Talk to God -or The Individual?

In a very good conversation I recently found myself commenting that on plenty of occasions I’ve found prayer for a person to be more effective than direct talk. I also recalled a number of situations through the years, especially early-on, when my…

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In a very good conversation I recently found myself commenting that on plenty of occasions I’ve found prayer for a person to be more effective than direct talk.I also recalled a number of situations through the years, especially early-on, when my wife joined with a few loving, trusted friends and rather than confront me directly on a point (which had been done several times with little success) they simply prayed for God to touch my heart, mind and attitudes in such a way as to bring about real enlightenment (mine!), repentance where needed and true character/behavioral change. And it worked :)The longer I live, the more the Lord convicts me about thinking and praying far more than direct confrontation.Mind you, there are those times when our leadership team ask me to deliver the difficult news (and of course we all get our turn).This is part of a leadership calling which is anything but fun -but there are times when it falls to me as to most anyone in such service to God and people.ALL of us get defensive, some (at certain times, or if the message is delivered not to our liking) are more defensive than others. Of course some smile a bit and act as if they’re listening but will not deal honestly with the issue in question. Often the thinking is “I’m right, you’re wrong, why do I have to listen to this” and that’s the end of it in a person’s own mind.But neither I nor anyone reading this has ever thought such thoughts, right?!In other words, we avoid change and few of us like confrontation, even those that God either calls for or allows to help bring needed change in our life.We each have the component of free will and only when God the Holy Spirit convicts and one is willing to accept the truth- sometimes ugly as it is about me or you- only at such times will a real spiritual transformation take place.I’m of course aware that some simply read the Truth in the Bible and apply it, or read a devo, hear a teaching, attend a seminar, conference or get counsel in another form, but relational person-to-person ministry is clearly a scriptural part of how we hear truth, learn to accept and apply it to our life.There are a number of great tools godly Christians may employ to help their brothers and sisters encounter God, hear His voice for themselves, grow and change.At times I (or you, perhaps) are -not- the person to bring the information to a particular person, couple or church.Fine! Really. Why?God is perfectly capable of bringing His sure Word to anybody, and He’s not bound by His church (people) as to whether He’s able to bring that Word no matter how numb, thick, even outright self-centered and rebellious they/we may be.He IS sovereign.At the same time as stated above, the Book is loaded with direct preaching, teaching, writing of letters and other means of person-to-person ministry to individuals and groups.Sometimes we’ve wronged people in our delivery, timing or even re. the facts of the situation. Nobody is mistake-free in communication… and I mean nobody.Sometimes we may have been (put bluntly) “casting pearls before swine”. A hard word, but one Jesus spoke to His disciples. There are those who just will not face up to what the most basic verses of Scripture mean in terms of their own need to deal with sin. It does not always matter who, how or when the truth is delivered, they are just not ready to face God or themselves. It’s important to not take it personally if at all possible, for if such is the case their beef is not with the messenger, but with Him. Returning evil for evil doesn’t edify anyone.Jesus tells us that the prodigal “came to himself”. A “self-revelation” with any truth in it comes from the Lord. When that happens, self-awareness and a real sense of humility, perhaps even remorse and despair can move us towards God and His people rather than into hiding or fighting and lashing out.But it can go either way and of course, does.I and many reading this have often found intensive prayer for a person, couple or group is the best way to lovingly serve them.Indeed, this can be a cop-out with you or I simply wanting to be liked and seeking to avoid difficult communication, issues and people. It is also, at times, the very wisdom of God to intercede for a person and watch God move.There are those who enjoy challenging, rebuking people. Believe it or not, I am not one of them. But I have learned that the real point is to be loving and consistent in prayer for those I don’t believe I can or should personally talk with.Certainly there are those in ministry “who have been burned”. I hear it all the time all over the world- from leaders nearly as often as congregational members. Guess what? ALL of us have burnt and been burnt. Yes.So what do we do? Withdraw? Hide out? Pretend “the elephant in the room” isn’t there? Quit ministry because of the pain involved?It is at this juncture that some should speak, some remain silent and all pray, pray and pray for God’s wisdom and grace. Often the good stuff happens by our talking with godly people who love the person(s) in question, who know the Word of God and who perhaps have a closer relationship to the extent they might accept good input from them.We must each and all check our own motives as well.Is my/your thinking, position on the matter, attitude toward the person(s) sourced in God’s loving care for them… or is it irritation, frustration at something in them you just don’t like? Is it a Bible doctrine, theological disagreement, is it methodological? Is the idea of direct discussion simply to get your way and ultimate control in the relationship or regarding the issue?One must humbly ask one’s self such questions. Love and truth are the key and must be the key focus.Prayer. Honest soul-searching. More prayer. Genuine care for the person is first of all expressed to God as it is His very own concern.As I age, I find I am no more happy about confrontation than ever- but I’m a great deal more apt to pray, be quiet or say far less than I think I know. I am working at being a much better listener and of course, trust the wisdom and gifts of others to minister to folks when I should not or cannot.Yet prayer is THE thing I do more for those who seem to be in need. They may never know I was even involved in such ministry to them. The point is spiritual growth, forward movement toward Jesus and His Word applied in a person’s life.In the end, it’s God “truthing in love”. Sometimes… sometimes, you and I are called to do it as well, but let’s not neglect the grace, power and effectiveness of prayer as opposed to direct talk.Thanks for stopping by! -Glenn

