Browsing Tag

prayer

Christian Life, Spiritual Warfare

Embrace Greater Things

October 28, 2016

 

 

Would it ever enter your mind that you could come to the end of your life, look back, and say truthfully that you have done greater works in your life than Jesus did in his? Apparently it should.

This morning I was reading John 14-17 in preparation for a session that I’m leading at Verge Ministry’s Leader Advance that starts tonight and this statement by Jesus jumped out at me in a fresh way;

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (14:12)

Apparently Jesus wants us to live with the belief that our lives would be full of works even greater than his. That’s a pretty huge challenge to a body of believers the majority of whom’s greatest works are being nice people and going to church a couple times a week.

In my experience we have an incredible propensity to tame down and over-qualify Jesus’ words when he says things like this. Let’s resist that temptation. Let’s press into the difficulty of statements like “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do,” and, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do”. Let’s earnestly desire and labor to experience the reality of those promises rather than bending them to fit our current experience.

I for one want to come to the end of my life and have Jesus say, “See! I told you you would.” That, my friends, would be amazing, and if our God has anything to say about it every Christ-follower’s life is meant to be exactly amazing.

 

 

 

Journal, Ministry Update, Threshingfloor, Verge

Ministry Update – 06/02/2015

June 2, 2015

It’s been an eventful couple weeks for Kelly and I. Two weeks ago I came home from work to Kelly lying on the bed in some serious pain. After talking for a few minutes we decided to take her to the emergency room. A good thing we did too, since it turned out that she had appendicitis. It made for a late night, but Kelly had surgery that night to remove her appendix before it burst.

We were blessed with a surgeon who knew exactly what he was doing. The operation took barely 30 minutes, and Kelly was back home by 10AM the next day. Sadly, the recovery time meant that we wouldn’t be able to go to the wedding we had been planning on going to in Montana on Memorial Day weekend. But God, in his amazing way, had something better.

As a result of our staying in Fargo we were able to spend Sunday evening with several of our apartment neighbors who we’ve been praying for since moving in. They’re a rough crowd and exactly the kind of people that Jesus love to associated with. We got to spend an evening with them, pray for one of the guys’ back and leg pain, and heard some of their stories. It’s so refreshing to be with people who don’t know Jesus and see just how much he can transform someone’s life.

For the past four months or so God’s been increasing the tension in my spirit about the fact that though Threshingfloor has created some amazing communities and seen people who are believers grow deeper in their faith and a couple people seeking Jesus join us on a regular basis, we haven’t seen significant movement of people encountering Christ and faith for the first time. I’ve been spending significant amounts of time in prayer on this topic. I want to see our communities come to the place where they are packed full of people who aren’t Christians but are getting drawn to Christ by his love displayed through us.

It’s because of that desire and those prayers that I’m excited for the changes coming to Threshingfloor this summer. Our communities are shifting their strategies in order to go deeper and further in disciple making. Our community will be breaking from our normal gatherings and spending the summer hosting a grill out every Wednesday night as a place for people to connect with community and encounter the kingdom of God. The other Threshingfloor community will be spending the summer learning and equipping each other, using the Story of God to go deeper in the Gospel in preparation for making disciples among international students once school starts back up in the fall.

One of our Threshingfloor Communities

One of our Threshingfloor Communities

Things are on the move for Verge as well. This coming weekend we’ll be gathering all the Verge staff from across the country in the Brainerd area for a weekend to pray, play, plan, and learn together. It’s going to be a critical weekend for us, all the more since our team so rarely gets to be together in one place for an extended period.

On top of that we’re preparing to launch a new Leader Community – an awesome space for ministry leaders to connect and equip each other – in the Twin Cities, discussing partnerships with churches in Glyndon and Park Rapids and several other communities in the Midwest, and preparing for the Leader Advance retreat this fall.

