Dedicate your temple

Church, we are in a season of prayer, and that prayer is changing things. Do you feel the wave of power slowly building in and around us? When God’s people pray, the supernatural will be the result. We’ve seen God take our people around the globe, feed and clothe the poor, drill wells, raise 10’s of thousands of dollars, adopt orphans, and it’s only the beginning. What will continually bring God’s blessing and power, and make mountains move with things like Love Denver and the Gospel Life Church plant? Humble desperate prayer. I write this article because it’s what my spirit is dealing with.  I must to be more prayer-filled, prayer-powered, prayer-focused, and prayer-dependant. I must learn to dedicate my temple with all that I am to the Lord in sacrifice and surrender til nothing is left of my puny, selfish desires.

Lying within 2 Chronicles 6 is recorded one of the greatest and most heartfelt prayers ever prayed in the Bible. I think it is a beautiful picture of the way we should respond in the temple where God now dwells; our hearts. From verses 14 to 42 King Solomon cries out to God in a prayer of dedication for the new temple. Please take a moment to grab the Word and read this incredible prayer.

Although this was mainly a prayer of dedication, I believe it was more. When you look at how he wraps up his prayer, “And now O Lord, arise and enter this resting place of Yours…”.  It shows you that Solomon was asking for God Himself to fill the temple with His presence, glory, and power. And God did just that.  He heard and he answered Solomon’s prayer, and with fire and flashing light He filled the temple in all His glory. After Solomon dedicated the temple, and after the celebration was over, the Lord answered Solomon in chapter 7. “I may shut off the rain for a time, and I may send plagues upon you and your people, but if My people called by My name will humble themselves, seek my face, and repent I will heal their land and forgive their sins.”  Then about the temple God promises, “I will hear every prayer made in this place, I have chosen this temple and set it apart to be my home forever. My eyes and My heart will always be here.” 

How awesome would it be if this were the daily cry of worshippers everywhere? When is the last time you woke up and immediately dedicated yourself as the Lord’s temple, which is your heart and body, to his purpose and glory for that day? As God promised Solomon, there will be times in our race for him where there will be no rain, or times when we’ll be plagued with the pressures of life and ministry. But if we will be faithful to always call upon Him first, humbling ourselves, admitting our need of Him, He will always deliver, restore, and strengthen us. Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer is the interruption of personal ambition.” Don’t ever forget the power of pure, humble prayer. If you truly desire for God to bless you and your homes, drop your personal ambitions and pray! Ask Him to arise, enter, and fill your heart with his presence, and He will do it. I’m learning this even now. It is incredible that God promises this, “I will hear every prayer made in this place, I have chosen this temple and set it apart to be my home forever. My eyes and My heart will always be here,” to every believer who will just humble themselves and pray. From the depths of my heart you can be assured, that’s what I want!

Let Him Enter,

Bobby

Engaging in the battle

One of the greatest ways we engage in the spiritual battle for the Kingdom of God is through prayer.  There are a lot of things we do or have done at Providence that are good, Christ-exalting activities, but nothing engages the kingdom of darkness in this world like prayer does.  It’s easy to forget that the world in which we live is the battleground between God and the devil and his angels.  Satan wants nothing more than for us to focus on smaller kingdom things like just growing our church, or being a nice neighbor, or even attending a good Bible study.  All those things are well and good, but they are small.  They aren’t kingdom of darkness piercing activities.  It’s easy to get distracted by politics, or our career, or by video games and entertainment, or even our own troubles and tribulations.  The enemy doesn’t care how we are distracted from the battle, they just don’t want us engaging in world-changing stuff…like prayer.

Jesus’ vision for the church has always been that it would be a force that would engage the darkness of this world and overtake it with the gospel, in the spirit of love, and through the power of prayer and obedience.  His words in Matthew 16:18 ring out reminding us of this truth when Jesus tells us that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church.  Gates were always used as a defensive measure for a city or kingdom.  This means that Jesus expects us, His church, to be an offensive force against the kingdom of darkness in this world.

