Every Sunday, 52 each year, somewhere in the country there is a challenge occurring between two sports team; auto racing teams, golf matches, track and field teams, etc. Crowds fill stands to witness these events, paying large sums of money to attend. Many of these are televised and broadcast on the radio; sponsors spend millions to support these events were challenges are occurring and winners are idolized. Americans love challenges!
I believe, after participating in it for over 50 years, there is a challenge occurring in the local congregations across the nation. It is the challenge between the pulpit and pew There is an ongoing dynamic week after week which is rarely, if ever, recognized by those participating in the challenge: the preacher in the pulpit and Christians in the pews.
WHAT THE PULPIT IS TRYING TO DO
Speaking on behalf of the pulpit I believe the preacher is trying to do one or more of the following things in his sermon, which may create a clash with those in the pews:
WHAT THE PEW IS TRYING TO DO
Turning our attention to the pew, where, I, too, have spent considerable time over the years listening to the pulpit, here are some of the positive and negative things the pew is trying to do:
When we place these ten attitudes and practices of the pew beside what the pulpit is trying to accomplish, it’s easy to see why and how there is a challenge every Sunday. But there is another facet related to the clash between pulpit and pew.
THE PHYSICAL ISSUES
The pulpit and pew both occupy a place in a physical structure. It is in this building both have agreed to share in the preaching event. Time has been allotted for the coming together to study God’s word in what is traditionally called “a sermon.”
The challenges faced by the pulpit and pew are influenced by factors in the physical structure. Here are some of those issues:
PREPARING TO FACE AND OVERCOME THE CHALLENGES
The Sunday challenge between pulpit and pew must not be taken lightly. We must keep in mind that Satan, “as a roaring lion,” (1 Peter 5:8) is seeking to devour and steal the word out of hearts (Luke 8:12), by attending every preaching event and creating clashes between the pulpit and pew.
Now that we are in the aware zone relative to the challenge between the pulpit and pew, we can do something intentionally about reducing it as much as possible. Here are a few suggestions:
Let’s think about how wonderful and powerful it is when both pulpit and pew are both on the same page. Borrowing from David, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).How beautiful it is when both pulpit and pew are on the same pages during the Sunday assemblies.
The Bible Class teacher went around the room asking each student if he or she said their prayers each day. All said yes but little Johnny. When asked why he didn’t say his prayers every day, he replied, “Some days I don’t need anything.”
We smile at Johnny’s answer but, sadly, many Christians are like Johnny. Some days we don’t need anything or think we don’t have any needs; therefore, we don’t pray. Prayer is our first aid kit to be used only in an emergency. The heavenly Father is on duty 24-7 in the emergency room waiting for us to call.
When we venturing into thinking about “Restoring New Testament Christianity,” I believe restoring the praying habits we see in those first-century congregations, as a whole, is being neglected. When I research and wrote my book “Don’t Stop Prayer; The Answer is Coming,” I discovered the average congregation prayed on an average of 15 minutes each week. This included opening and closing prayers in worship services, prayers for the Lord’s Supper, prayers in adult Bible classes, etc.
I deeply believe that we need, as the army of Christ, to raise up prayer warriors. Yes, I know the phrase “prayer warrior” is not found in the Scripture but the concept is. The Bible affirms that every Christian is a “soldier of Christ”: “You, therefore, must endure hardship as a good SOLDIER of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in WARFARE entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who ENLISTED him as a SOLDIER” (2 Timothy 2:3, 4).
In his letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote them a graphic description relative to the need to be prepared to continually do spiritual warfare. He starts by identifying why they need to be prepared for spiritual battle: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against SPIRITUAL hosts in the HEAVENLY places” (Ephesians 6:11,12).
After describing the components of the armor we must wear in order to defeat the devil, Paul zeroes in on PRAYER: “[P]raying ALWAYS with all power and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). This sounds like we ought to pray more than 15 minutes a week as a congregation and especially in our personal and private prayers. In fact, Paul went so far as to command that we pray continually: “Rejoice always, pray CONTINUALLY, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s WILL for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
PRAYER WARRIORS, ARISE
We sing this amazing and challenging hymn but are we really applying it to our prayer life?
Soldiers of Christ, Arise
Soldiers of Christ arise…and put your armor on,
Strong in the strength with God supplies
Strong in the strength with God supplies,
Thro’ His beloved Son.
As we read in Ephesians 6:10-18, part of the strength God supplies come because of our continual prayer to Him.
While EVERY Christian is a prayer warrior, just as every soldier in the Army is a warrior with different ranks, tenure, and skills, so it is with spiritual prayer warriors. Because of time, study, commitment, and practice some prayer warriors are more engaged in continual prayer in deeper and more diligent petitions to the heavenly Father.
The task of the prayer warrior is an awesome one. Paul commands that “requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for EVERYONE” (1 Timothy 2:1). There is no indication that any Christian is exempt from this command.
HOW TO BE A PRAYER WARRIOR
There are several specific beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors which will assist you in becoming a more dynamic and victorious prayer warrior.
“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “I desire that men in every place should pray” (1 Timothy 2:8).
