Christmas is a time of lights, lots of lights and lots of colors. At Jefferson Baptist Church we have a Christmas light show that plays each evening. It is amazing how colored lights can be programmed to do what they do. If you haven’t yet driven into the parking lot and watched it you are missing a special treat.
Jesus, God’s Son was born into the world as a human being just exactly like us except He had no sin. All that He did and accomplished on this earth was designed so that we could live with Him with incomprehensible joy forever. On the basis of what His goal was for being born into this world, He declared Himself to be the light of the world, so lights at Christmas time are very appropriate.
People, like myself, who call themselves followers of Jesus, servants of Jesus, are commanded by Jesus to be bright lights. When a follower of Jesus is successful at becoming a bright light he attracts people to himself, and to his Savior. So I have decided to make becoming a brighter light a goal of mine, what do I do now? Let me suggest 3 things that anyone can work at doing to increase their luminosity.
First, don’t grumble or complain about anything, ever, but instead rejoice about everything. Some, right at the start will declare that principle impossible, it isn’t, or others will declare it being phony, it isn’t. The Bible says in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” And in Philippians 2:14-16 it says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” This doesn’t mean you don’t feel sad, or grieve, or get upset at injustice, but it does mean that you don’t blame, shame, complain, or feel sorry for yourself. I am sure it would be impossible for me to have any level of success at this kind of life behavior without a huge level of trust in Jesus Christ as King of the earth, and King of my life.
So, as I sit here in my recliner trying to figure out what to write about tonight, my mind is blank. Usually when I start writing a switch gets thrown in my brain, and words just start coming, but for some reason my brain is taking a vacation tonight, and is not doing it’s normal thing. Maybe it is rebelling, feeling like it has been called on night after night to write yet another blog, and I haven’t been near appreciative enough of my faithful, hardworking brain. Maybe I have run it dry, and there just isn’t anymore left inside of my brain, sort of like the gas tank on my car. Why am I doing this anyway, writing this stupid blog every day, it isn’t like I don’t have plenty of other things to do. It was inevitable that this kind of day happened where I hit that proverbial writers wall. I wonder if I ate a big bowl of ice cream, if the sugar would shift my brain into activity of some sort. Hang on, I will be right back, I am going to see if I can find where Patty hides it, and give it a shot. Ha, found it, out in the big chest freezer buried under a bunch of fish. I am glad she is asleep😂. It took so much effort to go out to the shop where the freezer is, and dig through all that cold, frozen fish to find this, I think I will splurge and have an extra big bowl. Do you know what is really funny? Yesterday, my blog was on self-control!
The opposite of self-control is expressed by the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:18-19, ” For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” Sometimes that seems like my life verses, not because that is what I want or aspire to, but because it describes my behavior so well. And then Paul makes this statement about himself in 1 Corinthians 9:25-27, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” I have made these verses, key life verses that I quote every morning in my prayer of commitment. “I discipline my body and make it my slave”! It is amazing how a few minutes first thing in the morning of meditating on those 3 Bible verses, and asking God to help me live them makes such a huge difference in my life, so that Romans 7:18-19 is rarely a description of my day any more. Self-control is not, “by myself control”, it is “control of my flesh by means of the strength that God supplies”, it is “control of my flesh by means of the encouragement others give to me”, it is “control of my flesh by means of the prayers of others who care for me”, and it is certainly ” the control that I exercise over the pull and temptation of the devil, the world around me, and my flesh by the accountability relationships that I have with other men who are good friends.
The character trait that follows diligence is self-control, it is number 7 on the list of 26.
7. Self-control, being free from anger, and always speaking words that give grace, always.
Obviously self-control applies to more than how we talk, but I have narrowed my focus on the character trait to just that, nothing else. The reason is because James 3:2 says, “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” So if I can grow to the point where I am perfectly controlling what I say to others, everything else is a piece of cake.
I begin every day with a prayer of commitment and dedication where I declare Jesus Lord of my life and make a series of behavioral commitments as an act of obedience to the Lord. One of them is, “Today I will not get angry, not even a lit bit irritated, at anybody, no matter what they do,” another commitment is “today, I will not gossip or slander anybody”, another is, “today, I will not grumble or complain about anything, no matter how bad it may be, instead I will rejoice always”, and one more, “today, I will not say a word that hurts or offends, but instead I will speak words that encourage, build up, and give grace.” After that series of commitments I pray, “Lord, Jesus, I can’t do this in my strength, would You fill me with Your Holy Spirit today, and give me the strength to keep these commitments in obedience to You.”
