Time for the will of God!

Ministry life (if not all parts) is busier than ever!  But as a wise man once noted, “There is always time for the will of God.”  

With more communication roads today than ever, ministry life has been proportionately affected.  What’s one to do?  How can one keep up?  In short, even for the ministry leader at times it seems that there is no way to slow the demand to succeed!

There is only one answer – let God manage life!  Maybe everything on demand or the agenda is not God’s will. 

WHEN YOU’VE BEEN OVERUN BY DEMANDS..IT’S TIME FOR THE WILL OF GOD!

Is God’s will for your life being marginalized by things that are not His will?  When He has first time, he helps marginalize things outside of His will for the day either by divine intervention or divine wisdom.  Even though the demands or agenda remain, one can find the peace of God through time with God in the midst of the time’s storm.  Ultimately, it is my responsibility to let God manage my time. 

Jesus knew how to prioritize time.  

The Son reserved time with the Father even when others were still calling.  He knew that the Father’s will was essential to meeting the world’s cry.  Time alone with the Father was not always for an hour of prayer or even prepatory prayer.  Sometimes it was for rest.

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) Rest can be found through delighting oneself in the LORD. It opens the door to desiring and receiving right things.

Sometimes you can and should read the righteous book YOU DESIRE TO RESTFULLY READ rather than the book you or another think you should read.  Sometimes it is important to write what YOU WANT TO WRITE rather than what success demands on write. Sometimes it is right to study what YOU LONG TO STUDY and not just what you must study for another. This is not to be confused with selfishness.  It’s not that what one wants should be priority all the time, but sometimes it is important to forget the demand to succeed and prioritize mental, physical and spiritual health. 

Sabbath is the will of God. God rested from Creation work. What makes humanity think succesful can’t rest? Sometimes rest is key.  
Jesus taught His disciples to prioritize time waiting on God.  Peter got a fresh vision in Joppa after a time of waiting.  He got Saul’s (Paul’s) attention with three blind days.   

Rest or be arrested.

It takes time with God to be a man or woman of God.

There may not be time for everything, but there is always time for God’s will!  That is good.

What is the ROI at COMPACT Hillcrest Campus?

What is the return on investment (ROI) made in fatherless children and youth at Hillcrest Children’s Home or Highlands Maternity Home and Placement Center?

TAMARA was born of a rescued young woman living in the Highlands Maternity Home in 1980.  She was adopted by a loving Assemblies of God family.  Today she and her ordained Assemblies of God husband have two sons.  Tomorrow she joins the staff of Assemblies of God COMPACT Family Services as the agency’s Health Services Coordinator.  Tamara is a registered nurse with an accomplished background in pediatric and neonatal nursing.  She will provide wonderful nursing care to children and youth at the COMPACT Hillcrest Campus.  She will invest professional and compassionate education to pregnant young ladies at the same ministry from which she found her own redemption.

As people gave to this ministry, they were not only rescuing a child or youth in crisis, they were, and are, redeeming futures!  It’s an expanding return from a selfless investment.

Two weeks ago four beautiful girls at Hillcrest Children’s Home graduated from high school.  These four teenage girls have benefited greatly from the competent care of loving staff.  Last week they moved into the agency’s Murry Transitional Living Center at the COMPACT Hillcrest Campus to begin a college and career future.  Will God someday send one of these girls back to serve or lead this ministry in a career just like Tamara and others before her?

Because people give generously and faithfully to this ministry, God is redeeming lives through this historic ministry!  Over 4,000 families have been directly served through the decades of this ministry.  The ROI is still growing one by one, but compounding by years.  God knows the full return.

At COMPACT we have heard God’s call and confidence to do more.  Next month, in faith we open additional ministry programs for therapeutic, treatment and respite care.  As we grow, we are looking for competently caring Christian couples and individuals to join our team as houseparents and professional social workers.  Perhaps God is calling you to join us?

Please pray for God’s favor upon COMPACT and its people.  We’re on a mission to redeem the fatherless. (James 1:27)

May the great favor of God be yours!

