This week is JBC’s “Five Days of Prayer” and I am getting up every morning this week at 4:30 am to be ready for the start of prayer at 5:00 am. We have prayer for 10 hours each day for the 5 days and my goal is to be at 8 hours each day minimum so I usually don’t head home until at least 9:00 pm. After I get home I write this blog, lift weights for 30 minutes, run on the treadmill for 30 minutes, and ride my stationary bike for 30 minutes. I read 14 chapters in my Bible, memorize verses for 30 minutes, and read 20 pages in whatever book I am reading. I listen to a podcast while I am on the treadmill and I do my reading while riding the stationary bike. I usually manage the schedule fine every 3 months when this prayer event rolls around, but last night our daughter Sally and their 3 kids flew in from Hawaii where they live, so I didn’t get to bed until 2:00 pm. Today I am dragging around feeling like an old man. I did get in about a 30 minute nap at noon so I can be coherent today when I pray. Even though I am feeling very weary today, I work hard at my self-talk so I am rejoicing over the full schedule, the opportunity to pray a lot with people that I care about, and to spend time with my kids that I don’t see much. The worst thing would be to feel sorry for myself or be grumpy to others because of being tired. The cool thing about me is that I can take 5 minute little cat naps all day long whenever it is convenient, all I have to do is close my eyes and I am asleep, it is a gift! I remind myself that God answered Daniel’s prayer in the Old Testament in his “extreme weariness”. It seems to be a law of God that our service to Him on behalf of others is effective and bears fruit in direct proportion to the cost to ourselves. Easy and convenient service, whether it is praying, giving or serving has minimal results, but that which takes great sacrifice like Daniels “extreme weariness praying” results in significant fruit. I like the thought that I am bearing much fruit for God and for others, and the price that I am paying for just five days of little sleep seems more than worth it.
There is so much in life that isn’t just or fair. One of the earliest statements that everyone of our 8 kids said, and then said often was, ” That’s not fair”! It could have been as simple as the portion of food they received compared to a siblings or that they had to bring in fire wood twice in a row, but the point being that being treated fairly was important to them. When Patty and I go shopping for Christmas presents for 27 grandkids she insists that the gifts are within one dollar of each other, otherwise they will feel like they are being treated unfairly. When I travel to Sierra Leone, West Africa where we have started churches, schools, an orphanage, well drilling projects, a Bible College, and businesses for jobs I see so much injustice, but I can’t do much about most of it. In the news there is a huge overdose of information on justice and injustice, but very few are discussing it from a perspective of compassion.
So the Biblical perspective for me and what we attempted to teach our kids as they grew up was, “I will do everything in my power to treat others with fairness and influence the culture of justice and injustice around me to the degree that I can, but I will not be concerned about whether I am being treated fairly by others or not, I will just trust the Lord to be my defender.”
My personal response and effort to influence justice where I see injustice is in my praying that I do;
Luke 18:1& 8 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart……..now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
injustice that has happened in life will be taken care of by the “King of Kings” when every person will stand before His throne and give an account of their life.
Jefferson Baptist Church’s “Five Days of Prayer” started this morning at 5:00 am. We will pray from 5:00 to 10:00 am every morning this week, Monday through Friday. We will also pray from 5:00 to 10:00 pm every evening this week with a “Communion Service” happening on Friday evening at 7:00 pm. We will have dinner served every evening at 6:00 pm so you can come right from work if you like. In this particular “Five Days of Prayer” we are focusing on our missions ministry. We have a major ministry in Sierra Leone having planted more than 20 churches, each church also having a school that is free, we have started a Bible College/Seminary to train pastors for future church plants, our goal is 100 churches and schools started by 2040, we have started several well drilling ministries with over 300 wells drilled so far. We also have 2 large schools in Liberia and we support missionaries in another dozen countries. 30 years ago our missions ministry was very small with not much going on, and now it is huge and growing rapidly. The reason is because of our emphasis on prayer. God’s commission to the church is to make disciples in every nation and when we pray hard, give sacrificially, and go He will powerfully bless.
