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40 Day Prayer Challenge

God has changed lives in 40 days before and He can do it again! We see that Jesus went into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan for 40 days. We also know that there were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension in Acts 1. In the Old Testament we see Moses on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and nights when he received the 10 Commandments. There is nothing magical or mystical about the number but it is significant in what can happen during a time of spiritual renewal and emphasis.

When a church seeks a time of renewal and revival the goal is to hear from the Lord and find God’s will and His agenda for our ministry. There is a unique connection for a body of believers when they agree to seek the Lord together and hear from Him together. When we press into His presence we are showing the Lord that we are taking our responsibility of listening to Him seriously. Mark Batterson says, “Our job is to hear His voice. His job is to establish our steps. And if we do our job, God will do His!”

Are you seeking a break through in your personal walk or as a church? The reality is that God’s plans are discovered, discerned, and defined in God’s presence. Perhaps you should consider a 40-day prayer challenge where the entire body focuses on the same Bible passages, repentance, and asking God for the same things. There are many resources available that include books, booklets, or you could even put your own together. Mark Batterson also says, “They gathered in a room and prayed for 10 days. Those 10 days have been paying dividends for 2,000 years.”

A prayer challenge reminds us of the importance of repentance and helps us to focus on the following process.

First, it begins by praying for personal repentance.   I John 1:9 makes this clear, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousenss.”

Second, we pray for our church to be burdened about holiness. Jesus makes it very clear in Revelation 2 and 3 that the path to being His church is for us to listen to Him and repent.

On day three pray for other churches in your community. Ask God to give other churches around you a burden for the lost and to raise up spiritual leaders in their midst to call them back to God’s word and His gospel.

Then on day four pray for Bible-believing churches in your state. One author has said, “Spirit-empowered churches across a state can change the state and influence the nation.” Ask God to burden all of His people across the state to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness.

The fifth day can focus your prayers on churches across your nation or country. We are called to make disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. A national revival could touch the world.

Day six could focus on praying for missionaries and churches around the world. Ask God to raise up national spiritual leaders who will call their churches to repentance and obedience to the Great Commission.

The seventh day we could pray fervently for the persecuted church around the world.

Charles Finney said, “Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer.” We must pray for revival that is grounded in His people turning back to Him. E.M. Bounds said, “God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil.” We are called to be a people of prayer who know that time spent in prayer is never wasted!

Next you should consider praying specifically for your church and its leadership.

First, pray for pastors. Paul asks for the prayers of fellow Christians in Ephesians 6:19, “Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.” The best thing you can do for your pastor is to surround him and his family with your prayers.

Second, pray for your church staff. Pray that each staff member will protect their walk with Christ and continually abide in Him.

Third, pray for your elders, deacons, and other church leaders. Pray that these leaders will be filled with the Spirit and they will lead unified. Romans 15:5-6 says it well, “Now may the God of endurance and encouragement grant you agreement with one another, according to Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.”

Fourth, pray for ministry leaders. Ask God to help them realize how much they are appreciated and loved. Their role is important!

Fifth, pray for ministry teams. God can use these teams, when they are spirit-empowered, to shake their churches and communities for the cause of Christ. Ask God to raise up leaders and provide workers for the harvest.

Then, pray for the lost! Here is a simple daily prayer challenge that all of us should pray. “Lord, I don’t ask for much today. I just ask that you give me your heart for lost people.” You will discover that prayer is more about changing our hearts then it is changing others.

We should pray for one another every day! A.W. Tozer said, “To desire revival…and at the same time to neglect (personal) prayer and devotion is to wish one way and walk together.”

Are You Winning?

Every church needs to ask themselves if they are winning or not. And, are you winning at what God defines as a win? Your church needs to allow God’s playbook, His word, to define what a win and success looks like. All too often our metrics are size (attendance), buildings (seating capacity), or killer programs (pet projects). None of the things mentioned are in and of themselves bad, but they can distract us. Churches can do a lot of good things but the main thing and the best thing is to “Go and make disciples.”

A winning team is described in Ephesians 4:16, “From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.” As individuals grow and serve the Lord then the entire church body is edified and lives on mission for Christ. Winning can be defined as developing mature disciples. III John verse 4 says, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Winning is helping people to find and follow Jesus.

My dad was military and following the seventh grade we moved to Florida where he was stationed at Eglin Air Force base. That August I tried out for the football team. I had never played organized football before but I showed up with my brother’s steel tipped cleats. They were too big so I stuffed socks into the toes and laced them up. I found out they were illegal and you couldn’t wear them anymore. The drills were hard but especially hard for someone who didn’t have a clue of what was going on. The coach then informed us that on Friday final cuts would be made.

We all huddled around the coach’s door where he posted the names of those who had made the team and mine was not there. After the season was over I saw the head coach in the school hallway and he informed me that he had thought I was already a ninth grader and if he had known I was actually a year younger I would have made the team. He said, “I think you could have helped us win some games!” Church, it is a huge mistake to think someone is older and more mature than they really are! That is why in Ephesians 4 he says, “Then we will no longer be little children.”

In Church is a Team Sport, Jim Putman uses the analogy of a football team to describe how we should function. The team is the church. The opponent is, of course, the devil. The playing field is the earth right where you live and right where you are. The team players are followers of Jesus and you need to determine if you are in the stands, on the sidelines, or on the playing field. The coaches are the leaders and we must realize that one coach cannot see the whole picture by himself. The strength of the team is the power of the Holy Spirit.

