasted or used in good ways but not the best ways. Sometimes the day reaches out and touches us in more frustrating ways. One day a woman in Oklahoma City returned to her parked car to find a ticket on her windshield. Every car in Oklahoma at that time was required to have an inspection sticker. On the sticker were two numbers. One number represented the month and the other represented the year. Her sticker had two zeros instead of one to represent the year 2000. She received a ticket for having two zeros. It wasn’t her fault. She had the car inspected and the inspector had placed two zeros there. She refused to pay the fifty-dollar fine and took off a morning of work with her son to go to court. She won but it was a major hassle including the lost time at work.

We’ve all had days when the unexpected and the abnormal intrude on our lives in unpleasant ways. I have heard it said many times when life gives you a lemon make lemonade. Or, in my case write a devotional about it. “Rejoice always,” Paul says. Even when the day may have you firmly in its grips there is most likely something you can rejoice about. As Christians we can always rejoice about having a Savior so wonderful as Jesus. We can rejoice, we can pray, we can thank God for the day that He has made. When you experience a day seizure take a moment to praise your God.


DAY 6

More Life

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” - John 10:10a.

There do seem to be some moments in time when I have been more alive than other times. Visiting with a young family and the wife does not know Christ but wants to know Him. Seeing and hearing her pray to receive Christ as her Savior, I was definitely alive. Being on top of a little mountain at pre-teen camp with a group of campers. Each one shared when they had been saved. But one had not come to know Jesus as their Savior but wanted to be saved. I was alive leading her to Christ. Receiving a letter from a prison inmate thanking me because he had prayed to receive Christ and how much it meant to him. I was alive with joy.

Jesus came that we might have life. He says in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The bringing of life was not automatic. Jesus was on a mission to seek out and bring life to this world. We as His modern day disciples should have the same mission. Indeed we have a command to do so in Matthew 28:18-20. It is called the Great Commission. Maybe we should call it the Great Command, or the Great Order from the High Commander. The more obedient we are to that command the more life we will have. The more we join with Jesus in the seeking and the saving of the lost the more life we will have.

Want life? Want the abundant life? Jesus says, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Mt. 9:37).” Let us join Him in reaping the harvest and gain the abundant life.


DAY 7

The Intolerant

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and for the Greek.” - Romans 1:16.

When the Southern Baptist Convention published a booklet urging Christians to pray for the deliverance of Hindus from the power of satan there was many who condemned the action. The Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board has distributed prayer guides of a similar nature in the past. Other prayer guides have asked Baptists to pray for the conversion of Jews and Muslims. One Saturday more than 100 people picketed outside of Second Baptist Church; one the countries’ largest Southern Baptist churches in Houston, Texas. A Houston attorney and Hindu, Amit Misra, said “we want all people to understand that religious intolerance is rearing its head in this country.”

Can we be completely tolerant and non-offensive toward all other religions? Yes, we can be but in the process of doing so we will demonstrate that we are ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Peter said about Jesus (Acts 4:12) “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” If we are truly concerned about those of other religions we will love them but will be unmoved by their arguments of intolerance. There will be a price to pay. Stephen (Acts 8:58) could tell you about the cost. Paul could tell you about the cost (Acts 14:19; 2 Corinthians 11:25-27). James, the brother of John could speak of the cost (Acts12:2). There are many others who could speak of the cost (Hebrews 11:26-38) but they could tell you also of the glory of faithfulness (Hebrews 11:40).

Let us not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by remaining silent. Let us make it clear to all nations and peoples that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”


DAY 8

Fear No Evil

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” - Psalm 23:4.

The first medical missionary assigned to Nigeria was Dr. George Green. In 1906, Dr. Green made his way in a small ship up the Niger River. The war drums were sounding. The captain of the ship told Dr. Green, “I can’t let you continue. The different villages are threatening one another with cannibalism. The drums say, ‘we will kill you and eat you.’ Dr. Green, you are a white man and a missionary. If I let you off the boat your life will be in great jeopardy.” Dr. Green’s response to the captain? “I have hundreds of friends in America praying for me. God has called me to this place. I have planned and prayed for this day for many years. I will proceed.”