There’s a lot happening, and within it all I’m pressing towards completing the process of fundraising for my position with Verge/Threshingfloor. At $950/month of support, we’re practically 1/4 of the way to fully supported, and halfway to the point where I will be able to move into full time ministry. Continue laboring with us in prayer that God would provide full support by the end of July!

You can also join us in praying:

  • The God would lead me (Ben) to a couple new guys to disciple deeply
  • Opportunities to demonstrate God’s love and grace to our apartment neighbors
  • That our community’s summer grill outs would draw 20 new people to Christ
  • That Threshingfloor would multiply to three communities this fall
  • Opportunities for Verge to serve disciple-makers in Iowa and the western Dakotas
  • Connections for Verge to help increase disciple-making at Community College and noncollege cities and towns in the Midwest.
  • Wisdom and skill for leading a ministry team that’s spread across multiple states

Kelly and I can’t express our gratitude enough to each of you who are helping make it possible for us to move forward in making disciples among young adults in the Midwest. We literally wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing without your spiritual and financial support. Such a huge blessing to have friends and family who are willing to invest in us! We want to stay deeply connected to each one of you. If you want to chat, hear more stories about what God is doing, visit us here in Fargo, or have us come and visit you, let us know! In case you don’t have it, my contact information is;

ben@verge28.org
@thefallout

Journal, Ministry Update, Threshingfloor, Verge

Ministry Update – 5/04/15

May 4, 2015

A lot has happened in the last week within Verge and Threshingfloor, so I wanted to give you all a brief update. Here’s what’s been going on.

Verge

Last week was a huge step towards accomplishing Verge’s Phase 2 vision. We’ve officially established a presence in the Twin Cities with a new networking partner and a new ministry partner. We’ll release specific details soon, but that means that we’re now working towards launching a Leader Community – one of our key vehicles for networking, educating, and equipping ministry leaders – in the Twin Cities area by end of summer.

One of the things that has me most excited about some of these new connections and conversations that are currently taking place with churches and ministry leaders around the region is the amazing variety of denominational, theological, and even racial backgrounds that we’re getting to talk with. They each have a huge passion for young adults. Regardless of differences, they’re all asking the same questions, expressing the same desires, and all eagerly desiring to see young adults discipled to and in Jesus in powerful ways.

Threshingfloor

After the exciting news of two new ministries partnering with Verge, I got to spend a great weekend with several of the Threshingfloor community leaders in a cabin in the woods, praying and seeking what God has for our communities for the rest of 2015.

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Part of the TF leader crew

We had some great conversation, got to relax together, and laid out specific action plans for our communities to accomplish in the next six months or so. A sampling of the things that our different communities will be doing includes;

  • 2 days of fasting and prayer each month
  • Increase the practice of hospitality by inviting international students into homes
  • Change the schedule of community gatherings so that the people in the community have time to go out and do ministry
  • Identify new apprentice leaders

To name just a few.

I love that we’re not stuck in the way we’ve been doing things, and that our leaders are more than ready to make any changes that will make us more effective at developing a network of disciples and discipling communities. That flexibility is critical in reaching the ever-shifting reality of culture.

 

 

All in all it’s been an encouraging week or so. As I sit here on this Monday morning and look out over the fast-approaching summer and dream about what God will do, I believe it’s going to be amazing.

We’re praying that God would continue to increase the movement that he’s beginning. I truly believe the last five years of Verge ministry is just the start, and I feel the same way about the last 4 1/2 years of Threshingfloor. There’s massive things that are coming in the next 6 months. I want to be ready for it. Join me in praying toward all that God has for us, both in Fargo and in the larger Midwest Region!

Christian Life, Commentary, Spiritual Growth

The Secret to Praying Without Ceasing

February 8, 2014

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV

If you’ve been a involved in the church for any amount of time you’ve probably heard the the apostle Paul’s command to “pray without ceasing.” In a world of a million distractions it seems impossible. Paul’s time was simpler, slower one; no cell phones or internet or cars. People had space to engaging in ceaseless prayer then, but not any more. And so we soften Paul’s words and make them a recommendation or an ideal to simply be moving towards. He means, “pray often,” and not really “pray without ceasing,” after all, even Paul couldn’t have really been praying all the time, right?