I don’t know about you, but most of my church experience has been a “let’s not lose too much ground to the enemy” kind of thing.  Today begins a great battle for our church.  Today we engage the enemy because prayer is really all about the power of God.  When you and I pray, we are essentially saying, “God, I can’t do this.  We can’t do this.  We need
you to show up and move like you have done in the past.”  Our labor in prayer really shows our depth of faith in God.  We can say we believe that God can do great things, but prayer is the evidence of that faith.  So far this year as we’ve prepared to launch Gospel Life Church, we’ve raised money, some have volunteered to go help start it, and we’ve made a general commitment to help.  Now is the time though, when we cry out to God to be faithful to His promise to “build His church”.  Now is the time to see mountains moved.

As we engage the enemy in prayer, there is the very real likelihood that you and your family will come under spiritual attack.  I don’t say that to frighten you, but to call you to resolve not to stop when you do.  We have no reason to fear though because we know that Christ has won the victory for His kingdom through the cross (see Colossians 2:13-15).  1 John 4:4 aptly says that greater is the One who is in you, than he who is in the world.  The heat may be turned up in your life over the next 40 days, but so will God’s power and grace.

I want to end with a passage of Scripture that Paul writes as he concludes his letter to the Ephesians.  We all may be familiar with parts of this letter as it talks about the armor of God, but look how Paul ends that section in vs. 18.  I’ve highlighted it for special emphasis.  Here’s what it says:

Ephesians 6:10-18 – Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor. Then you can stand firm against the devil’s evil plans. 12 Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world.

 13 So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can, you will still be standing.

 14 So stand firm. Put the belt of truth around your waist. Put the armor of godliness on your chest. 15 Wear on your feet what will prepare you to tell the gospel of peace. 16 Also, pick up the shield of faith. With it you can put out all of the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Put on the helmet of salvation. And take the sword of the Holy Spirit. The sword is God’s word.

 18 At all times, pray by the power of the Spirit. Pray all kinds of prayers. Be watchful, so that you can pray. Always keep on praying for all of God’s people.

40 days of prayer

As our church gets ready to plant Gospel Life Church, we’ve embarked on a 40 day journey of faith to cry out to God to do something big in us and through us.  The 40 days of prayer begins this Wednesday, August 1, which is 40 days from the launch of Gospel Life.  Just in case you missed getting the materials on Sunday, here’s a rundown of all 40 days.  Click on the link below to open the 40 days pdf.  You can download it if you’d like to keep it on your desktop or print it for use.

40 days of prayer

Let’s labor on our knees for the glory of our God!

 

Laypeople and the Mission of God, part 1 — Killing the Clergy-Laity Caste System (by Ed Stetzer)

This year our church has been on a mission to rediscover church.  Purging long held ideas that are more cultural or traditional than biblical can take time.  Here’s a great article that I would love for everyone in our church to read.  This one idea will help revolutionize church for you.

Ed Stetzer – Laypeople and the Mission of God, part 1 — Killing the Clergy-Laity Caste System.

(Ed Stetzer has been writing about church planting for years, and it was one of his books that greatly influenced me to plant a church 6 years ago)

When the gospel takes you to Latvia and back

Today’s post is from Scott Beierwaltes, one of the elders at Providence.  Scott and Katie and their family have been on an amazing journey over the last 6 months through their adoption of a young man from Latvia, Andris.  I’ve asked them to share what God has been doing in their lives over the last few month and what He has taught them through their experiences in Latvia.  Here is Scott’s story:

I pray that this post clearly communicates just how amazing our God is and how blessed we are to be His.  Any bragging you may sense as you read our story comes with a humbleness of knowing that the great peace and joy we’ve experienced is not due to anything we’ve done, but purely by the grace of God that He would bless us so richly and beyond anything we deserve.

Wow!  What an exciting ride it’s been these past 6 months as God placed a powerful sense in me, and then in Katie, to reach out and connect with Andris days before he left to head home to Latvia after spending 5 weeks here as part of a host program.  

What’s been interesting to me is that it has never seemed like a burden or sacrifice.  I would have thought that along the way, at some point, we would feel overwhelmed by all the various challenges and as we overcame them to feel pride in our accomplishments and what we’ve overcome.  Instead, from the moment we connected with Andris at his host family’s home, everything has felt very natural and normal.  Peaceful.  From our communication, to our feelings for each other, to all of the various hoops and expenses related to the adoption process … it’s as if God has supernaturally paved the way and provided us just the right amount of momentum.  That momentum carried us all the way to Riga, Latvia for most of the month of June.