God protected the life of Dr. Green over the next four decades. During that time he founded dozens of clinics and hospitals. He trained hundreds of medical personnel including 250 surgeons. He lost track of the numbers of people he led to Christ but the total was in the ten’s of thousands. In 1944 Dr. Green furloughed to America for the last time. He said goodbye prior to his final return to Nigeria. Finally he steamed up the same river he had come up 40 years before. As he sat on the deck he quietly thanked God for the many years of protection and blessing. But suddenly he heard a sound he had not heard in many years. War drums! He remembered the war drums of 40 years before. Dr. Green stood and listened. Tears ran down his face. From the villages along the shore he could hear the drums playing, “All hail the power of Jesus name, Let angels prostrate fall...”

The next time the cannibals are about to eat you alive remember to ask for the Lord’s protection. He can take you through the “shadow of death.” He can give you peace for “fear.” He can give you victory. His rod and His staff will comfort you.


DAY 9

Change Your Life

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (imagine), according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” - Ephesians 3:20-21.

In prison Rev. Dr. Hristo Kulichev of Bulgaria says he had no right to read the Bible. His watch and pen were confiscated along with every tiny bit of paper. The only thing they could not take away from him was prayer. He says, “In prison I realized how cunningly Satan works in our lives when we have freedom, keeping us busy with all kinds of things that give us less time to pray.” (From “What I learned in prison about prayer” - Light, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, 901 Commerce, #550, Nashville, TN 37203-3696)

How true Dr. Kulichev’s observation is! Prayer does not just happen. There must be a conscious effort on the individual’s part to pray. Usually, in order to pray something else must be given up to make time for prayer. For us to have a “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” as the hymn describes prayer, what would we have to give up? What would be necessary in our lives for us to have an hour of prayer? What priorities would need to be rearranged?

I read a story in Reader’s Digest (I think the year was around 1984.) written by a woman who began to pray for an hour a day. She had to begin her day an hour earlier to spend the hour in prayer. Her testimony was that it had completely changed her life and the life of her family for the better.

What would it take for you to make a radical decision and commitment to spend an hour a day in prayer? Prison? Some terrible calamity? Dr. Kulichev says, “In prison I realized that we have the mightiest weapon given to us by God. Prayer.”

Want to change your life? Want to improve your life? Want help for your family? Need to overcome a problem, or addiction? If you will begin to pray regularly, over a sustained period of time you will find God will do, “...exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (imagine), according to the power that works in us.”


DAY 10

Be Vigilant

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” - I Peter 5:8-9.

There was a new Christian scandal, which surfaced in the United States a few years ago. The president of conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan resigned. He resigned after his daughter-in-law confessed a 19 year long affair. She has since committed suicide. It is shocking and at the same time so very sad for this family and for this college. This scandal is only the most recent of a continuing saga of well-known Christians to have their immoralities publicly exposed.

Billy Graham has done some research, which reportedly shows at least 90 percent of Christians in the US are living defeated spiritual lives. The scandal at Hillsdale is shocking but does it really surprise us? It should serve as a warning of our own human weakness and fallibility. 90 percent living defeated spiritual lives? Most likely this includes some of us and if so how long before we crash and burn as well?

We must be constantly vigilant of our own spiritual condition. We must be constantly alert against the advances of the world into our lives. We must make a stand. We must put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11). We must take full advantage of all the resources of God (Jesus - Philippians 4:19). We must not neglect the Word, prayer, and the church. To do so is to invite spiritual disaster. To say that we are not susceptible is spiritual pride. Maybe that is why just prior to I Peter 5:8 we are told in verses 5 through 7, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”


DAY 11

Your Nineveh

“So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. The he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.” - Jonah 3:3-4.

When I was in the eighth grade I had the unpleasant experience of attending shop class with a bully. He was a head or two taller than any of us. He had failed a couple of grades and moved to our little school from a large school in California. His name was Gene. Gene’s entertainment consisted of making life miserable for others. Each day he would pick on someone. My turn finally came when he had me down on the ground hitting me and there was absolutely nothing that I could do. Gene moved after that year and I have not heard what became of him. For several years even after becoming a Christian I could have cared less about what had happened to Gene.

Jonah had a problem with an even larger bully. The bully was the evil place called Nineveh. We know the story. The word of the Lord came to Jonah to go and preach in that evil place. Jonah we know refused until he had a little attitude adjustment in the belly of the great fish. The word of the Lord came to Jonah again and the second time Jonah went to Nineveh and there was a great revival. Jonah only had a one-sentence sermon but it was enough to bring the city to its knees.