We need to beware the kind of thinking that takes God’s word and softens it. Jesus says that “whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5). Friends, I don’t want us to be the least in God’s kingdom. I firmly believe that Christ has massive, mountain-moving things for each of us to engage in, but to fulfill that destiny must not “relax one of the least of these commandments.” When Paul commands, “pray without ceasing,” I believe he really means it. He’s not saying, “set aside regular time to pray,” he’s saying pray all the time, constantly. That’s why he restates himself in the next phrase, saying, “give thanks in all circumstances.” Not some. All. He then concludes with the massive statement, “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” To say it a different way, this is God’s command for you who are in Christ. It’s what He wants for you. Pray without ceasing.

The question then is, how? How do we pray without ceasing in an age of unceasing demands on our attention? I believe that the answer is, honestly, pretty simple. Uncovering this truth several years ago revolutionized my spiritual life. The secret to praying without ceasing, as I’ve seen it, is to turn your inner monologue into a dialogue with God.

We all have an inner monologue, even the most introverted of us. (I’m pretty sure the introverts make up for external silence by their internal conversation!) We converse with ourselves from the moment we wake up till the moment we fall asleep. We talk to ourselves about how tired we are, ask what we want for breakfast, plan out the day, question whether we want to wear this outfit or that one, comment on our frustration with the slow driver in front of us, debate what our co-worker will think of the new proposal, roll over the day’s highs and lows as we lay down to sleep, and so on.

The secret to unceasing prayer is to direct that inner monologue upwards and let it become a constant dialogue with the Lord. The thought, “ehhh, need more sleep,” becomes a request for strength and energy after a sleepless night. The “these people don’t know how to drive in winter,” becomes a quiet thankfulness that God is in control of time. The constant rush of thoughts is pushed to stillness as we silence ourselves in order to listen for the Lord’s response.

This is simple, but it’s not an easy shift to engage in. It’s shifting your mental rhythms. We love to hear ourselves think. We’re used to letting our minds run where they like. To turn our mental attention away from ourselves onto the Lord takes training. Two practical things you need to do to turn your inner monologue into a dialogue with God are,

  1. Pause between tasks to direct your spirit upward. This is a great way to begin training yourself. Whenever you’re shifting gears, whether that’s finishing breakfast and heading out the door or finishing a chapter in your textbook, take that moment of transition and – perhaps literally – look upward. Begin reminding yourself that God is present always. When I’m reading I do this by thanking God for my ability to read and asking him to point my mind to what I need to learn every time I start a new chapter.
  2. Practice mental silence. A dialogue means that there are times where you need to stop talking and listen. Learn to quiet your thoughts and listen mentally. God still speaks. Usually our minds are just too full to hear him since he rarely yells. Practicing mental silence and leaving space for the presence of the Lord will lift anxiety, fear, and stress from you like little else will.

I want Threshingfloor and the church at large to be full of people who walk in the presence of the Lord. One of the main ways that we do that is by praying without ceasing. I can’t encourage you enough to do this. For me it has freed me up from so many of my worries weights of mental anxiety as I’ve learned to cast those cares on the Lord as they come upon me rather than attempting to juggle them within my mind. Praying without ceasing leads to constant thankfulness, which frees us for infinite joy. And that’s a very good way to live.

May the Lord soon hear the beautiful sound of our unceasing prayers!