I am at most of the prayer times every day, and I can’t really put into words the great sense of joy, peace, and security that comes into my soul during these prayer times. To say that I have a spiritual experience during these 5 days of prayer would be an understatement. I have grown in my faith in the power of pray a great deal, and the greater my faith grows the more motivated I am to pray, which in turn brings this inner sense that God is well pleased with my life.
We actually start praying 15 minutes after the hour and take a break of 15 minutes at the top of each hour. During this time people come and go, get coffee, eat snacks and visit. Many people choose not to pray out loud but to listen to those who do pray out loud and agree with their prayer in their heart.
God knows what I am thinking, he is the only one who does besides myself.
Matthew 9:4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?
I have identified several areas of wrong thinking which if not conquered will lead to acting or behaving the way I think.
-Immoral thinking is bad, and Jesus said that mentally lusting after a woman not my wife was as bad as actually committing the act.
-Angry thinking which I used to do a lot of, is where I think about an offense done to me over and over and me getting more uptight about it on each cycle of thinking.
-Self pity thinking is when I think about a bad situation I am in over and over again until I start whining and complaining about my predicament to anybody who will listen and feel sorry for me.
-Bitter thinking is very similar to angry thinking, I meditate about a wrong done to me until it becomes such a big deal in my head that don’t even want to talk to the person who was the perpetrator.
-Judgmental, and critical thinking is when I think very negatively about a person’s performance, accomplishments, appearance, and behavior.
-prideful thinking is when I compete with people in my head and always come out the winner.
-Covetous and discontent thinking is when I mentally complain to myself that I need more money and stuff, and better and nicer stuff.
Leaving any of those thoughts in my mind unchecked will make me a bitter, sad, miserable, grouchy, and unproductive person. The way I conquer any of those thought patterns is by memorizing key passages from the Bible that correspond to each of the negative thought patterns and choosing to set my mind on those verses when I have a wrong thought. An example is when I have an immoral thought I quickly start thinking about 2 Timothy 2:20 where Paul tells Timothy, “If a man cleansed himself from sexual immorality he will be useful to God for every good work”, that is what I want more than anything. Replacing wrong, selfish, worldly, and demonic thinking with Bible verses that I have memorized is a very powerful way to control my thinking.
Psalms 37:8 Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
Proverbs 14:29 He who is slow to anger has great understanding, But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.
Proverbs 16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
Proverbs 19:19 A man of great anger will bear the penalty, For if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.
Ecclesiastes 7:9 Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools.
James 1:19-20 But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
30 years ago I had a major anger problem. I knew it would eventually destroy my marriage, mess up my kids, and possibly end my ministry. I made the commitment to conquer it, to myself, to Patty, and to God. I did 4 things to end anger’s grip on me; (1) In my prayer of commitment that I pray every morning I prayed, “today, Lord Jesus, I will not get angry at anybody, no matter what they do, no matter how bad it may be, and no matter how many times they have done it, I will not get even a little bit irritated. I can’t keep this commitment in my own strength, please give me the strength and self-control to keep this commitment that I am making to You today.” (2) I made the same commitment to Patty by saying to her, “Every time I say ‘It love you’, I am promising you that I will not get angry at you, not even a little bit irritated no matter what you do.” If you hear me starting to get angry remind me of this promise by saying real loud to me, “I love you!” (3) I memorized 6 Bible verses on anger and repeated them out loud 5 to 10 times every day. (4) I gave a weekly report to 4 close friends on how I did controlling my anger.
I can say with total honesty and transparency that it has been several years since I have gotten angry at anybody for anything, not even a little bit irritated. It feels very satisfying to be able to say that. Since that victory I have targeted a number of other sin habits in my life and have conquered them with a similar strategy. All four steps are important, but the memorizing of key Bible verses and meditating on them is what seems to make the others more powerful in my life.