The Sum of Godly Advice

Many years ago I came to a conclusion that I’ve found helpful as well as painful with regard to offering advice. People have often asked my opinion about all sorts of things- their personal lives, marriage, ministry, on and on. I learned as many h…

Many years ago I came to a conclusion that I’ve found helpful as well as painful with regard to offering advice.People have often asked my opinion about all sorts of things- their personal lives, marriage, ministry, on and on. I learned as many have that not every one who asks really wants input. Certainly there is a time to be silent or simply keep the reply basic and above all non-threatening (at least sounding!) to the individual. But sometimes there is no way around the tough answers.Early days of ministry I took people at face value. That is, I thought they really wanted an un-varnished, straight answer. Over time I realized that some did, some did not. Sometimes what they want is an honest, biblical (to the  best of our ability of Bible knowledge and experience) reply while other times what they want is to feel good about the answer.Sometimes they already  know the answer they want and unless you can affirm the same to them, you get into trouble.Town after town, church after church, ministry group to group I have been approached by both leadership and non-leadership from congregations of all sorts. Again and again I ask if they are praying, humbly attempting honest face-to-face discussions about the issues that at times separate them, or applying Matthew 18 principles or if they are rather looking for me to “side” with them this way  or that.But the key issue is the  Word of God connected with the truth of individual motives, goals and intent to love, unify under the lordship of Jesus and to serve others… or rather, demand (as one did before Jesus) “Lord, tell my sister to get in the kitchen and help with the serving”. Of course, Martha had a heart for the Lord too, but she was ticked at Mary and simply wanted Jesus to affirm what she wanted.One boil-it-down key for me is simply this: can I in good conscience before God help you get what you want or not? If I can, I will. If for what I believe to be scriptural, honest reasons I cannot, I cannot. Sometimes that makes me the great friend… sometimes it makes me the enemy.While all of us want to be liked and respected, I cannot sacrifice what I believe to be honest, biblical input simply to maintain the status quo. At the same time, there are people and times when silence and a great deal of prayer serves both them and myself better than direct answers- even though I may have a strong sense of what the most solid, true, needful answer might be for them.Not mere knowledge but wisdom, discernment and timing are all part of the process.God help us feed the sheep with love and grace and by all means to encourage one another when we can! God give us grace to take the heat when affirmation of a given desire is not what seems to be on His agenda.Sometimes love speaks. Sometimes love remains silent. God is faithful all the time- and notice that He Himself sometimes speaks to us and at other times refrains from speaking –whether we like it or not. The issue is what -He- knows is best.I don’t pretend to always know what’s best for anyone, including myself. What I do know is that God’s desires must be tended to first and last, not mine or any other’s.For God… IS God.