At the end of the day, I think through all that I can remember about conversations I had with people and try to remember anything I said that was contrary to my commitments. I confess all failures to God as sin, and make the commitment to not repeat it again tomorrow, but I often do repeat my bad speech, and I confess it again, one of these days I will get it right.,
I got up this morning at 4:20 am, as I did every morning this week in order to be at the church by 5:00 am for the start of prayer. This week we are praying from 5 am to 10 am and 5 pm to 10 pm, 10 hours each day asking God specifically to work in the heart and lives of people who are neighbors, work associates, friends, and family who are not disciples of Jesus. Every time I closed my eyes this morning I promptly fell asleep, so I stood up tp pray, but I still had a difficult time focusing, and when I prayed out loud it didn’t make much sense. I had not gotten much more than 4 hours of sleep each of the last 4 nights, and I was run out of gas so I did what any reasonably intelligent person would do, I took a nap. I went to bed at 10:30 am and woke up at 4:00 pm, and I felt wonderful. Tomorrow is the last day of the “Five Days of Prayer” and we will pray from 5 to 10 in the morning and then 5 to 7 tomorrow night and then we will conclude with a “Concert of Prayer” with mostly worship and a communion service, which are always wonderful times of experiencing God’s presence. Saturday morning I will sleep in until I wake up alert, probably around 8 am, and then it will be an amazing 3 weeks of God working and blessing, because we prayed and asked God to make it so, and He will.
Here is another picture of our “5 Days of Prayer” in action. One of my strongest “axioms” as a Pastor is that “A church family that is healthy and blessed by God prays together, and the more they pray together the healthier they will be”. A similar “Axiom” is “The only way we will come close to accomplishing our part of the Great Commission is by the participation of most of the church in regular corporate prayer”. I push this probably more than any other of my “axioms”, although “read your Bible everyday, everyday” is a close second. As hard as I push, preach, announce, and nag there are still many who very rarely participate in the corporate prayer life of our church. When you talk about Jefferson Baptist Church, and who we are and what we do, corporate prayer would be at the top of the list, “We are the praying church”, at least that is my desire and vision as the pastor, but in reality we aren’t even close to what I believe we ought to be if we truly want to fulfill our part of the “Great Commission”. Every great revival was ushered in by major participation in Corporate Prayer, that is the most obvious common denominator of the revivals of the past that brought thousands of people into the family of God. Why is it so hard to get people to participate? One of the stories of Jesus that illustrates this is Jesus in the garden right before His betrayal and death in Matthew 26:38-41 “Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’ And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” It is a mystery to me why people are so reluctant to pray with their church family, but even Jesus had problems persuading His disciples to pray with Him. I believe very strongly that it is critically important if we are going to reach people so I will keep persuading the best that I can.
we are in day 2 at JBC in our Winter time “Five Day Prayer Event”. We have one of these 4 times each year, and we pray for 5 days, Monday through Friday, 10 hours each day, from 5 to 10 am and 5 to 10 pm. For the last 4 years we have been averaging 20 people in the prayer room each hour, but so far this week we are almost at 30 people an hour in the prayer room. If this keeps up I am expecting to see some major blessings coming into our church family, significant ministry accomplishments, people’s lives changing, people gaining victory over sin addictions, bad marriages being healed, prodigal sons and daughters coming back, many people being born again, and some people being healed.
The older I get the less I can do so I pray more, and the more I get done, amazing. Over 42 years of pastoring my faith in the power of prayer has steadily grown stronger because of what I have seen and experienced at JBC and the obvious correlation between the amount of praying we do to the Blessings that we receive. Our church motto is “Much prayer = much blessing; little prayer = little blessing; no prayer = no blessing”.
Another strong belief that I have is that the higher the percentage of people who call JBC their church family that participate in the prayer event the more power we have and the more blessings we will receive. The second city that Israel attempted to conquer after Jericho was Ai, which was a disaster for two reasons, the first was a secret sin in the the camp, and the second was that they decided only to send a small percentage of the army to fight instead of all of the army. The sin was dealt with and the entire army went up and they prevailed and defeated their enemy. As a church we are an army of God and when everyone is involved we will soundly defeat the kingdom of darkness, and those imprisoned by the the devil to do his bidding, will be set free.