What was the biggest obstacle to revival in Nineveh? Jonah was the biggest obstacle. One self-righteous person stood in the way of the greatest revival of the ancient world. The word of the Lord came to me about my bully. He has been on my prayer list for many years now. I do not know where he is but God does. Any old bullies, antagonists, Nineveh’s you’re still having bad thoughts about?


DAY 12

Excuses

“Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’” Matthew 17:19-21.

Excuses, many of us have them. We have a reason why God cannot do something in our lives or in some place. Some can’t go to church because they don’t have time. Some can’t read their Bibles or pray for the same reason. But then what would be the point they reason? because they have too many problems for God to help them. Or, it may not be the number of problems, it may be the size of their problem that is too much for God. The result? Little prayer and even less godly living.

We see the same excuse being used in churches of smaller numbers and communities in rural areas. We can pray for revival and expect revival to come in places like Malawi or New York City. But there is no point in asking God to do anything in our small community because it is not possible. I love the story about Blunt Baptist Church in a rural area of eastern Oklahoma. A few years ago they had dwindled down to six members and were planning to soon close the doors of the church for good. They called a retired pastor to help them through those last days of their church. Their new pastor, Leroy Reid, had a different vision. His vision was of 100 people being saved in a year. In six months 100 were saved and in a year 140 people had been saved. Blunt Church still has its doors open.

Do you want to have revival in your life? Do you want to have revival in your church? You can! It all begins with you. The great English evangelist Gypsy Smith was once asked how to have revival. His response: “Do you have a place where you can pray?” “Yes.” “Tell you what you do, you go to that place, and take a piece of chalk along. Kneel down there, and with the chalk draw a complete circle all around you - pray for God to send revival on everything inside of the circle. Stay there until He answers - and you will have revival.” We can have revival or we can have our excuses.


DAY 13

Preach The Gospel

“...woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” - I Corinthians 9:16b.

According to Mission India young people are preaching the gospel in India. India is becoming younger and younger with almost half of their population teenage or younger. Children are reaching children with the gospel. Religion Today also reports that the young people of India are responding to the gospel in large numbers. In the USA we have seen some movement among our young people as well. See You At The Pole continues to be an important event especially in light of the school and other shootings across the country. Young people have been responding spreading the gospel further and further.

How about the rest of us? Are we preaching the gospel? Are we spreading the gospel? In response to violence have we become more isolated or have we moved out to minister to those who are hurting and terrified? What can I do? What can you do? All of us can be a part of the harvest. It may be sowing seeds or it may be the reaping of those seeds. Henry Blackaby in his Experiencing God study says we should look to see where God is at work and then join Him in that work. In the life of those around you where is God at work? If it is not immediately obvious - pray, asking God to reveal where He is working, and how you can be a part of what He is doing.

Woe to us if we preach not the gospel!!


DAY 14

Shocking Kindness

In Galatians 5:22-23 we are told, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance....” The NIV translates gentleness as kindness.

Kindness can be a shocking thing when you are expecting the opposite. Before I was a pastor I was a parole officer. My job was to supervise people who had been convicted of a crime. I used different approaches with different people. Sometimes I was forced to be stern and tough. Other times it would be obvious that I was supervising someone that was broken and defeated. I’ve enjoyed seeing the broken and defeated come back to life as they have encountered gentleness, kindness, and goodness.

Our Heavenly Father enjoys touching lives with goodness as well (Romans 2:4). It could be that you may encounter some broken and defeated lives today. Why not follow the Father’s example and shock someone back to life today with kindness, gentleness, and goodness?


DAY 15

Your Day Is Coming!

Think of the lame man in Acts chapter 3 who was laid at the gate Beautiful so he could beg. He was just begging for alms. He just wanted to survive. Just give me some crumbs he was most likely crying out to the people that passed. He had been doing this for years. I think that we all have a tendency to beg of God give me the crumbs Lord, give me the crumbs Lord and we're about ready to give up and we don't know how we can go on.

That's where this lame man was at. He was where you are, life couldn't get much tougher. He had no hope. No one like him had ever been healed. If someone would just give him a few scraps he could live to beg again tomorrow. But there came a day, an ordinary day, a day like all the others when the servants of the Most High, Peter and John passed by. And the lame man heard these words from the mouth of Peter, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk."