Best Of, Christian Life, Leadership

The Poison of a Prayerless Leader

December 9, 2013

 

 

Yesterday I spent some time flipping through scripture and looking over passages where prayer is mentioned. There’s a lot of them. Almost 100 if you search for the word “pray” on esvbible.org. Out of all the texts that I skimmed through this one from 1 Samuel stood out to me most. Samuel is stepping down from his role as judge of the nation of Israel because they have demanded a king to rule over them and God has given them one. 1 Samuel 12 is his farewell address to the people who he has led and judged for most of his lifetime, and one of his concluding statements is,

“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way.” – 1 Samuel 12:23

This is a paradigm shifting verse for me. Every Christian knows they are supposed to pray. Every leader of God’s people knows they should pray for the people they are leading. But Samuel isn’t comfortable with should. He says that it would be sin for him to stop praying for the people of Israel.
Leader, hear this well. One of the greatest responsibilities you have – perhaps the greatest responsibility – is to intercede for your people. Your great task is to follow your savior in coming before the throne of God and pleading for those who the Lord has given you charge of. Teach them, yes. Train them and council them, yes. Lead them in the study of Scripture and cast vision, yes. Guide them into the mission the Lord has called them to, yes, but above all pray for them. Pray over them. Pray with them. To fail in doing so is to walk in sin.

We need to be men and women who, like Samuel, realize that it is sin when we cease to pray for the people God has given us. God gives grace to the prayerless leader and may allow him to succeed for a time, but shall we sin that grace may abound? By no means! “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray”!

Do you pray for the believers around you? Are these spaces carved from your day-to-day life for the solitary, focused labor of intercession? Does your community gather regularly for the sole purpose of prayer? Is prayer a natural part of your gatherings? If it is not that may well be root of many of your struggles. As R.A. Torrey wrote in his book How To Pray, “There is infinite grace at our disposal, and we make it our experimentally [in experience] by prayer.”

Let us be a people who take a hold of that grace on behalf of our people, praying without ceasing. God will not fail to hear the prayer of those who minister faithfully in the name of Christ. Do not cease in your prayer, oh leader.

 

 

 

Book Highlights, Christian Life, Quotations, Spiritual Growth, Theology

Powerful Quotes on Prayer

July 20, 2013

For the last month and a half or so I’ve been digging deep into the topic of prayer and the Christian life. Below are some of my favorite quotes from the books, sermons, and other things I went through during my studies.

 

  • “Prayer is one of the greatest opportunities, one of the greatest privileges and one of the greatest ministries available to all Christians. I do not read that Jesus ever actually taught His disciples how to preach, but He did teach them how to pray.”
  • “The Bible reveals that this world is not really ruled by presidents and governors and dictators. They only seem to rule. The people who really rule the world are those who know how to pray.”
  • “There are some things that I have been praying for ten years. They have not come yet. When that happens, you discover whether you are praying in faith or unbelief. If you are praying in unbelief, you probably say, ‘I have been praying for ten years and nothing has happened.’ But if you are praying in faith you say, ‘The answer is ten years nearer than when I started praying.'”
– Derek Prince – Secrets of a Prayer Warrior