Put On The Whole Armor Of God

Put On The Whole Armor of God

Ephesians 6:10-18

Spiritual warfare is real.  It is increasingly visible in “this present darkness.”

God wants believers in Jesus Christ to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might” and “put on the whole armor of God” to “stand against the evil schemes of the devil.”

The Lord’s Prayer (Mt. 6:9-13) is to be prayed more than displayed.  Pray this early and often.  It is a winning prayer.

  1. The Struggle (v.10-12)
    1. Parties of the struggle
      1. Satan
      2. Evil emissaries
      3. Christians
      4. Angels
      5. Almighty God
  2. The Size of the Struggle (v.11-12)
    1. Largely due to Satan’s strength.
      1. While it is foolish to elevate Satan beyond reality, it is equally foolish to ignore the great strength of this created being.
      2. Foolishness neglects his presence in this world.
      3. Foolishness neglects his strength.
      4. Scripture teaches that Satan became so enamored with his own strength that He decided to take on God.
      5. Satan is aware of his power and aware of humanity’s weakness.
      6. 1 Peter 5:8 describes him as a “roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
      7. In Luke 11:21-22, Jesus describes Satan, as “one stronger” than “a strong man”.
      8. In John 10:10, Jesus describes him as one with power to “stealing kill and destroy.”
      9. In the Book of Jude we learn that he is apparently even greater in power than the archangel Michael, who “did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgement, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.'”
      10. Job teaches us that Satan is able to go “to and fro on the earth…walking up and down it.” (Job 1:7)
      11. Job 1:19 reveals that Satan can use weather in His battle against us.
      12. Ephesians 2:2 says he is “the prince of the power of the air.”
      13. In 2 Cor. 4:4, the apostle Paul says that if people don’t believe the Gospel it is because “the god of this world has blinded” them.
    2. This gives us a clear picture of greatness of our struggle.
    3. Satan will stop at nothing to defeat you and me.
    4. It is wise for us to know our enemy to defeat him instead.
    5. The moment we were born again, we left the domain of darkness controlled by Satan and entered the Kingdom of God.  At that moment, our struggle with Satan was engaged with new intensity.
    6. Secondly, our struggle is great because of Satan’s “devices” or “designs”. (2 Cor. 2:11)
      1. Deception – 2 Cor. 11:3, deceived Eve.
        1. 2 Cor. 11:4, Pauls says he can transform himself into an “angel of light”. He can look like he is on our side at times.
      2. Darts – Eph. 6:16
        1. Doubts – faith, salvation, others, Jesus,
        2. Fears – death, injury, loss, personal weakness (through self-examination)
        3. Depression
        4. Confusion – even twisting Scripture
        5. Misery
        6. Temptations
        7. Where do all of these come from?  Satan.
    7. “The evil day” (v.13) – What does this mean?  There are special occasions when the devil seems to be let loose and comes upon us in all the might of his ferocity.
    8. But God doesn’t let those days come without capitalizing upon them.  The great old hymn writer, John Newton once put it to lyric very well.

I asked the Lord that I might grow

In faith and love and every grace

Might more of His salvation know

And seek more earnestly His face,

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,

And He, I trust, has answered prayer,

But it has been in such a way,

As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favor’d hour,

At once He’d answer my request,

And by His love’s constraining power

Subdue my sins and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel

The hidden evils of my heart,

And let the angry powers of hell

Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seem’d

Intent to aggravate my woe

Cross’d all the fair designs I schemed,

Blasted my gourd and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,

Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?

It is in this way, the Lord replied,

I answer prayer for grace and faith,

These inward trials I employ,

From self and pride to set thee free;

And brake thy schemes of earthly joy,

That thou may’st seek thy all in Me.