You and I are out there much of the time begging for the crumbs and we have the tendency to think that God has forgotten about us that we might as well give up. It may only be tomorrow, it may only be an ordinary day begun as any other day, when the day comes when God takes you by the hand and lifts you up.

The Bible says that if we humble ourselves under His hand in due time God will raise us up. Joseph humbled himself and he was raised up on what seemed like an ordinary day to become the prime minister of the most powerful nation in the world at that time. Moses spent 40 years wandering in the desert getting a graduate degree in desert survival and he became humble. According to the Bible, Moses was the meekest man on earth. But there came a day, an ordinary day, when he encountered a burning bush that did not burn and Moses walked on holy ground.

Your day is coming too!

DAY 16

Hallucinations

In 1991 at a pastor’s conference I had the opportunity to hear an elderly evangelist by the name of Oakley. I believe it was W. B. Oakley. He told of his salvation and call at the late age of 36. He was a farmer and had not even finished High School. But God called and so he left his family and farm and by bus went to where he could finish high school. When he arrived he was heartsick and planned just to get back on the bus and return home but the bus wasn't leaving immediately.

He looked up the street and saw the spire of a little church and so he went up there and tried the door and it was unlocked. So he went inside and at the altar began to cry out to God. He didn't know how long he had been praying but heard the sound of trailing garments and he heard a voice saying, "I will go with you." "I will go with you." W. B. didn't know how many times the voice repeated "I will go with you." But it was enough. He went to high school and then he went to college and then he went to seminary and then he traveled over the world the rest of his life as an evangelist.

Now when he tried to tell some of his fellow classmates at seminary about his experience and about other experiences he had while still on the farm (like walking around his corn field with his hand up in the air holding the hand of God.). The professor and his classmates said, “Brother Oakley you've been having hallucinations.” Now Brother Oakley didn't know what hallucinations meant so he just said, "Amen Brother!"

Now when Brother Oakley learned what hallucinations meant some time later he said he went back. He said he told that professor if he had been having hallucinations he was praying that God would give him some more.

I believe God would say to you as He said to Brother Oakley and as He said to Joshua, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest (Joshua 1:9).”


DAY 17

Be A Ruth

“And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me and more also, if aught but death part thee and me (Ruth 1:16 - 17).” (Ruth, if you remember, had lost her husband and was facing a very uncertain future.)

One of the people that has had a great influence upon my life is my step-grandmother (Ruth). Her first marriage ended only a year or so after their daughter was born. She married my grandfather many years later in middle age, they had about six good years together until my grandfather's health deteriorated.

My grandfather was unable to work, essentially bound to the house, had a leg amputated with health sliding downwards. Ruth continued to work and faithfully care for my grandfather during these seven to eight years. She eventually remarried but this only lasted for about a year. Now she is in her nineties and living in a mobile home with her daughter (her daughter is a widow). She has had a tough life but, oh, what an example she has been to me, and to many, many others. An example of faith in spite of the bad, in spite of the storms of life, a faith that just keeps on shining through even now. I don't know Ruth's real first name. When she went to school in the first grade she didn't like her name and told every one that she was "Ruth." How fitting!

Most likely if life is tough for you there are those who are watching marveling at your faith. Your life is molding the lives of those around you just as the life of my step grandmother has molded mine.


DAY 18

The Other Cheek

One day a few years ago I was run over by a truck. Not really, it just felt like it!! I thought I was looking after the interests of our church as a pastor should. I thought that what I had wanted was what would be in the best interest of those affected the most. It feels almost like a truck has run over you when a Christian brother or sister does something that is most uncharacteristically Christian and hurts you and others. It hurts even more when there is little that you can do about it at the time but still that human flesh wants to get even.

My first response was that I wasn’t going to let them get by with this, I can cause them trouble. But then that didn’t sound very Christian either. What was it Jesus said? Where was that? Matthew 5..verse...39, “...resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” There’s more! “And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” Here’s the one that gets to me: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”


There is really an amazing thing about giving a situation like mine to the Lord along with all the anger, with all the pain. The amazing thing is you can almost feel the hurt, the pain drain away. I know that God will now use this situation to bring about good which maybe He is already doing through this devotional.