We arrived in Riga with the sole focus of bringing Andris physically into our family after many months of Facebook chats and the occasional call or video chat.  On the second day we were formally approved by the Latvian orphan court and made the drive out to the Children’s Home where Andris lived.  Seeing Andris in person after so many months apart brought great happiness!  Similar to the anticipation felt during pregnancy and then the feelings of intense joy when a baby is born, we felt similar anticipation and the rush of excitement the moment we saw Andris and hugged him.  From that day since we continue to be blessed as we all get to know and enjoy each other.  It’s been such an amazing experience to see and experience God’s handiwork.  For reasons beyond our understanding, God chose now to be the time to finally bring us all together.

One aspect of this experience that I’m grateful for has been the opportunity to rely on God.  Realistically, while I’d love to be able to say that we’ve always relied on God each and every day, it’s simply not true.  Way too often, typically without even realizing it, we’ve made decisions based on what we wanted to do and believed was possible. This was, and continues to be, completely different.  Initially, we didn’t even think about adopting Andris.  Not because of anything about Andris personally, but more a feeling that our lives were already full.  God changed all of that in an instant when He placed in me an undeniable sense that we had to connect with him.  At first, it wasn’t clear what exactly that would mean, but I shared those feelings with Katie who didn’t even blink before agreeing to connect with him before leaving.  Unbelievable.  A busy mom with 4 young children, yet God had prepared her to be open minded to what He might have for us.  God gave us both the desire and then also the sense that He would provide for us all along the way.  So, even though we knew in our minds that practically it would be very difficult (i.e. very tight deadlines due to his age, high financial costs with zero money budgeted, and 4 kids under the age of 8) we also had a clear sense that if we trusted and relied on God that He would provide for us.  And He did!  

We learned to focus on one day at a time.  To spend time with Him in the morning praying for that day and not just for Andris, but also that our love for God would deepen and from that He would change us to love others in a way beyond anything we could do on our own.  During those times, I was reminded that the good news of Jesus isn’t just for the unbeliever, but for everyone.  I learned to remind myself and thank Jesus daily for living a perfect life for us to follow, for incurring the punishment for sin that we would have all otherwise suffered, and then rising from the dead and living among the people to prove that He was who He said He was.  Reflecting on that Gospel message repeatedly dramatically increased my feelings for Him.  As the feelings and dependence increased, the more I want to share that with people.  The more I want to live the type of life that will bring Him the most glory and fame.  He deserves it!  The law, or description of how we should behave, is our guide.  Not that we can come close to doing it all in our power, but it serves to show God’s perfect standards and to plant seeds in our hearts and minds to bear fruit when opportunities arise.  Our realization that we fall short of how God intended us to live should serve as an opportunity for us to seek Him and the forgiveness bought for us by Jesus on the cross.

In remembering the Gospel and literally begging God to change me and overcome my inherent selfishness, God has blessed me with a deeper love for Him and others, as well as a desire to look for “divine appointments” to speak of His goodness.  One awesome answer to prayer is that God has given us a story to tell.  I prayed for months pleading with God to give us stories to tell people about Him … after a few occurrences of sharing the adoption news and our story, I finally realized that this experience was a direct answer to prayer.  Not just for me, but also for Andris who prayed for a large family to adopt him.  

God is amazing and has blessed us so richly!  I feel like we’re just scratching the surface of what God has for us.  The more we let go, follow the Bible, seek forgiveness, and put our trust in Him … the more I believe we’ll experience the fullness of life and ultimately the pureness of heaven.  

Take the gift of today, and everyday, to fall on your knees and thank Jesus for all that He’s done and humbly plead with Him to change you and instill in you an undeniable sense to boldly follow Him.

May God bless you and keep you close!

Living on Mission with God through jiu-jitsu

Over the last month we’ve had some within our church family spread out over 3 different continents to share the gospel of Jesus and live out their lives on mission with God.  I’ve asked some of them to share what God did in their lives through their experiences.  It’s important to remember that every person who went is just a normal person that has allowed a supernatural God to use them.   All of these stories are simple, yet powerful reminders of how God can use us everyday to take the gospel to our world.