    1. This is where Paul the points us to the weapons of our warfare…The way to battle Satan is with the armor of God!
  1. How to Meet the Struggle. (vv.10, 3-18)
    1. Recognize it for what it is…a spiritual struggle.
    2. Look to our Strength in the struggle. (Eph. 6:10)
      1. Nothing else can do it, for the devil is stronger even than the archangel, and who are we?
    3. So we must put on the whole armor of God.
      1. belt of Truth
        1. about Jesus
        2. about Satan
        3. about us (1 John 5:18 – We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.)
        4. about the issues
        5. There must be no doubt or uncertainty about the truth.
      2. breastplate of Righteousness
        1. 1 John 5:19-20 – We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know shim who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
        2. 2 Cor. 5:20
      3. shoes of Readiness from the gospel of peace
      4. shield of Faith
      5. helmet of Salvation
      6. sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God)
    4. Pray in the Spirit
      1. Prayer is the energy that enables the Christian soldier to wear the armor and wield the sword. We cannot fight the battle in our own power, no matter how strong or talented we may think we are. When Amalek attacked Israel, Moses went to the mountaintop to pray, while Joshua used the sword down in the valley (Ex. 17:8–16). It took both to defeat Amalek—Moses’ intercession on the mountain, and Joshua’s use of the sword in the valley. Prayer is the power for victory, but not just any kind of prayer. Paul tells how to pray if we would defeat Satan.
      2. all occasions – 1 Thes. 5:17, pray without ceasing.
      3. all kinds of prayers and requests
        1. There are various kinds of prayers – plea, supplication, intercession, thanksgiving, praise.”prayers and requests” – both words can be translated as prayer.  The distinction here is to draw attention to both the various types of prayer in various locations.The believer who prays only to ask for things is missing out on blessings that come with intercessions and giving of thanks. In fact, thanksgiving is a great prayer weapon for defeating Satan. “Praise changes things” as much as “prayer changes things.” Intercession for others can bring victory to our own lives. “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends” (Job 42:10).
      4. Pray…alert
        1. God expects us to use our God-given senses, led by the Spirit, so that we detect Satan when he is beginning to work.
      5. persevering prayer
        1. Perseverance in prayer does not mean we are trying to twist God’s arm, but rather that we are deeply concerned and burdened and cannot rest until we get God’s answer. As Robert Law puts it, “Prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven; it is getting God’s will done on earth”.
      6. Pray for all believers
        1. The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father”—not “My Father.” If Paul needed the prayers of the saints, how much more do you and I need them!
      7. Pray for courage
        1. Paul did not ask them to pray for his freedom, comfort or safety, but for him to speak boldly and courageously the gospel.

The apostle Paul did not write this letter from a mountain top of freedom.  He wrote this admonition from within the walls of prison in cold chains.

Sometimes the greatest moments of inspiring faith do not come in the celebration but in the struggle. God knows the struggles we face. He does not leave us unequipped.

He equips us to ”be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

He exhorts us to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

Take courage, stand strong, and fight in the Spirit.

The battle is the Lord’s.  He wins.

_________________________________________

Portions derived from:

  • Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (2000). The assurance of our salvation: exploring the depth of Jesus’ prayer for His own: studies in John 17. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
  • Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Reviewing Myths That Thwart Truth

Below is a report I drafted four years ago on the often exaggerated loss/retention rates of Christian students in America.  I am blogging it today because of another recently busted myth that has worked to thwart the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church.

Recently, new research-based data on actual marriage and divorce rates by Shaunti Feldhahn in the book, The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce, reveals that pop belief has once again been found in error.  Unfortunately, long after the feather pillow has been torn open and exposed to the winds of media, this decade of research has long journey to impact popular belief.  This greatly reminds me about the oft postulated myth that “most” Christian students are said to be forfeiting their Christian belief as they age.  It is not substantiated by longitudinal study.  Four years ago, published research-based data uncovered this myth too.