Is there a situation in your life that is causing you pain, distress, anger? Place all of that in the hands of Jesus. Allow the Lord to take care of it for you. When you do that you will find as I did that it makes life much, much easier!


DAY 19

His Thoughts

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Many years ago now the truth of these words were brought to me. We were in Oklahoma City having several things we had to do and things to pick up. One of our last stops was at a shopping mall. I was anxious to arrive there and to be out of the traffic. But it seemed I was continually delayed and nearly every traffic signal turned red just in time for me to stop and wait.

After arriving at the shopping mall we needed to go to the upper level and we headed for an escalator. Just before arriving at the escalator I watched as an elderly lady stepped onto it. She was only part way up when she fell. Her foot seemed to be caught and she was stretched out backward with her head being banged as each step went up. I was able to reach her, raise her back up, and hold her up until another man had arrived and was able to free her foot.

Now I knew why I had been delayed. Our God whose thoughts are higher than ours can see the future and could see this accident happening. He ordered my steps that day so that I would be there at the very precise time necessary. I understand more and more that delays may simply be God working to make the timing right in our lives. I understand too that God is able to order our every step.

Have you been delayed? Are you waiting? It may simply be the hand of God upon your life to protect you or to bring good into your life. It may also be so that you can be a blessing to someone else. “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).”


DAY 20

Tell Someone

His name, let’s call him, AJ. AJ was on probation sitting in my office. If he had been in church you might have thought that he was the preacher’s boy or the deacon’s. Or you might have thought AJ would be delivering the morning sermon. AJ was clean cut, intelligent but he was also addicted. He had been addicted to various drugs since he was 14. This day AJ had all the right answers, he appeared to be fine but inside he was really a very desperate person.

That same night AJ used a gun to blow open the front door to a dentist’s office to steal the drugs he was addicted to this time. The police arrived before he could get away and he was arrested. AJ went to prison and eventually was released and at the young age of 21 high on drugs and alcohol lost control of his car and was killed. He left behind a wife, and a daughter, and a mother, and a father, that loved him very much. They had all tried, I had tried. It could have been different. And yet this was the way a life of great promise and potential had ended.

I’m convinced that my life could have ended at a young age in a way similar to AJ’s. But something happened. My wife told me about a man named Jesus who had changed her life. I thought that I was a Christian but I had never met this Jesus. I talked with a preacher and he shared with me Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” I opened up the door and Jesus changed my life.

Is there someone you need to tell about Jesus before it’s too late?


DAY 21

Blindness to the Truth

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man‘s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the Natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” - I Corinthians 2:12-14.

If you ever go to Greece please do not do any “plane spotting” and under no circumstances let anyone see you writing down the airplane numbers. Eight tourists from the United Kingdom found that out the hard way. After these English tourists were caught spotting planes and writing down numbers they were arrested. Not only were they arrested but they also have been sentenced to three years in prison. Very strange isn’t it but the authorities in Greece will not believe that someone could innocently write down airplane numbers. The Greek officials will not budge from their belief that anyone who writes down airplane numbers has to be a spy. The officials refuse to see the truth of the tourists’ innocent activity.

If you have ever tried to witness to a lost person you may know what it is like to talk to someone who refuses to see the truth. To those of us who are Christians we easily accept the truth of the Word of God through faith. The Spirit of God within us reveals this truth. However, those who are not Christians do not have the Holy Spirit living within them. Because of this they will misinterpret the Scriptures and non-believers will warp the meaning of the Scriptures if they are involved in a discussion. The natural man, the non-believer cannot understand the things of God.

So if the non-believer refuses to see the truth how can they ever come to know God? God is working in their lives to draw them, the non-believers to Him. Jesus says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him (John 6:44).” It is God’s will that all would be able to know, understand, and receive the Truth. Jesus says, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40).”

What should be our response to the refusal of the non-believer to see the truth? Our response should be one of love and understanding of the spiritual situation. We should pray that God will continue to move and work in the person’s life and if possible let the non-believer know that we are praying for them on a daily basis. At the same time we must live out our faith before them demonstrating the love of God. Pray that God will remove their spiritual blindness so that they will come to know, love, and serve the One True God.


DAY 22

Something Better

"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" - Luke 11:9-13.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. - 1 John 5:14-15.