Meet The New Boss

The title of this blog is comprised of the beginning of a line from the Who’s hit song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The conclusion of that line was “…same as the old boss.” Years ago a brilliant cartoonist named Walt came up with a line in his Pogo…

The title of this blog is comprised of the beginning of a line from the Who’s hit song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. The conclusion of that line was “…same as the old boss.”Years ago a brilliant cartoonist named Walt came up with a line in his Pogo newspaper comic strip- “We have seen the enemy and he is us.”I often quote Buckaroo Banzai (crazy, silly movie somewhat worth seeing:)- “Where ever you go, there you are.”Then I fondly recall Jean Vanier’s brilliant one-word reply when asked what the biggest problem he had with living in community: “Myself.”I recently find myself reading through and interacting with a couple blogs regarding the state of the church.I believe it fully true to say few commenting on the issues in both blogs have traveled and heard the issues I have from all sorts of local and denominational congregations over much of the world these past 38 years. And I hear it from those in leadership/supposed leadership positions and equally from those not in any sort of influential position, the everyday congregant.Both threads have garnered very honest, good and in my view, well-thought out points related to doing church differently, escaping the institutionalized- read that ungodly/dysfunctional- church and just not looking back.Forgive me if I pop the balloon, but none of this is new.I have called off and on, for a reformation among Christians for most of my life. I think the Holy Spirit continually calls for it in MY life!So- coming from what might be considered a huge small group or living in intentional Christian community which is much like a large gathering of small groups who worship, study, serve and play amongst ourselves and also interact serving those throughout our neighborhood and in fact, many places throughout our nation and world… I can say with complete sincerity there ain’t no structure nor leader, group of leaders nor gathering of those banishing the term (leader) who live sinless lives. NOBODY gets it right all the time.While I truly appreciate people looking for a genuine experience with God and/or authentic Christian community and/or who think the term Christian should be dumped and/or who struggle with hardcore right-wing politics or gay bashing or (fill-in-the-blanks), the idea that ANY structure or lack of one will solve what ails us is chasing windmills in their dreams…I’m not saying don’t try to do church or your Christian life, missions or personal or group discipleship a fresh way- not at all! I’m saying full-on knuckleheads and rather mature, godly Christ-followers exist in every and all places, structures, forms, intentionally organized or disorganized local fellowships! Is this rocket science? Not at all.From countless conversations at all levels of Christ-seeking gatherings I have heard the cries, and I truly mean from both leadership and non-leadership spheres.What I worry about a great deal is the sometimes tragic fall and extended misery of the person who seeks something (even “THE CHURCH of ALL CHURCHES!!!”, that is, landing in their own concept of doing it RIGHT) and still find the emperor (often themselves, at times, others alongside them) sits as naked as can be. I worry about the crash of those who never plant themselves and face their own personal baggage.It’s just so clear from my own experience and as I read through both Testaments that human nature is what God says it is.By the way, Bono and others have long ago distanced themselves from “typical” church involvement… this just isn’t anything new!Meanwhile I do believe too many work too hard in their focus on either institution X, Y or Z, just as some do small group or house church, emergent or emerging church X, Y or Z. Don’t we get it? As a dear friend recently wrote in one of the blogs I mentioned, it’s about character and fruit. Yes, it always HAS been!The problem is that we can spend forever debating how to somehow cooperate with the Holy Spirit/foster (or both) biblical, godly change in ourselves (first… please!!!) and others (make disciples, not merely converts), while someone must explain to me how one or two hours per week of ANY style are going to accomplish such a task?We give God, His Word, His mature people so little time. We expect this or that or a different form to do the trick. I just don’t buy it and have never seen it.What I HAVE seen over and over are individuals, families and large portions of all sorts of local gatherings of Christ followers (and I do mean followers…) with character, fruit and gifts that put myself and most of us to shame. There just isn’t a biblical template (read that, denomination, independent typical church, house church, whatever sort you care to name) or mold commanded in the scriptures. Why not? Apparently we care a great deal more about it than God does.Let me ask a few questions that may help sharpen our focus a bit:-IS the Lord adding people who are coming to saving faith in Jesus daily, weekly, monthly, ever- in your Christ-following gathering?-ARE you (any/all of you) directly involved in teaching people of all varieties to obey whatever Jesus has commanded you/us/all, that is, are disciples of Jesus Christ being made in your chosen Christ-focused group?-DO you sincerely find growth in yourself regarding: a greater desire for fellowship with Father, Son, Spirit, His Book, confession of sin, communion (Lord’s Supper), and deepening prayer and authentic worship?If not, you need to seek God for some personal changes and pray, graciously encourage and model change within your chosen assembly -regardless the style or form of church.If the answer to these three questions is more on the positive side, carry on and don’t fret too much over the shape of the transport- you/your local family of Christ-followers are doing a great deal right whether you realize it or not.