The first person to share is Luke Amos.  Luke went down to Buenos Aires, Argentina last month through the invitation of a local missionary to use jiu-jitsu as a means to take Jesus to those outside of the church.  His story is a great example of how God can take a regular sport and turn it into an avenue to share the gospel.  Here’s Luke’s story:

 Argentina was much more than I could have imagined and/or expected!  I returned home to North Carolina on Friday morning, after making my flight from Buenos Aires TEN MINUTES before they closed the door for boarding.  *Thank you, Javier Ojeda, for coming back to help me, even though I told you to go home.  I would have missed my flight otherwise!  I won’t spend the time explaining the entire story, but let’s just say that the traffic (and drivers) in Buenos Aires might be worse than those in Washington DC…quite shocking.  I really want to make this short, but I’m not sure how it’s gonna be possible.  I’ll do my best…
 
God was good and protected me the entire week from chaos.  Although I wasn’t scared, I did pray for physical protection.  The number one concern for the Argentine people in the city of Buenos Aires is what they call “security”.  This includes kidnappings, carjackings, muggings, robberies and worse.  The missionaries I stayed with, Ron + Chris Self, have been robbed 13 times in 30 years.  This includes scenarios which are much more violent and terrible than I want to describe in this email.  The bottom line is that God clearly protected me during this trip and I am thankful.
 
The week started off with my arrival coming in the morning, much like my arrival back to the states.  I’m not fond of the red-eye flights, but that’s life.  As soon as I got there, I met Ron Self and we had about an hour trip back to his home.  We had a great conversation about the city, the economy, the church, mission boards, and general mission work both in Argentina and in other countries.  Although I had known Ron a bit, I hadn’t had a long conversation with him before this.  I was very impressed with his wisdom and endurance, despite an extremely tough 30 years in Buenos Aires.  I know for a fact that most people (probably including myself) would have left the field long before 30 years…seeing and experiencing that things his family has.  You should know that leaving Argentina has NEVER crossed his mind.  For those of you who know Ron, you understand that this isn’t just talk.  He and his wife plan to live out their lives there, unless God has other plans.  I got a chance to have many great talks and laughs with Ron and Chris throughout the week.  I really learned a LOT about many aspects of life.  I’ll just say that I really hope to see them both again in the future.  God used them to influence my life, even if I only spent a week with them. 
 
When we arrived at the Self’s home,  I felt very much at home and very welcomed.  Javier Ojedo soon came to greet me and take me out for the night.  I also met his very sweet daughters Cynthia (21) and Jana (16) at this time.  I got to spend quite a bit of time with all three of them over the week, as the girls are both black belt instructors in Tae Kwondo.  Javier and his wife Laura are the owners of the four Tae Kwondo-Martial Arts schools in Buenos Aires that initially desired to have someone with a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu background to come and teach at their schools. I was able to see the main school that night, and watch a bit of one of the kids classes that was going on.  We also visited a market, where I purchased some items for my family. 
Javier dropped me off at the church that evening, where they had a “guys night out” that included many of the 18-35 men in the church.  We had a great night of getting to know each other, playing video games, talking about Jiu Jitsu and eating some home-made cooking by my interpreter, Javier Fernandez.  I had communicated with Javier before the trip started because he is heavily involved as a leader in the church.  He has also trained  BJJ for about a year and wants to continue to learn more.  We are about the same age and got along great.  I was quite exhausted from the long trip and day.  I hope that the guys there didn’t think I was a bum, but Javier Ojeda came back to take me home around midnight.  The guys stayed about past 1:00…typical for the average Argentine person, but not for this wimpy American. 
 
The next day, Ron Self and I followed the whole crew of TKD and Jiu Jitsu people to the camp where many local TKD instructors would be sharing a weekend of learning leadership and organizational skills taught by Ron.  He shared the Gospel in each of his presentations and the people were very receptive.  I taught four seminars over the next couple of days.  I also got to spend a good amount of time with both Javiers.  I also spent some time with Juan Marcos, who is an instructor, leader at the church and boyfriend of Cynthia.  Juan Marcos is a very funny guy who loves the Lord and really went out of his way to make me feel comfortable. The BJJ seminars went very well and the instructors seemed to love the techniques.  I was able to share much about my life and about the Gospel after each session.  Everyone was very receptive and attentive while I spoke.  The respect that I was shown was very humbling.  Between Ron’s classes and my BJJ seminars, many people who didn’t have a relationship with God were immersed with His Word and His teachings.  When it was time to leave, many of the instructors thanked me and we exchanged email addresses/Facebook requests.  I didn’t expect to see most of them again, but many ended up coming out to the upcoming free seminars in the city during the (Monday through Wednesday) week. 
 
