Category Archives: Prayer

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Standing In the Gap

The Reenactment

Last week I got to see the reenactment of the occupation of Sandersville, Georgia. It was the 155th anniversary of the battle that left a few dead (not like the 10’s of thousands in other battles), a courthouse burned, and a citizenry who was thankful it didn’t turn out much worse.

In November of 1863, General William T. Sherman and the Union army marched into the Sandersville area, just 10 miles or so south of where I sit right now. A skirmish broke out between some of the advance Union cavalry and the Confederates under General Joseph Wheeler. This led to more fighting and a near-disastrous misunderstanding.

Below is a video I made of the reenactment in the Sandersville town square.

General Sherman (the “march to the sea” Sherman who’s tactics embodied the term “scorched earth”) thought it had been the citizens of the town who’d fired upon the Union troops, and he was furious. He didn’t know it was Confederate soldiers. Therefore, after entering the city, he intended to burn it to the ground.

That was when the Rev. James Anthony, a Methodist pastor, went to General Sherman to beg for the city to be spared.

Changed Feelings

Before I get back into the history of the battle and the main point I want to share, I must tell you about what I felt while videoing the reenactment.

If it had been 20 or 30 years ago, maybe even only 10, I would have watched this display of musketry and role playing as “totally cool!” I mean, you’re talking to a guy who “played army” all of his young years, up into his teens. Seeing all that action, especially that close, would have been awesome.

Yet, as I stood there on the curb letting my imagination get into the act, I was surprised by my sense of sorrow, of fear, and the tears that began swelling up in the bottom of my eyes. From the moment the two horsemen rode into town warning of the impending and unstoppable invasion, to the point where men and boys were point-blank shooting at each other right in front of me, my heart sank.

There was nothing “cool” about this at all; it was utterly sad.

So “country” even the Confederates eat here 🙂

After it was all over, a deacon from our church saw me and invited me to have some tea (sweet, of course) in the little buffet right behind where I had been standing. Sitting there in the restaurant, the surreal scene of muskets lining the walls and “wounded” Confederates eating fried chicken, we talked about what we had seen.

He had felt the same way I did.

He had been standing down around the corner (where the video ended), and he said that when they came around and started shooting at “our boys,” he couldn’t help but shed a tear. He said, “This really happened.”

Back to the Story

So, upon hearing that General Sherman was going to burn Sandersville, Rev. Anthony went to Sherman to beg for the town. He finally convinced him that it wasn’t the people who fired on the troops, but opposing forces that had already fled.

When Sherman heard that Rev. Anthony had also been kind to a wounded Union officer and kept him from being executed, he accepted the pastor’s request and spared all but the courthouse and other government buildings. Sandersville survived because of the brave actions of a pastor who put his own well-being on the line.

To the Point

There’s a lot more to the story of Rev. James Anthony and his conversation with General Sherman. You can read about it by simply Googling his name. But as I stood there in the city square and heard the reenactment of the conversation between Sherman and Anthony, I could not escape the similarity between the Reverend’s name and mine.

I couldn’t escape the following passage that has been a “life verse” of mine for decades:

And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. – Ezekiel 22:30

If only more pastors would stand in the gap!

If faced with an invading army, would I have the courage to risk everything, stand face-to-face with the conquering General, and beg for the lives of my people as Rev. James Anthony did?

Do I not have that opportunity even now?

But on my knees?

It’s war, and it’s really happening. 

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Filed under America, Church, General Observations, Life/Death, Prayer, Struggles and Trials

Let’s Skip the Platt-itudes

The Prayer

By now you’ve probably seen where President Trump made an unannounced visit to McLean Bible Church where the pastor, Dr. David Platt, prayed for him.

You can read for yourself how that Platt and his church were only notified moments before the President was to arrive, so it wasn’t a planned event in order to garner attention. I don’t believe that it was even something that Trump planned on becoming so viral, especially since he showed up with a totally different hair style.

But the prayer, oh my goodness, was a powerful and heartfelt, biblically-sound intercession on behalf of the most powerful leader in the free world. Platt did exactly what any pastor should have done – any Christian, for that matter – with grace and respect.

Click here to watch the prayer and read Dr. Platt’s response to the protesters in his congregation. https://www.mcleanbible.org/prayer-president

The Protests

But not minutes after David Platt prayed, members of his own church – snowflakes resting gently in the auditorium – began to express their disapproval and hurt that their beloved and respected pastor would dare go to God on behalf of (ugh!) The President of the United States.

Yes, even after a God-honoring prayer, along with a calm and clear explanation of what was going on, Platt was hit with protests over what he did. How in the name of all that’s holy is that even possible? . . . If, that is, the members who complained were biblically literate at ALL??

I exhort [that means it’s highly encouraged] therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and [for] all that are in authority [that would include a president]; [Why?] that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. – 1 Timothy 2:1-4

What is there in the above passage that allows for a person NOT to pray for the President? To NOT do so would be to disobey a clear imperative!

The “Apology”

Look, I’ve never been the biggest fan of David Platt, but I am not a hater, either. I greatly respect the man and what he’s accomplished for the Lord and His Kingdom. Therefore, I want to tread very carefully as I write what I’m feeling.

If we take a look at the letter Platt sent out to his congregation at McLean Bible Church, it was a gracious, mature, loving attempt to calm any conflict and keep unity within a politically diverse environment. Believe me, I get it.

However, it’s that one itty-bitty line from his explanation (and not necessarily an apology) that rubs many of us the wrong way…

“I wanted to share all of this with you in part because I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision.”