The playbook is the Bible and we must be very careful not to create our own plays or our own definition of winning. Some teams are more concerned about the condition of the stadium, the uniforms, the halftime show, or their own personal image and statistics. Discipleship is not an easy path but greatness never has been easy. Winning is not about finding something that has never been done before but instead getting back to the basics of the playbook, God’s word. Winning is doing whatever it takes to develop fully devoted followers of Christ.

First, the winning process of discipleship has a starting point – evangelism. Winning is seeing people saved, redeemed, and born-again. The church is here to live on Jesus’ mission to seek and to save that which is lost. Yet, we are told that 50% of all evangelical churches will not see one soul saved in a calendar year.

Many of the teenagers who were raised in church and a Christian home will leave the faith between the ages of 18 and 24. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and Mormonism is the fastest growing one in the United States. When was the last time you personally shared the gospel with someone? Winning is evangelizing the lost. How is your church doing?

Second, the winning process of discipleship must continue with edification. Edifying the believer wherever they are in the process of being an infant, a child, a young adult, or a fully mature reproducing parent. The best way to help our kids is by doing something with the immature adults. The thing children need to see the most is someone who is on fire for Jesus and is passionate about following Him. They need to see someone who will not be distracted or easily deterred by the attacks of the enemy and remain faithful.

Third, the winning process of discipleship has a releasing point. In discipleship the evangelized are edified and then the edified evangelize. We are not edified, trained, and equipped to be complacent, comfortable, and self-satisfied. There are three groups that aid in this discipleship process and all of them have responsibilities. The first is God and He always does His job. The second is the local church, which should create an environment where you can grow and mature in Christ. The third is the individual disciple, which must take personal responsibility for his or her own personal growth.

Are you winning? Far too many churches are producing disciples who are not growing or maturing, unwilling to speak the truth in love, and are unable to stand against the winds and waves of the world. Winning is allowing God’s word to be our playbook to define what true discipleship and winning looks like!

Is what you are living for, worth Christ dying for?

Bells and Whistles

Is there something without which you think you cannot serve or worship God? If not careful, we expect certain music, rituals, or even technology to produce a spiritual “atmosphere.” The truth is that neither a killer praise band nor liturgy and lighting candles can guarantee worship. Hebrews 10:1 says, “Since the law was only a shadow of good things to come, and not the actual form of those realities, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year.” We sometimes accept cheap substitutes of the real thing.

One example of this could be when someone comments, “I did not care for that song!” Maybe that song, whether a hymn or a contemporary chorus, was not for them but instead for someone else who desperately needed it. The way we approach ministry is often more determined by what we like and the traditions we were raised on than on biblical principles. Let’s look again to the word of God in Hebrews 8:6, “But Jesus has now obtained a superior ministry, and to that degree He is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been legally enacted on better promises.”

Sometimes we think we must have certain things present, just like the Judaizers did, or it is not real worship. We want all the bells and whistles to feel like we have been a part of special services. Let me make this clear. There is nothing wrong with bells and whistles. The problem is when we look to “them” more that we do to Him. J.D. Greear has said, “Worship need not always be spectacular, but it must be supernatural. And if we are not careful, our lust for the sensational can keep us from reliance on the supernatural.”

The problem is that all too often we spend more time focusing on our delivery method than we do depending on our Deliverer! Once again, let me caution you about saying “amen” because you have interpreted me to be talking about those other guys that do not do it like we do. What are some guiding principles on which we can build our ministry that can help to keep us focused on the right things? Why would we settle for cheap substitutes, the bells and whistles, when the real substance, Jesus Christ, is available to all who follow Him?

First, everything must be about exalting the name of Jesus! We know that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. He says in Isaiah 42:8, “I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols.” When we do anything to bring attention to ourselves we are in danger of Him not showing up in a powerful way. He inhabits the praise of His people, which is directed at Him so that He receives the honor and the glory.

Second, we need to make sure we are known as a house of prayer! How much time do we actually spend praying as a body of believers? Our job is to get into His presence so that we can hear from Him. God’s job is to move in our presence as He empowers and directs us. The wonderful thing is that when we do our job He always does His. When we pray for Him to move in our midst we know that we are praying what is His will.

Third, allow Him to fill is with His fullness. Ephesians 4:10 says, ”The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.” We fill our life with so many things, but are we allowing Him to fill us with His fullness? We see in Ephesians that we are to be filled with the fullness of the Father (3:19), filled with Christ’s fullness (4:13), and filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The Father planned our salvation, the Son provided our salvation, and the Holy Spirit applies our salvation.

Fourth, make sure you strive for excellence. The key to keeping our eyes on the author and finisher of our salvation is to fill our hearts with the right things. God gives us enabling grace but we are also responsible to believe, trust, obey, and follow Him. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men.” A great way of looking at excellence is to do the best with what you have.

Fifth, be thankful for what you have and what God has given you. Enabling grace from God plus enacting faith leads to us fulfilling His intended purpose. God is in charge of the gifts He gives each of us. We should not seek any particular gifts but trust how He has distributed them. The gifts He gives come from Him so therefore they need to be used and not buried. Also, no gift should be exalted above any other gift and we should humbly serve others with our gifts.

Sixth, do what you do for Christ with excellence but also do it where it can strategically help carry out the mission of God. We do not need all the bells and whistles if we are doing it for the glory of God. You also will then do your work out of your heart for the benefit of others. Then you will be able to leverage appropriate opportunities to share the love of God with others. All the tools are great but nothing can replace love, kindness, friendship, and genuine care.

Seventh, remember to make the most of the place where God has planted you. Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” God has a purpose for you. Your testimony and influence grows out of how you carry out your calling with passion. Colossians 2:17 states, “These are the shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.” The bells and whistles are all the trimmings but the real substance is in knowing Him!