Monday through Wednesday evenings, I got to share the Gospel and teach BJJ.  The seminars went very well and once again the people were very receptive and respectful.  There was a great energy in the school during these classes.  The students seemed to LOVE Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, an art which most had not seen before.  Each night, I would share the Gospel from a different perspective because some of the same people came all three nights.  By Wednesday night, we had almost 50 adults and 30 kids in the (separate) classes!  After we took pictures, I once again exchanged email addresses and Facebook requests with many people.  I intend to stay close to many of the friends I met and continue to share God’s love with those who don’t know Him.  Javier, Laura and several others showered me with gifts of gratitude for sharing my life and teaching the students some BJJ.  I was extremely humbled and grateful.  I tried to explain that it really WAS God who did everything during the week.  I simply taught an art that in reality, won’t mean anything when it comes to the Eternal Kingdom of God.  What will matter is what we DO with whatever talents God gives us.  Javier and Laura definitely understand this. 
 
The trip was a great success because many either heard the Gospel for the first time, realized they needed to change something that was happening (or not happening) in their lives, received a book about eternal salvation, or were encouraged to keep building relationships with those who don’t know Jesus.  I say this not because I was able to do these things.  I wasn’t.  God chose to use this sinner (ME) to spread his fame to a part of the world that needs it.  I couldn’t have done it by myself.  God was truly with me (as He always is) during this trip.  His presence was felt in a way that I hadn’t experienced before.  It’s hard to explain, but I know one thing…
 
I WILL be returning to Buenos Aires if the Lord allows it, and  I WILL maintain the relationships that were made with the people in the church and those who don’t yet know Christ. 
 
I want to thank the Selfs, Javier + Laura, Cynthia + Jana, Juan Marcos, Javier + Emmanuel Fernandez, Gustavo and his family, and many more Argentines who showed me love and kindness during my trip.  God used you in ways you will never know.  I will be praying for you until I see you once again.  I truly feel that I have known you guys my whole life.  Thank you for everything, I love you guys!!
 
I could go on and on about stories and more feelings on the trip, but this is already much too long (sorry).  God has changed my life through this experience and I trust that he’s changed (or will change many others).  Pray that I stay focused on doing the same work here in the United States.  I KNOW that is what God desires of me!

Can you love your church too much?

Yesterday was one of my favorite days as a pastor.  Part of it was the fact that we had 4 orphans from halfway around the world at our gathering.  To see families love those in need, not because they earned or deserved it, but because they chose to love these children, was an amazing testimony of the gospel bearing fruit in our hearts.  Part of it was the God-centered, Christ-saturated worship of our service.  Part of it was hearing the stories of 6 people whose hearts and lives have been transformed by the power of the gospel and seeing them immersed under water to identify publicly with their Lord and Savior, Jesus.  Part of it was also the fellowship afterwards and seeing the bonds of love that have grown over the years and seeing new ones created; all because of a common Savior.

Yesterday was special.  And I almost ruined it by loving my church too much.  Have you ever met anyone like that?  They believe that the center of all of God’s working is within their 4 walls.  It’s so easy to make something really good into an idol that takes the place of God in our hearts.  And it can happen so subtly.  Now I am the first to admit that many don’t love their church enough or at all for that matter.  But when we see the good things and the God things happening within our faith community, we can forget one simple, powerful truth.  All these amazing things that are happening are not because of us.  It’s not that our church community is better than another because we are inherently better.  All these things are happening because of God.  He is the one who is moving.  When anything good happens, we must realize that it’s because of the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us.

I love my church.  I feel blessed and privileged to serve as an elder, but all the praise, all the glory, all the credit for what happened yesterday goes to Jesus and the power of His gospel.  I think when we keep loving the One who makes all of this possible, we will not be tempted to create another idol in our hearts, even when the idol is something good like the church.