Over the years, I have learned that Satan is good at selling lies.  He is the great deceiver.  He often strategically works to deceive people into fear to thwart the work of truth.  Fear sells.  For instance, he doesn’t have to actually achieve higher divorce rates and forfeiture of faith, he simply needs to mislead people, especially the Church, to believe it.  The result can be the same – fear, doubt, disillusionment, pause, unnecessary change, etc.  The effect stems, stalls, and sometimes stops Kingdom advancing work.

Anecdotal books abound because they sell more.  Unfortunately, research-based books cost more because they do not sell more.  Thus, they are not read enough and the information is less known.

Be alert, studied, and wise.  Shine the light of the Truth on darkness.  

————————–

My Initial Notes and Thoughts on

Souls In Transition: The Religious & Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults

by Christian Smith

Perhaps no single topic has generated more attention in youth ministry in the last decade than the so called “loss/retention rate” of students making the transition from the teen years to young adulthood. What happens to the religious faith of American teens when they make the transition from high school to the emerging adult years? Do most succeed or fail?

The seemingly universal conclusion is that 85% of America’s Christian teens will walk away from their faith following the youth years. Volumes of books, opinion polls and interpretations of data have been presented as evidence to its “proof.” In the Assemblies of God, it has been derived and said by some that we are losing two-thirds or more of our youth. Thus, some have said that this “failure” necessitates “substantive,” in some cases “radical,” changes in how we do youth ministry to reverse the so-called trend. But would those proposed changes actually improve or injure our current ministry?

Unfortunately, it appears most of the studies on the subject of youth retention and emerging adulthood has not been necessarily social science. Some opinions are as weak as anecdotal and others are influenced by business and other factors that can skew outcomes.

It has been said that there are three basic ways to derive data:

  1. Number counting – counting the numbers of age adherents within a church organization
  2. Polls – questions answered via forms and interviews at a moment in time
  3. Longitudinal study – questions answered via forms and interviews of a specific age adherent that is associated with a church organization, AND then repeated with the same persons over an expanded period of time for comparison

Each of these data methods has value and purpose, and some more than others.

One would reason that cumulative data on a subject like “youth retention in the church (or faith) after high school” would discover support by all three categories. Yet, that is not the case on this subject. Thus, there is a great need for scholarly social science on the subject. Social science is a more empirical collection and study of data.

While popular writings have postulated that we are losing our youth, the evidence has been more questionable since little empirical study has actually been done on the subject. In the Assemblies of God, there hasn’t been a complete specific study of its students. In 2005, the National Study on Youth and Religion did a first wave study entitled, Portraits of Protestant Teens: A Report on Teenagers in Major U.S. Denominations that summarized AG youth as doing aggregately better than its sister Denominations. Outside of that study, most AG conclusions have been interpretive of aggregate American youth polls and surveys published beyond that of our own “number counting” known as the Annual Church Ministries Report (ACMR), which happens to suggest that we keep more than we lose of youth in transition. So, there has been a need for better data to determine real attrition rates in both the larger Christian and specific AG scopes of the Church.

Gaining more reliable data took a good step forward when the National Study on Youth and Religion (NSYR) began. Some higher education researchers have proclaimed this work as the “gold standard” for understanding adolescent youth and religion. Dr. Smith’s first book from this work is entitled Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (February 2005). It was revealing and valuable information.

After five waves of study by NSYR, a second book arrives from Dr. Christian Smith, Souls In Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults (September 2009). This book follows the adolescent study into the emerging adult years (18-23 year olds). Robert Wuthnow from Princeton University says, “Unlike the nonsense delivered in news magazines and opinion polls, Souls in Transition is serious scholarly research about religion and emerging adults. The sober, fair-minded presentation of evidence about what is and what is not happen among Americans ages 18 to 23 is refreshing.” Author Jeffrey Jensen Arnett of Clark University says, “This book is social science at its best and should not be missed by anyone who wishes to understand the lives of today’s emerging adults.”

Ten chapters and 345 pages of information are presented in Souls in Transition. It is not “beach reading” material. It is social science. Thus, it can be laborious, though rewarding, reading. (I believe that it is a must read for today’s church leaders! I highly fear that if we keep telling our youth that they are “leaving” they will. “Nothing is so absurd that if repeated often enough people will believe it.” – Dr. William James)

Here is a short list of some first-read notables from Souls in Transition.