Have you ever wanted something so bad that you could almost taste it? Have you thought it was your heart’s desire (Psalm 37:4) and that God would surely give it to you? Hasn’t God promised to give you what you ask for and what you desire? The answer is that God will not give you something that will be harmful to you. Just as an earthly father will not give a poisonous snake to a child even though he asks for it - your Heavenly Father will not give you something that is ultimately bad for you either.

It has been said that God always answers prayer and that He answers those prayers with a “yes“, “later“, or a “no“. Most of us have heard Garth Brooks’ song “Thank God for Unanswered Prayers”. However, I do believe that God always answers the prayers of His children and that He has an unlimited number of ways in which He can answer. He will answer prayers with a “yes“, “later“, or with a “no“. He is able to answer “yes” in varying degrees; “later”, in varying degrees; and, “no” in varying degrees. God is also able to answer in whatever other way He pleases because after all He is God.

I once had an overwhelming desire to be the pastor of a certain church and I was sure that this was my heart’s desire. I still remember the moment when I went to God in prayer and asked Him to send me to that church. What was God’s answer? His answer was immediate. He spoke in His still small voice, which at the time sounded almost audible and said to me, “I have something better for you.” It wasn’t what I wanted to hear in fact it made me angry with God and it has taken years for me to be able to see that God was right and I was wrong. For me to have become the pastor of the church I so much wanted to be the pastor of would have been like God giving a poisonous snake to a little child. With hindsight, I am convinced that it would have destroyed me.

Now I know that God indeed had something better for me than what I was asking for at the time. Yes, in a way, He said “no” to my prayer but He said much more than “no”. He said, “I have something better for you.” Over the years, I have treasured His promise to me that day being convinced that it would come about and it has been fulfilled many times over. Maybe God has something better for you too?


DAY 23

Reluctant Servants

Moses:

But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?" - Exodus 3:11.

Gideon:

So he said to Him, "O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house." - Judges 6:15.

Esther:

Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: "All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days." - Esther 4:10.

Someone shared with me recently how they had woke up in the middle of the night and being unable to sleep had read for awhile. One of the things that they read was a story about a woman writing devotionals and they were touched by the story. Since I know this person very well that was sharing with me, I know that they have excellent writing skills and a creative mind very capable of writing devotionals, or books, or articles, or just about anything. However, I also know that this person is not writing. I then shared that it sounded to me that God had given a call to write. But they said, “Shouldn’t I have a desire to do that.” In other words, this person did not want to do it.

My response was this: Moses had the call - but he didn’t have a desire to do it. Gideon had the call - but he didn’t want to do it. Esther had the call - but she didn’t want to do it.

In the lives of all three of these individuals, God had invested much training and preparation for the mission He had for them. Moses had received the best education possible for an adopted son of the daughter of the Pharaoh. Many believe he had also received advanced military and leadership training. Moses had then spent 40 years on the backside of the desert receiving his “doctorate” in desert survival skills.

Gideon according to his own account was a “nobody”. He belonged to the smallest tribe in the smallest family in the entire nation and probably believed he was the smallest member of his own family. In other words, Gideon was the very least qualified person in the entire nation to lead a revolution. However, God had been preparing Gideon. Gideon had a unique skill that perhaps no one else in the nation possessed. That skill was the ability to listen. He could hear God’s voice.

Esther had won the royal beauty pageant to replace the queen that had fallen out of favor. As Mordecai told Esther, "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this (Esther 4:13-14)?"

What was the source of the reluctance of Moses, Gideon, and Esther? They feared for their lives! They had a very real fear that to be obedient to God could mean the loss of their physical lives.

What about you? Has God called you to do something but you don’t want to do it? What is the reason for your fear? The possibility that you might be embarrassed if the reaction of your friends is not positive? Or, is it the possibility that you might face a reduction in your income? Or, is it because someone close to you is opposed to what God wants?

It may be that you are thinking something along the lines of “Surely there is someone else that God can use to do this?” God can do that. He can raise up someone out of thin air but He wants you and has prepared you. Please don’t let embarrassment, or money, or immature Christians rob you of the greatest blessing of your life!

CLOSING THOUGHTS

This manual was originally prepared for my son and over the years I have shared it with many others. I hope that it will be of some practical value to you. If I can be of any further help please feel free to contact me at any time. May God greatly bless your ministry!!!

Copyright 1994. 1998. 2001-2004. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. This manual may be copied and distributed on a free/non-profit basis as needed with source noted.

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