Psalms 119:11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.
Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
Psalms 1:2-3 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
The Disciplines are those practices that we do regularly, mostly daily that result in our growing spiritually, growing in character, growing closer to and more intimate with God, conquering sin habits, and bearing much fruit. They are called Disciplines because our flesh hates to do them, the devil will work overtime to keep us from doing them , and the world thinks they are foolishness, so it will take self-discipline, encouragement from others, and accountability from others to successfully make the Disciplines habits in our life.
Of the different disciplines the most powerful is memorizing and meditating on scripture. It is the most powerful and it is also the most difficult to maintain with any degree of faithfulness. Very few Christians systematically and regularly memorize and meditate on God’s Word. I hear so many people say, “I can’t memorize”. They say it like it is the way they were born , that is who they are, and there is no possible way that this curse in their brain will change. Memorizing is great exercise for our brain so that we can think better, and as we start working our lazy brains they start to work better. At first our attempts to memorize even the shortest of verses is agonizingly slow, but as we persevere our brains get stronger and stronger and memorizing gets easier and easier.
The Bible is called the mind of Christ, and when we memorize it we are putting His mind into ours, we begin to think like Jesus. When we put the Mind of Christ into our minds we begin to act the way He acted.
I used to put verses on 3 X 5 cards, and then I would laminate them or put clear packing tape on them because I would review and practice them in the hot tub each evening. Now I use an App on my phone and Ipad called “Bible Memory” which is amazing. I have memorized over 500 verses well since I have started using this App. My goal is to work on my verses 30 minutes every day.
“Fruit are those things we do or say that influences others to become more devoted to following, serving, and obeying Jesus”. Jesus admonition in John 15 is to bear fruit, and then God the Father will prune us to bear more fruit, and then when we develop a lifestyle of faithfully reading His Word and praying we will bear much fruit.
When Jesus was baptized God the Father spoke from heaven and said, “this is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased”. I believe that as we pursue a life style of bearing much fruit for God that He will express His pleasure to us. He won’t probably do that in an audible voice from heaven, instead He will prompt a person to say something to us. It is very important for me to say in my mind, “thank You Lord”, when a person comes up and expresses gratefulness to me for positive change and growth in their life to remind myself that though a person is speaking it is really God who is expressing His pleasure in me. Praise from God won’t cause pride to erupt in me, but praise from people could. At the seminar that we just finished a person came up during a break and handed me a note, I am excepting it as God’s expression of His pleasure in me.
“Dear Pastor Dee, I wanted you to know what an impact your teaching has had on my life. Three years ago, I attended your ‘Impact Prayer Seminar’, and that seminar changed my life. Prior to attending I constantly felt like a failure because I knew what to do, but I never seemed able to do it, I was undisciplined. After attending that seminar I made my first list of goals. I started prioritizing my time so that I could accomplish more things that were important. I started getting up at 6:00 am to read my Bible and pray and I am continuing to do it to this day. Your instruction on goal setting, time management, and discipline was exactly what I needed. Now God has given me opportunities to pass these lessons off to others. Thank you so much for your willingness to teach truth. I will always remember the things that I learned from you and I will use these lessons in my life until the day I die. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you.”
I will save this note and when I get discouraged and wonder if I am doing anything that really matters I will pull it out and read it.
I have the ability to live my life is such a way that I give God pleasure as He watches me. The cool thing is that He is so much into my being successful that He puts in me the desire to do great things with my life and He gives me the strength and the resources as well.
Philippians 2:13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
The thing is, I can resist that desire to do good that God put in me, and I can follow my flesh, the world around me, and the devil instead. When I do that I bring disappointment to God. It is quite amazing to me as I ponder on it that I can give infinite God pleasure and I can make Him feel disappointment. He is connected into my life as a unique individual and He desires my success.
2 Corinthians 5:9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.