  1. Current emerging adulthood is a life phase with spiritual life levels not unlike those since 1972. It is not just an extension of the youth years nor a complete transition into adulthood. It is a unique life segment with its “own distinctive characteristics, tendencies and experiences.” Modern social and technological changes have transformed the length of this life phase. It is important to note that “according to available evidence, emerging adults in America since 1972 have generally not become less religious.” (cf. Chapter 3) “Most emerging adults have since 1972 either remained stable in the their levels of religiousness or have actually increased somewhat. The significant exception to the rule is frequent church attendance by Catholic and mainline Protestant emerging adults, which has dropped noticeably in the past decades.” (pp. 279-281)
  2. Conclusions of a massive overall decline in religious faith among emerging adults is overstated.Most emerging adults tend not to change religiously, many tend to decline, and a few tend to increase religiously. Distinguishing these different trajectories and their causes is much more revealing than simply pondering aggregate percentage sums.” (pp.282-283) Again, it is noted that the predominant declining segment is among Catholics and mainline Protestants.
  3. Parents play a powerful role in the religious socialization of emerging adults as well as adolescents. Though it is true that “adolescents and parents are continually renegotiating the terms of their relationship” and people do tend to be more independent with age, parents play a big role. “This is done through role modeling, teaching, taking-things-for-granted, sanctioning, training…habits, beliefs, values, desires, norms and practices.” (pp.283-286)
  4. There is no silver bullet to develop a better Christian faith among adolescents as they emerge into young adulthood. Rather there is a combination of core factors that make the difference. (cf. Chapter 8)
    1. Example – high parental religious attendance and faith + high teen importance of faith + many teen religious experiences + teen frequently prays and reads Scripture = more successful Christian youth in transition
      1. Encouragingly, this supports the approach taken by Assemblies of God National Youth Ministries (NYM) and many district and local youth ministries. Perhaps this is reflected in the comparatively positive report on AG youth in the “Report on Teenagers in Major U.S. Denominations” by the NSYR.
      2. NYM espouses that we must win, build and send students. We must connect them to God, family, Church and Christ’s cause. We must establish them to pray, live, tell, serve and give. We have developed assisting core resources like the FIRE BIBLE Student Edition, Alive in Christ (new believer teaching), FIRE Starter (personal & small group bible studies), FIRE Institute (leadership development school), etc. We have five excellent programs of ministry for students to “experience” their faith in action (AIM, Bible Quiz, Youth Alive, Fine Arts and Speed The Light).
    2. Certain factors are more important than other factors in spiritual life development. Prayer, parents, faith, core beliefs vs. doubts and religious experiences are notably important. (Chapter 8)
    3. Evangelism of youth before high school years is critical. “Of the 70% of youth who at some time or other before emerging adulthood commit their lives for God, the vast majority appear to do so early in life, apparently before the age of 14.” This does not mean high school and college aged ministry is less important. Spiritual development continues beyond an initial commitment. (p. 255)
    4. The past shapes the future. The religious development of adolescents shapes the future of emerging adulthood faith. There is more continuity than change for souls in transition. (p. 256)
    5. College no longer seems to corrode the religious faith and practice of students as it did in decades past. New evidence says that since the 1990’s, higher education has not been undermining the religion of students as it did for prior generations. Several factors play into this impact – campus ministry, more evangelical faculty, reemergence of spiritual support, etc. (pp. 248-251)
    6. A decline in public faith is evidence of a decline in private faith. “When the public practice of religion declines among emerging adults, for the vast majority, their internal, subjective interest in faith does as well.” (p.256)

Abiding For A Harvest

God can bring a harvest of healing and redemption to fragmented families across this nation!

Abiding in the Lord is a preparatory practice toward a redeeming work of the Holy Spirit.