Forward Progress

-a wider view- One of my ongoing burdens for others is the exact same as I have for myself -namely, “forward progress” as a disciple of Jesus. Not literal perfection, not fully sinless behavior, but forward progress in right and deepening relation…

-a wider view-One of my ongoing burdens for others is the exact same as I have for myself -namely, “forward progress” as a disciple of Jesus.Not literal perfection, not fully sinless behavior, but forward progress in right and deepening relationship to both Jesus and others.There are a number of great roads that lead to such progress. I want to unpack this a bit more rather than simply suggest more regular prayer, study of the Word of God, person-to-personal accountability and various spiritual disciplines. These are certainly essential pathways but there is more to consider.As an older dude who has walked alongside some very godly, gifted leaders for many years- in fact living in intentional community with them- I realize I’ve been blessed far beyond most believers with balanced and practical spiritual input. But that in itself does not guarantee genuine maturity.”Knowing” is not “doing”, and neither knowing or doing are “being”. Note also, the “ing” in these. Forward progress involves motion, not mere memorization of information alone.In terms of the Christian life it’s not about rote or habit but authentic, intentional loving relationship and sharing as well as serving via those gifts God has endowed us with.But there’s so much more to consider.Neither those who pastor me nor I, expect or believe we’re somehow “better than” or “above” ANY other Christ-follower. Gifts, leadership or not, nobody but Jesus is Jesus!! We’re all flawed, only see part of the picture.In fact, one of the reasons we have always linked with so many different Christian churches and eventually joined the Evangelical Covenant denomination was for more input, not less.One thing that drew us to the Ev. Covenant was a very common tendency of our preachers and teachers to quote an increasingly wide variety of voices from a very broad spectrum of the larger Church, past and present. JPUSA leadership has done likewise from our origin.It is important to recognize how needy we all are and continue to be. As one understands how blessed the larger church is, how most any fellowship has been really gifted and positively used by the Lord in areas we’re still infants in, we learn from them.Of course there isn’t an individual or group of them who are literally perfect and mature in every area.The point is that both the Lord and any serious Christian recognizes my/our/everyone’s need for maturity, for at least occasional marks and evidence of forward progress.It’s also important to consider individuals, groups within a local congregation, an entire congregation or larger association of churches often have very different areas in which this or that specific growth is needed.The question must be “WHAT areas is the Holy Spirit calling me or us to progress in during this season?”Which area or areas is God Himself accenting for growth?Another aspect bears thought:more and more believers are traveling the world whether in ministry, business, tourism or for other reasons. The more one travels, reads, interacts on the internet and etc., the more one begins to gain insights into a world far larger than their own personal life, family, town/city, nation, local or larger association of churches.I believe this is not only good but extremely important IF one learns that there are strengths and weaknesses in everyone’s life, congregation, ministry center and so on.The beauty of moving outside our “norm” of the familiar is that about the time we have built and entrenched ourselves in whatever spiritual “box”, we meet some incredible people and see biblical, fruitful servanthood in a new way, from another angle. Often, God is calling us to apply elements of someone else’s fresh approach (fresh to us anyway) locally. Not always, but certainly at times.There are lots of days I pray the daily office, and/or read an online Tozer, Oswald Chambers or Our Daily Bread or Hazelden’s 12-step devotional and just have to laugh at the wisdom and timing of God speaking to me through such varied sources.He speaks as I pray and listen, as I read His Word, as I hear Him via my brothers and sisters (younger, older, pastors, my wife, various accountability partners), and via a wide range of devotional writers.As I travel I hear a new song, hear a sermon or teaching, get into a conversation, simply overhear one and the Spirit often says “O.K., Glenn… take this in and pray and consider… I’m nudging you on this point.”Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks in that “still, small voice” and thankfully, not as often HAS to come as “a rushing mighty wind” ha… but in either case, paying attention and seeking Him in order to make some sort of spiritual progress is a good thing.We must remember forward progress often takes much longer than we expect it to. How often we think “I GOT it Lord!” when all we did was hear it?! Certainly He takes us all another lap around the mountain at times, for we are all a bit thick.Oh the patience and grace of God! But praise Him, He knows how to speak to us, when and about what.May the Father help us each make progress… beginning with careful, Bible-based “ears to hear” Him speak.