The burden of pillow prayer.

I woke up early today with the burden of a few things on my soul. Ever been there? As a pastor, I deal with a lot of things. People things. People are messy. I’m messy. The burdens of life can weigh us down sometimes. Personal lives come with personal issues that are not always easy. They might wake you up.
And then there is the ministry angle. I know John Piper says, “we are not professionals” but we are. We are actually leaders which moves us from professional to spiritual. Anyone carrying the mantle of spiritual leadership knows what it is like to wake up at 1:37 am or 5:24 am when you wanted to sleep until 6:15 am. The 3:00 am wake up? You know the one. The one where you are wide awake wondering why?  Family? Church? Work? I woke up today thinking about this passage from Psalm 6:6.

“I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.”
 What keeps you up at night? What burdens you? Do you have a prayer meeting at times on your pillow? There are things you think about in the night when everyone else is asleep. Family. Finances. Faith. Am I closing in? What is your burden? It makes your heart sink. It may be a person, but it may just be a life issue that comes with the territory. Yet when you wake at night you pray on your pillow. It’s the burden of the pillow.
Two things we can remember are key.

1. God hears you (v. 8-9).
2. It can all change in a moment (v. 10).

Keep your composure. Trust in God. He hears your voiced prayers, but more importantly, He hears the sound of your burdens without a word as they stream down your cheeks. Things can change for the godly good quickly. Let God be God and do what only He can do. You be you. Wait. Rest. Trust. Walk. Pray. Read. Live out the gospel.

 

A guy named Pete

Yesterday I took my wife on a coffee date. Our daughter was baby sitting so we decided to take advantage of a couple of hours to date. So Starbucks it was. Jeana got Cinnamon Dulche Latte. Tall. I got the same but a Grande. When we do a mini date like this we usually turn it into a staff meeting. We talk life, ministry, and dreams. In between we surf the net. It’s all guilt free. So we are sitting together enjoying each other and lattes when an unexpected thing happened.

Pete.

Pete was sitting close to us. He had two iPhones and an iPad. He was wired up. He was in town from Midland, Texas, to ride on the trails of Ruidoso. We have a good bike community here in Ruidoso. I can’t remember how the conversation started. I think he asked if we were from Ruidoso. We told him we were and had lived here almost six years now. We started the usual superficial chit chat that we would with anyone interested in talking. Jeana and I are conversationalists. Love people. It comes easy for us. As we talked there came point where I realized “this is a real conversation. Pay close attention.”

As we talked I realized there was an open door. So I asked the question that works in any culture these days. I asked Pete this:

“What is your faith story?”

He went on to tell us his story. He stated he believed in Santa Claus. The Easter Bunny. Etc. Then he ended the list with God. He believed in God. He had been in Alcoholics Anonymous. He knew of twelve steps like an expert would know them. He had obviously experienced them. When he stopped, I shared very simply and conversationally my own faith story. I whittled my story to the needed. I weaved 1 Cor 15:3-4 into my story. It says,

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures ….”

I spoke much of life change and hope.

His story was different, but he did state be believed in Jesus Christ in a saving way. I could have pushed him, but did not want to “question” his faith when he had given a faith answer. His analogies of Santa and Easter Bunny were odd, but his point what not them but that he actually believed in Jesus Christ. I’ve never heard a story like his.

When we left one amazing thing is that he hugged us like we were family. It was moving. It was a divine appointment. It was a God conversation. I’m so glad I was listening to the Spirit of God.

I’m glad I got to meet Pete. I hope you run into a Pete soon. Open up a conversation. Eternity waits. You could be the one to reap a harvest or sow the seed for a future harvest. I told him he needed a church family and need to be sharing his story with others.

Here are a few things you and I should consider each day of our lives.

Principles for Creating Spiritual Conversations

People have a story and want to share it. I’m rarely surprised when I ask the questions, “what is your life story and where are you in your journey with God?” People love to answer. No one asks people about themselves. I always start a small group with these two questions. Knowing people first is more important than teaching them.

We live in a story culture before a propositional culture. Western Culture used to have a built in entry point to faith conversations based on knowledge of and some respect of God. That is no longer the case. We used to be able to ask, “If you died today would you go to heaven or hell?” Or “In your personal opinion what do you understand that it takes for a person to go to heaven?” Those are still useful questions in the apologetic side of evangelism, but those questions have moved to the second and third conversations. There are exceptions, but not many. The new key question is “what is your faith story?” It works. It’s non threatening. It opens the door.

Sharing your story with a gospel scripture is the new gospel presentation. As I said above, I shared my story from a gospel centered angle. You can do the same thing. That is what the Apostle Paul did in Acts 22 and 26.

Why you cannot steal second base in spiritual maturity

I’ve just returned from Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I got together with two pastors and a giant in ministry.Stealing Second I got to meet John Burton though a friend of mine who is committed to making disciples in one on one relationships. I’ve long been committed to small groups, but I’ve not always done well with discipling one on one. It’s not that I’m not equipped to do it. It’s the fact that I can manage people and groups easier in groups. I love those small groups. I’m committed to them. But I’ve realized from John Burton that “you can’t steal second base.” When I heard John say this I was like “what?” He answered me and explained what he meant.

What John was saying is this ….

There are some rules in spiritual growth that cannot be rushed through.
We often want results right away. In church life we want growth and success and we want it now. Numbers are important to God. Numbers are people. They show us effectiveness at some level. But there is a danger. In our rush for success numerically we forget spiritual success comes from maturity. There is no lasting abiding fruit when we try to rush through what is supposed to mature through time and process. In other words, you cannot steal second base. You cannot rush spiritual maturity. There are laws that govern spiritual growth. Jesus took three years with 12 men and a few other women. He did not rush. He took His time. And it paid off.

Stealing second is cheating in the spiritual life.
When we steal second base we try to get maturity that we have not earned. We cheat the process. Weather in groups or in one on one disciple making, doing it too fast is cheating. There is a process that must be followed. There are implications from cheating in pursuing spiritual maturity.

  • Rushed maturity can put disciples in leadership positions they are not really ready to handle.
  • Rushed maturity leads to an example that makes others think they can do the same.
  • Rushed maturity results in spoiled spiritual fruit because it was rushed to harvest.

Advancing forward to second base is best when someone else gets you there.
As stated above, Jesus took His twelve through a process of life for three years. He had three special ones that He spent even more time with – can you name them? Peter, James and John. And in a span of three years, we know Jesus spent a good deal of time with each of the twelve. He knew them He knew there personalities, gifts and passions. Yes, He even knew their weaknesses. Yet at the end of the training He commissioned them. He placed them in task and history in ways He could only know. He placed them into the body of Christ, each in his own unique way for a special impact. Jesus is the One who got them forward in life and effective in their call to ministry. Jesus was the reason for their success.

You cannot steal second base in the game of spiritual life. Stop trying to steal second. Commit to the work that advances people to the next step in spiritual maturity.