The great missionary worker, Amy Carmichael, strongly focused her faith upon the promise of John 15:7 to rescue and redeem abandoned and disconnected children in her day.

“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7, ESV)

This was not just a daily devotional thought for Carmichael. It was a life verse! She knew God wanted to reach the children. And she knew the way to reach them was through God. So, she made her home in God’s presence and promise on their behalf.

Thus, John 15:7 served as the backbone of Amy Carmichael’s principles for prayer:
1. We don’t need to explain to our Father things that are known to him.
2. We don’t need to press him, as if we had to deal with an unwilling God.
3. We don’t need to suggest to him what to do, for he himself knows what to do.

As believers today in the midst of national crisis of fatherlessness, we would do well to abide in our Lord with the same certitude of faith. It is perhaps not just the best pathway of prayer but the truest way to prepare for the harvest itself.

The Lord has invited my morning abode for this cause. My heart longs to see God bring a mighty yield to Himself of children and youth who suffer fear and heartache from broken and missing family life. I know God sees the plight of these kids. I know he hears their cry of desperation for peace, hope and life. I know that he has a place of identity and destiny for each one of them within His family. I want to see them found.

There are a maturing Christian movement on a quest for family renewal and children in need. The first Sunday of November is increasingly being honored (rightly so) as “Orphan Sunday.”
However, such a day serves to call us to abidingly petition God beyond a “special day” or “special service.” Let us abide with Him for a harvest beyond awareness.

“Heavenly Father, have mercy upon America’s foster children and orphaned today.”
“Send the Heavenly Host to their aid.”
“Turn our eyes to their need and our will into action for them.”
“Give these underdog youth and children championship life.”
“Bring them home to a forever family.”

John 15:7 is a great promise! It must be an intercessory standard in the cause for children and youth who are separated from parents by the wreckage of sin.

It is an honor to work with some great people who abide before the Lord for such a harvest. Join us through your own abiding place with Jesus! God can bring a harvest of healing and redemption to fragmented families within our reach. I am confident of it!

What’s a Father?

This is a perplexing question for a generation growing up without fathers. For the first time in America’s history, the majority of births today from mothers thirty years old and younger are born outside of marriage. Cumulatively among all births in America, four out of ten are from a single or unmarried mother.

Isaiah 38:19 says, “…the father makes known to the children [God’s] faithfulness.”

This mentoring method is quickly becoming a foreign concept. The messenger is missing. Thus, the message is missing too.

In the Bible, fathers are spoken of as the founders of families, generations, and nations. The term father connoted leadership – family, government, priestly, and advisory.

America is facing a fatherless crisis of unparalleled proportion. It is crazy. It is sad. Most of all, it is confusing to a young child who deserves not only the loving protection of an earthly dad, but also an understanding of an Eternal, Heavenly Father.

How does fatherlessness impact a culture? Study after study reveals a painful picture of spiraling sin, incarceration, abuse, unemployment, debt, Etc. Either America changes her way or she forfeits her future.

Change is possible. It’s the eleventh hour, but it’s not too late. America only needs some bold conviction. Selfishness, shallowness, and sinfulness can be replaced with responsibility, virtue, and righteousness. God can send redeeming revival!

In Isaiah 36-38 tells the story about the great spiritual reformer, King Hezekiah. Although his father before him did not fear God, Hezekiah courageously led a new, redeeming future for his nation. It wasn’t easy. It didn’t happen overnight. But God changed the course of a nation.

How can a more biblical culture of fatherhood return to a nation?

Elevate God, the Father

Have you ever thought about how a generation prays based on their reference of a father? As a youth specialist for over two decades, it has become glaringly apparent to me in recent years. The majority of current youth (even a large number of their parents) tend to pray to “Jesus, the Son” rather than Jesus’ “Father.” The prayer usually starts with “Dear Jesus” rather “Dear Heavenly Father”.