Based on what I see clearly defined in Scripture, what on earth could be a “valid reason” for being hurt?

IF it had been me – and it wasn’t – I’d probably been shaking in my shoes being on stage with the President. That’s the first thing. But secondly, IF that had been me, and if I’d had the opportunity to pray for Trump, and if I’d gotten complaints for doing so, I’d likely given my own, genuine apology – yes, an apology – to the congregation, and it would have gone something like this…

“Dear brothers and sisters, some of you have expressed hurt that I prayed for the President of the United States of America this morning. Because of your hatred of the man, you could not reconcile your political ideology with the clear commands of God outlined in His divinely-inspired Word. It was either that, or you simply did not understand that 1 Timothy 2:1-4 applied to anyone but Nero, the man who actually used to burn people like us in order to light the streets of Rome. Therefore, I want to apologize to you for evidently not teaching you the whole counsel of God and leaving you with a deficient understanding of Scripture which has left you with hurt feelings at this time.”

Of course, this is probably why I don’t pastor a church like Platt’s. I’m not much for platitudes these days.

 

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Filed under America, politics, Prayer

Sri Lanka Weeps

The Christians in Sri Lanka weep as they mourn the loss of hundreds of precious lives, and pray for the wounded numbering in the hundreds more.

We weep with them. We mourn with them. We pray for the wounded.

But we rejoice in that the victory has already been won . . . The church will not be defeated . . . Jesus Christ has risen!

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning! – Psalm 30:5

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Countries, Culture Wars, current events, Prayer, Struggles and Trials

This Is Why We Struggle With the Enemy

Pastor, preacher, minister, Christian… if we feel like the Enemy is winning, like he’s not even intimidated, there’s probably a simple reason.Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a South African preacher and pastor (of Scottish decent). But more than anything, he was a prayer warrior. Some of his theology may not sit well with all of some of us, but one thing is certain: this man had a heart for God like few others.

The following is from his book Living a Prayerful Life:

The Enemy uses all his power to lead the Christian – and above all, the minister – to neglect prayer. Satan knows that however admirable the sermon may be, however attractive the service, however faithful the pastoral visitation, none of these things can damage him or his kingdom if prayer is neglected. – Andrew Murray (p. 28)

I’m not going to lie – I don’t pray like I should. What a waste! What a sin!

I have preached some pretty good sermons and tried to do all the pastoral stuff, but how much more effective could I have been had I spent more time on my knees and less time at a desk?

What if I spent more time talking with Jesus than talking about Him?After all, the whole reason the disciples called for the selecting of deacons was so that they might first give themselves “continually to prayer…” (Acts 6:4).

Preachers, before you worry anymore about your outline for Sunday, your clever illustrations, or your Power Point, spend some more time prostrate before the throne. If we neglect earnest prayer, we’ll have no power, so what’s the point?

Battles may be lost on our feet, but they are won on our knees.

One finger pointing, three back at me.

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Filed under book review, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Prayer, Preaching

Are You Doing Any Quiet Construction?

Just across the street from the parsonage and the church where I pastor, there’s a house being built where an old one used to stand.

Every morning, and throughout the day, one can hear all kinds of noises coming from that direction, like hammers, saws, and a few unknown tongues. Theses are the common sounds associated with construction.

But what you will not be able to hear are the painters, the finishers, the electricians, and the plumbers doing their work. The loud noises made by the initial builders and framers might be signs something is happening, but much of what must be done before the house is usable happens on the inside … in the quiet.

Meditate on that truth for a while.

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Maturity, General Observations, Prayer

Qualifications for a Pastor (and a reminder for the rest of you)

There are places in the Bible where the Apostle Paul describes the qualifications necessary to be a pastor (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9).

But there are some additional characteristics I think every pastor should have if he wishes to survive until the next Easter service or deacons’ meeting… and believe me, I speak from experience.

This photo was taken at a bi-vocational pastor and wives retreat. These men were gathering around a fellow pastor who’s son who was a drug addict and missing.

Among other things, a pastor should have a thick skin, a broken heart, a humble spirit, and a hope that rests in the fact that Grace is there to pick up the pieces.

As for you, the congregations they lead, be reminded that the only perfect Shepherd was Jesus; the rest are human.

Pray that the light of Jesus will shine through the cracked vessel which is your pastor.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Faith, grace, ministry, Prayer, Preaching

Street of the Week Commercial

With the help of my daughter, Katie, I put together a new little commercial to promote our “Street of the Week” initiative.

We’ve been doing this for a while, so I know it’s really a blessing to people. Sure, we really want to grow the numbers in our little church, but there’s also a need for Christians to show love to their communities, and this is a non-confrontational way to do just that.

Now, when we go out and pray on a street of the week, we don’t just prayer walk – we try to meet people. But what they don’t expect is for use to give them a bag of homemade cookies and only ask if there’s something we can pray about.

It’s soft evangelism, in a way.

If we can show people we really do care, no strings attached, then maybe they will want to talk about eternal things. But that’s a door the Holy Spirit has to open.

Why don’t you give this a try in your hometown? If you want to know more about the specifics of what we do, I’d be happy to share them with you. Just email me or leave a message below.

Like I say at the end of this video, if you would like to make donations to help in this work (or any other that we are trying to do at South Soddy Baptist), you can go to the church website (SouthSoddyBaptist.org) and make a tax-deductible donation via the “Donate Online” link at the top of the main page.

Blessings!

 

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Filed under Church, ministry, Prayer