  • It is only by intercession that that power can be brought down from Heaven which will enable the Church to conquer the world. Let us stir up the slumbering gift that is lying unused, and seek to gather and train and band together as many as we can, to be God’s remembrancers, and to give Him no rest till He makes His Church a joy in the earth. Nothing but intense believing prayer can meet the intense spirit of worldliness, of which complaint is everywhere made.”
  • “The attempt to pray constantly for ourselves must be a failure; it is in intercession for others that our faith and love and perseverance will be aroused, and that power of the Spirit be found which can fit us for saving men.”
  • “Blessed the man who is not staggered by God’s delay, or silence, or apparent refusal, but is strong in faith, giving glory to God. Such faith perseveres, importunately, if need be, and cannot fail to inherit the blessing.”
  • “Time spent in prayer will yield more than that given to work. Prayer alone gives work its worth and its success. Prayer opens the way for God Himself to do His work in us and through us.”
  • “Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach, only how to pray. He did not speak much of what was needed to preach well, but much of praying well. To know how to speak to God is more than knowing how to speak to man. Not power with men, but power with God is the first thing. Jesus loves to teach us how to pray.”
  • “The knowledge of God’s Father-love is the first and simplest, but also the last and highest lesson in the school of prayer.”
– Andrew Murray – The Ministry of Intercession and Lord, Teach Us to Pray
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  • “God has appointed a way by which we shall seek and obtain mercy and grace. That way is prayer; bold, confident, outspoken approach to the throne of grace, the most holy place of God’s presence, where our sympathizing High Priest, Jesus Christ, has entered in our behalf.”
  • “Some of us let the hurry of our lives crowd prayer out, and what a waste of time and energy and nerve force there is by the constant worry! One night of prayer will save us from the many nights of insomnia. Time spent in prayer is not wasted but time invested at big interest.”
  • “If we put so little heart into our prayers, we cannot expect God to put much heart into answering them.”
  • “The prayer that God answers is the prayer that is real, the prayer that asks for something that is sincerely desired.”
  • “It is vain to expect power in prayer unless we meditate much upon the words of Christ and let them sink deep and find a permanent abode in our hearts. There are many who wonder why they are so powerless in prayer, but the very simple explanation of it all is found in their neglect of the words of Christ.”
  • “One great question for us to decide, if we would have power in prayer, is, Is God absolutely first? Is He before wife, before children, before reputation, before business, before our own lives? If not, prevailing prayer is impossible.”
  • “The Devil is perfectly willing that the church should multiply its organizations and deftly contrive machinery for the conquest of the world for Christ if it will only give up praying.”
– R.A. Torrey – How To Pray
Book Highlights, Quotations

Book Highlights: R.A. Torrey – How To Pray

June 15, 2013
Those men whom God set forth as a pattern of what He expected Christians to be—the apostles—regarded prayer as the most important business of their lives. When the multiplying responsibilities of the early church crowded in upon them, they “called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the Word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, fully of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:2–4). It is evident from what Paul wrote to the churches and to individuals about praying for them that much of his time, strength, and thought were given to prayer (Romans 1:9 RV; Ephesians 1:15–16; Colossians 1:9 RV; 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 2 Timothy 1:3 RV). All the mighty men of God outside the Bible have been men of prayer. They have differed from one another in many things, but in this they have been alike.
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Prayer often avails where everything else fails. How utterly all of Monica’s efforts and entreaties failed with her son! But her prayers prevailed with God, and the dissolute youth became St. Augustine, the mighty man of God. By prayer the bitterest enemies of the gospel have become its most valiant defenders, the greatest scoundrels the truest sons of God, and the vilest women the purest saints. Oh, the power of prayer to reach down, down, down where hope itself seems vain, and lift men and women up, up, up into fellowship with and likeness to God! It is simply wonderful! How little we appreciate this marvelous weapon.
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God has appointed a way by which we shall seek and obtain mercy and grace. That way is prayer; bold, confident, outspoken approach to the throne of grace, the most holy place of God’s presence, where our sympathizing High Priest, Jesus Christ, has entered in our behalf.
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If we put so little heart into our prayers, we cannot expect God to put much heart into answering them.
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If we would pray with power, we should pray with fasting. This of course does not mean that we should fast every time we pray; but there are times of emergency or special crisis in work or in our individual lives, when men of downright earnestness will withdraw themselves even from the gratification of natural appetites that would be perfectly proper under other circumstances, that they may give themselves up wholly to prayer. There is a peculiar power in such prayer. Every great crisis in life and work should be met in that way.
Best Of, Christian Life, Leadership, Spiritual Growth

Stay In The Tent

June 13, 2013

“Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.”

– Exodus 33:11

 

For the month of June I’ve been focusing on the study and practice of prayer, investing significantly more time than I have in the past in the Lord’s presence. I can honestly say that it’s been the most spiritually refreshing and empowering couple weeks I’ve had in quite some time. It’s inspired and encouraged me for the work that I have before me each day. I am convinced that the thing the young man or woman who aspires to follow Christ and make disciples needs more than anything else is to spend significant, intentional time before the Lord in the Word and in prayer.