The key to being a committed and successful prayer warrior, in a group or individually, is the development of personal prayer habits. What are your prayer habits in the following times, places and situations? Using A-B-C-D-F as a scale, grade yourself in the following areas:
1.___In a restaurant
2.___At family meals
3.___In the work-place cafeteria
4.___Before an automobile or plane trip
5.___Before going to bed
6.___When you get up in the morning
7.___Before you make a large purchase
8.___Before every important decision
9.___Before going to an assembly of the congregation
10.___Silently while in Bible class
11.___For your spouse every day
12.___For your family/children every day
13.___For an enemy or difficult person
14.___For your neighbors
15.___For the sick, shut-ins, and needy
16.___For church leaders
17.___For wisdom and understanding
18.___For forgiveness of specific faults and sins
19.___For spiritual boldness
20.___For lost persons by name
21.___For political leaders
22.___For your personal health and discipline issues
23.___For being more involved in ministry, etc.
24.___For local and global mission efforts to share the Gospel.
25.___For specific congregational goals, stewardship needs, and outreach.
What’s Your Grade? Each letter is worth the following points:
GRADING SCALE: A—4 points B—3 points C—2 points D—1 point F—0 points
Add the points:
If you are interested in doing a deeper study of prayer I recommend my book Don’t Stop Praying; The Answer Is Coming. If you would like to have a daily prayer guide I recommend my book One Year Daily Prayer Schedule (Both may be ordered from amazon.com).
Here’s a very interesting and often overlooked Scripture:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the VERY HAIRS of your head ARE ALL NUMBERED” (Matthew 10:29, 30).
Two observations in this text:
The awareness that God actually counts the hairs on our head should create an awareness of how He knows what’s going on in every area of our lives; especially in our THOUGHT habits which, as a rule, are hidden from those we are around. God is obviously interested and aware of our thoughts because the word appears approximately 75 times in the Bible. For some this truth is encouraging and for others, it isn’t. Why? “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7)
GOD’S GOT YOU COVERED
What follows are some Scriptures which document that God always has us covered. Regardless of where we are, what we are doing or have done, our plans and our thoughts are all, and more, known to him. The Psalmist lays this foundation in the following Psalm:
“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold you are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. I say, ‘Surely, the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide me from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You “(Psalm 139:7-12).
Here are some specific examples of how God has our thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior covered by His continual awareness:
YES! God has us covered. Every location, thought, attitude, behavior, belief, and desire. He is moment by moment looking out for sparrows and counting the hairs on our head. The question is: Are we as mindful of our inner life as God is? Is our thinking agenda God’s agenda? (Philippians 4:8, 9).
GOD IS COUNTING YOUR HAIRS RIGHT NOW!
Charlie was called on the carpet by his parents because of his continual complacent attitude toward his grades in high school. He was contented, yet unconcerned, with no desire to improve his grades or change his study habits. As far as he was concerned he had been getting passing grades for so long, mostly Bs, a few Cs, every now and then a D, that it didn’t bother him as much as it did his parents. After all, he was doing better than several of his classmates.
One has but to take a casual look to see the complacency covering our nation like a blanket of snow in an Alaskan winter. People are feeling content with their own piece of the pie; never mind the neighborhood and city poor who are without food and have staked claims on various streets and reside in cardboard shelters.
Hundreds of years ago the weeping prophet, Jeremiah, asked a question that is relevant today:
Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Behold and see if there is any sorrow
Like my sorrow, which has been brought
On me, which the Lord has inflicted
In the day of His fierce anger”
Jerusalem’s sins had found her out (Cf. Numbers 32:23). The Book of Lamentation in the Hebrew language is a collection of five poems or songs of mourning the conquest of Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah. Payday had come! In the book the prophet paints a graphic picture of the punishment which had come upon the city and God’s chosen people. Why? Because of their own sins. The once glorious city had been brought to ruin because of the greatness of her sins and refusal to repent and obey the voice of God. The people were slaves enduring the distress and famine brought on by their sins.
The once mighty city was flat on her back, lying on the ground of despair with observers mocking and making fun as they passed by. Verses 1 and 2 paint a very graphic picture of the afflicted city with no comfort:
How lonely sits the city, th
HOW TO DEVELOP THE WRITING HABIT
J.J. Turner, Ph.D.
Author of How to Drop Your Excuses and Start Writing Today (amazon.com)
As a writer, editor, publisher, and teacher of writing I am continually asked “How do you start writing?” Recently at a university book display a publisher “stuck a camera” in my face and asked me to share my advice on how to become a writer. When I quickly answered, “By writing one word at a time”, those gathered around the camera person, along with the camera person, either smiled or had a strange look on their faces. The camera person tried to encourage me to say more but I continued to say, “All writing begins with one word. Period!”
Here’s a rocket science observation. You can’t write the second or third word until you have written the first word. How amazing is this revelation! Try it and you’ll see I am right.
Hundreds of books, writer seminars and retreats, along with writing teachers have created a mystic or aura around what it takes to be a writer. Some of the advice and suggestions are on target and some is designed to promote and sell. You are discouraged when you hear about all the rules of grammar, syntax, spelling, word choices, etc. If you are interested in writing poetry you are given a list of dozens of acceptable poetry styles you need to master. No, I’m not opposed in pursuing academic knowledge about writing. My interest is in helping people start where it all starts after they’ve completed all the writing courses—writing one word.
12 KEYS TO DEVELOPING THE WRITING HABIT
Here are 12 simple and basic keys I have discovered which help develop the writing habit. Don’t let the simplistic nature of these keys fool you. Give them thought, questions, and application. Today, write on!
You have already started writing. DON’T STOP.