When the disciples inquired of Jesus about how to pray, he said,
“When you pray, say:
‘Father, hallowed be your name…’” (Luke 11:2)

This generation needs to witness mentors in relationship with God the Father. Calling on the name of the Father through Jesus Christ, the Son, elevates and models a trusting witness.

Many in this generation have not captured or understood Jesus’ words, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Too often Jesus is not presented in a fatherly notion. Savior? Yes. Hero? Yes. Father? Less. Culture needs to know the heart of the Father in Jesus more.

Furthermore, this generation needs to know the gift of the Father, in the person of the Holy Spirit, who was sent to their side to guide them. Let it be known that the person of the Holy Spirit was sent as a gift from “the Father”! (John 14:26)

Celebrate God the Father. Whatever we celebrate, we elevate.

Esteem Fatherhood

In my early youth ministry days, I loved seeing a dad wear the t-shirt, “World’s Greatest Dad”.  It was usually the gift of a loving spouse, thankful son, or proud daughter.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the shirt in recent times.  Why?  Is it less relevant?  Perhaps it should return.  Esteeming a faithful father can be honored in other meaningful messages too.

Here is a t-shirt list worth developing and giving to a worthy dad:

  • Dad Loves Mom…On Promise (for dads’ who marry and remain married to mom because it was a promise…no matter what.)
  • Faithful Dad (for dads’ who are spiritually, emotionally, and physically faithful and integral to mom.)
  • Fatherhood Rather Than Sporting Good (for dads’ who exemplify that fatherhood is more valuable than making sporting good of people, places or things.)

You, your family, friends and church should esteem good models of fatherhood when evident before you.

Recently, Chick-fil-a sponsored a documentary through ESPN called, “The Book of Manning.” It highlights the storied Manning (Archie, Cooper, Peyton, and Eli) football family. Throughout the presentation one thing is clear – the elder, Archie Manning, made his life mission to be a better father than a college or professional quarterback for the sake of his family! He esteemed fatherhood as a greater prize. The Manning’s won.

Media portrayals of responsible fatherhood are important. However, it needs to advance from applause to personal conviction.

Establish a Fresh Standard for Faithful Fatherhood

When a fatherless generation lacks a point of reference for solid fatherhood, they struggle to approach the Heavenly Father. Their context has too much pain or void to approach God, the Father, with a request, cry, or worship moment.

Recently, Isaiah 38:19 struck me deeply. We need fathers, even if surrogate mentors, to speak of God’s faithfulness lest a generation not know Him and suffer loss of contentment, confidence, and courage.

Individuals, churches, communities, and organizations can establish a fresh standard that elevates and esteems fatherhood.

The emergent generation needs fathers. Faithful fathers!

What’s a faithful father? He is at least ten things…

  • reflector of God’s love.
  • interested more in a good name than fame.
  • servant-leader for his family.
  • submissive to God.
  • consistent influence.
  • keeper of promises.
  • model of Christ-like devotion.
  • guardian for his family.
  • provider for his family.
  • faithful to the wife of his youth.

We must answer the question with our action and our voices. We must not let a culture of fatherlessness prevail. The cost is sorrowful, if not unsustainable.

Ask God what he would have you to do. Put your conviction in action. Hezekiah led a nation back to the Father.

At COMPACT Family Services, we are working to redeem fatherhood for the fatherless, fragmented and family.

Compassion requires action

The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand reveals Jesus’ model of compassion.

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:34)

The word (splanchnizomai) translated here as compassion means to be moved into action from the core of one’s being.  It occurs twelve times in the New Testament.  This term is different than just feeling for someone.  Wherever this term occurs in Scripture it is followed with action because it is a term of feeling met with action.  There are five different Greek verbs translated as compassion in the New Testament.  The Greek term, splanchnizomai, is used in this story (Mark 6:30-44; Matthew 14:13-18) because Jesus unmistakably had more than just empathy for these people.  He had “compassion on them.”

James 1:27 talks about God’s mandate to the Church concerning a specific group of sheep without a shepherd.  