Learn from your elders

Joshua understood this. Exodus 33:11 records that this young man, Moses’ assistant, made sure to be present when Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord. He joined the person who God has placed over him and observed, learning the ways that Moses interacted with the Lord and growing in knowledge, faith, and love. Rather than presuming to go on his own, Joshua entered the tent with Moses and thereby honored the authority placed over him.

Young leaders (I include myself in that category) need to be keenly aware of the authority that is over them. Jesus tells a parable warning against taking the best seat at the table lest the host tell you that it was reserved for someone else. Instead, we should take the low seats, joyfully do the menial tasks, quietly observe the discussions, and realize that we have much to learn.

Linger after your elders

Joshua doesn’t stop there, however. Even after Moses left to return to the Israelite camp and the day-to-day work he “would not depart from the tent.” Joshua lingers after his elder has left in the presence of God, developing in himself a steadfastness and faithfulness that lasts him even to old age. This extra time in the presence of God, I believe, is part of why Joshua is faithful to the end of his life where Moses eventually sins and is called out of leadership because of disobeying God’s command. (Numbers 20) He understood his desperate need for the Lord because of his youth and his inexperience and acted accordingly.

I want to be, and I want the men and women of Threshingfloor to be, a generation that lingers long in the tent of meeting. If we build significant space for prayer, worship, and study of the scriptures into our lives while we are in college, single, and free from many of the commitments that come later in life those habits will carry us for years to come. We need to remember that it is there in the presence of our Lord and King that the battle is decided. All of our preparation and strategy is worthless if we are not following His call in our lives.

Observe Joshua well. Learn from the men and women of God that have gone before you. Be humble enough to acknowledge your inexperience and need for leadership. Then invest more in your own growth by reading, praying, studying, observing, and practicing. By doing so you will prepare yourself to conquer nations for Christ.

 

 

 

Best Of, Christian Life, Evangelism, Threshingfloor

Five Ways for College Students to be Missional

March 7, 2013

 

 

One of things I want to constantly remind the people of Threshingfloor is that God has sovereignly placed them where they are at in this moment for a specific purpose. As Paul says in Acts 17 to the Athenians, God has chosen our times and put boundaries on our dwelling places so that men might seek God. Here’s seven ways for those of you who God has placed on college campuses to live in a way that causes people to seek Jesus.

 

Be early to class

We all have full schedules and, yes, getting up in the morning isn’t thrilling – but if we are truly native missionaries that God has commissioned to spread the gospel on our campuses then it’s our job to sacrifice for the sake of saving others. Get up ten minutes earlier than you usually do. Make it to class with enough time to talk to the people you’re sitting near. Be friendly. Initiate conversation. Your job isn’t to sneak in a gospel presentation before the professor begins; it’s to love those that Jesus has surrounded you with.

Unplug

I love music. I love podcasts. The fact that I can grow in the knowledge of Christ while I walk from my apartment to class is a privilege. However, in the last couple months I’ve been convicted of how much of my time I spend with headphones in when I’m on campus. By doing this I’ve cut off potential of interacting with the people who I’m walking past as I go from class to class.

We can’t let our learning about Jesus keep us from doing what he has commanded us to do. Challenge yourself and spend an hour a day unplugged when you’re on campus. Take out the headphones and put the phone away. Make eye contact with the people you’re passing. Smile, say hey. Jesus’ life is basically a series of “by the wayside” encounters with people who he met while walking around Galilee and the surrounding countryside. Who knows what God has planned for you today? Unplug for a bit and listen to the Spirit’s leading.

Hang out on campus

Some of the most effective ministry I’ve experienced took place when I was living on campus my first year here in Fargo. I had great conversations with the guys who lived on my floor during the times we hung out, ate at the dining center together, threw the frisbee around, and did whatever else struck our fancy. I can’t count the interesting discussions I had when people would come to talk to me as I sat under a tree in the campus mall reading my Bible. (They always assumed I was reading for class. Boy did I surprise them!)

In my opinion there’s a huge argument for living on campus just for the sake of spreading the gospel, but that’s not where God wants all of us. For those who live away from campus like I do now, carve out some time to simply chill around the space where God has put you. Get a partial meal plan and eat in the dining center occasionally. Do your homework at the school in hopes of getting interrupted. Take part in campus events. Make some friends and watch and pray for the chance to demonstrate and speak the truth.

Be honest

Don’t downplay your Christianity when it comes up. We need to heed the warning that Jesus gives when he says that if we’re ashamed of him in front of other people he’s going to be ashamed of us when we come before the Father. Not good news for those of us who try to keep our Christianity secret.

Instead of downplaying Jesus, be explicit about things. When someone asks you what you’re doing over the weekend, tell them how you’re stoked to go to church and worship the God you love. When you’re asked your plans for the night, tell them about how Jesus is blowing your mind with his Word and the friends you’re digging into it with. If someone catches you reading your Bible don’t avoid the subject. Tell them about what you’re reading and why it matters to you. If you’re not passionate about it why would they want to believe it?

Pray for your campus

Most of the missional to-do lists I’ve read are made solely up of things that we should do out in the public sphere and seem to avoid the stuff traditionally considered “spiritual,” such as prayer, reading the Word, and the like. I would argue that this is a dangerous (but well unintentional) omission. In my opinion prayer is the most missional thing you can do for your campus. Get down on your knees, by yourself or better yet with a few friends, and plead with the Lord for the souls of those on your campus. I don’t care how friendly you are, unless the Holy Spirit moves no one is coming to salvation.

If we really believe that our God is sovereign and that he has commanded and empowered us to make disciples then we need to walk in a way that makes that possible. Above all, our eyes need to be fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Tweak your life so that people see your passion for your savior. As we prayerfully, dependently go through our days God will do amazing things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Culture, Spiritual Growth

A Generation Like Josiah

February 4, 2011

In my Bible reading this morning I found myself in 2 Kings 22-23, reading the story of Josiah, one of Judah’s kings who is said to have done  “what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2). In the midst of my reading, I paused and looked out of the window that I was sitting near, and watched the steady stream of college students heading from class to class. The question entered my mind; can God make this generation a generation like Josiah? Would he be so gracious to us as to raise up hundreds and thousands of young men and women who will do as that young king did, casting down the idols that had filled his culture? Oh, how eager I am to see that become a reality!

Josiah stepped into his position as king at the age of 8, taking power in a culture that had seen hundreds of years of rulers who had led people deeper and deeper into idolatry, child sacrifice, prostitution, and every sort of evil. Manasseh, a king shortly preceding Josiah, was said to have done, “what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel”(2 Kings 21:2). Not only that, God himself declares that Manasseh’s evil was greater than that of the Amorites who God had used the Israelites to destroy. (Kings 21:11-12)

Though America and the west may not have the idols in a physical form like the people of Judah did, the culture that Josiah stepped into is not much different than ours, having been steeped in the worship and love of anything and everything other than the one true God, yet still believing that they were God’s chosen people. Josiah’s actions show the massive contrast between a person who truly loves the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:30)

At the age of 26 Josiah calls for a restoration of the Lord’s temple, in the process discovering the Book of the Law. Shaphan, king’s secretary, reads the book to him, and Josiah’s reaction is one of true repentance as he tears his clothes, weeps, seeks to inquire of the Lord, calls the people together to hear the reading of the Law, and begins a massive reform that doesn’t stop until he has removed every idol in his culture.