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans

Nothing is more pure than caring for an underdog kid without a parent to care for them.  This word, orphan, is only found in the New Testament here and in John 14:18 where Jesus tells the disciples that he “will not leave you as orphans” but will give them the Holy Spirit.  Jesus ascended into heaven and did not leave us as orphans.  He sent the Holy Spirit to help us.

Jesus’ model of compassion included action.  What is our model?

Is God’s mandate to care for America’s orphans given to the government or to the Church?  The Bible makes it clear that this is the responsibility of God’s people.

Today, there are more orphans in America than ever before.  Approximately 800,000 orphans pass through the United States federal database during the average year; 500,000 on any given day.  Including homeless kids on their own, kids in sex trafficking, etc., there are more than ONE MILLION underdog orphans in America today!

God is calling the body of Christ to take up compassion in action to care for the orphan as mandated in Scripture.

Prayerfully consider a role God would have you to play.

Whatever you do, remember this…it is the model of Jesus and the mandate of the Church to show compassion, not just feel compassion.

You, Me and We Is Not Enough

We all need supernatural strength!

“When Amalek attacked Israel, Moses went to the mountaintop to pray, while Joshua used the sword down in the valley (Ex. 17:8–16). It took both to defeat Amalek—Moses’ intercession on the mountain, and Joshua’s use of the sword in the valley. Prayer is the power for victory, but not just any kind of prayer. Paul tells how to pray if we would defeat Satan.” (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Eph 6:18). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.)

Paul paints victorious spiritual leadership in just three short verses (Ephesians 6:18-20) with no less than seven standards of prayer and one revolutionary word picture for the winning perspective.

1. Pray in the Spirit (v.18)

Prayer is the energy that enables the Christian soldier to wear the armor and wield the sword. We cannot fight the battle in our own power, no matter how strong or talented we may think we are.  The Holy Spirit (parakaletos – “Helper at your side”) is your winning edge.  We are foolish when we think that “you, we or me” is enough.  Pray in the Spirit!

2. Pray…on all occasions (v.18) – “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17)

We should pray “on all occasions.”

3. Pray…all kinds prayers and requests (v.18)

There are various kinds of prayers – plea, supplication, intercession, thanksgiving, praise, etc.

In this text, “prayers and requests”are both words that can be translated as prayer.  The distinction here draws attention to both the various types (prayers) of prayer in various locations (requests – can carry a connotation of location).

The believer who prays only to ask for things is missing out on blessings that come with intercessions and giving of thanks. In fact, thanksgiving is a great prayer weapon for defeating Satan. “Praise changes things” as much as “prayer changes things.”

Intercession for others can bring victory to our own lives. “And the Lord turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends” (Job 42:10).

4. Pray…alert (v.18)

God expects us to use our God-given senses, led by the Spirit, so that we detect Satan when he is beginning to work.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Eph 6:18). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

5. Pray (with) perseverance (v.18)

Perseverance in prayer does not mean we are trying to twist God’s arm, but rather that we are deeply concerned and burdened and cannot rest until we get God’s answer. As Robert Law puts it, “Prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven; it is getting God’s will done on earth” (Tests of Life, [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1968])

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Eph 6:18). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

6. Pray for all the saints (v.18)

The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father”—not “My Father.”

If Paul needed the prayers of the saints, how much more do you and I need them!

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Eph 6:18). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

7. Pray for courageous boldness (v.19)

Paul did not ask them to pray for his freedom, comfort or safety, but for him to speak boldly and courageously the gospel.

The paradox of the “ambassador in chains.” (v.20)

Strangely, most English translations persist on translating the Greek word halysei as a plural (chains) when it is actually a singular, “chain.”  The importance of this clarity is vital to understanding the text.  Paul is not constrained from effectiveness but rather powerfully tethered with the Lord.  He is an “ambassador (representative) in chain.”

Are you tethered to the Lord?  Are you tethered by the Spirit?  To be so is a strong chain.

So, what’s the status of your chain with the Lord?  Strong, firm and tight?