I can’t help but wonder what it would look like if there was a wave of people in our time that had hearts like Josiah’s. As I noted a few days ago, it seems to me that the Lord is working in people’s hearts to move them towards that Josiah-like passion for the restoration of the Lord’s glory. In view of that hope, I want to point out five things in this young king’s life that will be essential if we are to be instruments of reformation in our day.

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1. A Rediscovery of the Word of God.

For Josiah this is what started everything. For perhaps the first time in his life he truly heard the Word of the Lord read to him and understood it. It was this that inspired his reformation, and it will be no different for us. We must discover and dwell in the scriptures, or all else will be futile. As we read, meditate on, and study what the Lord has revealed to his people, our hearts will be transformed and we will meet the Lord and discover that he is far more worthy of our love than any idol of this earth.

Reading the Word will reveal to us our own sinfulness, God’s glory, the way that we aught to live, and much more. The return to scripture is the first and perhaps most essential piece of any reformation, for it will align our minds with heaven. I rejoice to see this happening in my day, and urge you, my brothers and sisters, to continue in it!

2. Heartfelt Repentance

No matter how well we do with our study and reading of the Word, it will avail us little if it is not coupled with true repentance. The scriptures are a double-edged sword, given for the purpose of piercing us to the core and revealing where we have gone astray from the ways of the Lord, and any man who comes in contact with their true edge will be led to repent. Josiah certainly felt that piercing, and responded appropriately. He didn’t wait until he was alone, he didn’t worry about his public appearance, and he certainly didn’t try to cover up certain parts of his sin. Instead,  “When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.” (2 Kings 22:11) Josiah tore his royal robes in the sight of his secretary and all the court, so great was his remorse at the way he and his people had gone astray. Oh how we need men and women like that! Throughout history, true repentance has been a marker of revival in a culture. When God’s people not only ingest his Word but are laid low by it and repent of their sins, God hears and responds. He certainly does so in Josiah’s case, saying,

because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the LORD…and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD.

2 Kings 22:19

Let us not forget repentance, my friends. Filling our heads with thousands of pages of the Bible will do us no good if it does not lead to us being pierced by it so as to change our ways. This is something that will not happen without the presence of prayer, which leads me to our next point.

3. Seeking the guidance of the Lord

Not only does Josiah hear the Law of the Lord read and repent in response, he also seeks direct counsel from the Lord and listens to what he hears. Similarly, our reading of the Word must be mingled with and matched by our passion for prayer. In my own experience, prayer comes second only to meditation upon the Word in its power to transform my heart and draw me to the Lord, and I am certainly not the only one to note how essential prayer is. Robert Murray McCheyne wrote,

We are often for preaching to awaken others; but we should be more upon praying for it. Prayer is more powerful than preaching. It is prayer that gives preaching all its power. . . . Why, the very hands of Moses would have fallen down, had they not been held up by his faithful people. Come, then, ye wrestlers with God—ye that climb Jacob’s ladder—ye that wrestle Jacob’s wrestling—strive you with God, that he may fulfill his word.

–       Via John Piper at the Desiring God 2011 Pastor’s Conference

May all of our study of the Word and repentance lead us to early, long, and constant communion with our Lord in prayer, for he is a God who hears his people’s cries. It is in our prayer before the very throne of Yahweh that we will gain our strength and passion to go out into the world and be instruments of transformation. Not only that, but prayer is essential in giving us the wisdom necessary to engage with a culture that opposes us, particularly when we do the next point.

4. Spreading of the Word

For the man or woman who has tasted the heart of God, it is never enough for to see only themselves transformed. Though it would have been an excellent thing for Josiah to hear the Law, repent, and seek the Lord, but he cannot stop there. Instead, he calls together all the people and has the law read to them, publicly covenanting as their king to,

walk after the LORD and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined him in the covenant.

–       2 Kings 23:3

In order for our world to know the Lord, we must be a people who make known the Word. The commission that Jesus left his followers with was to make disciples wherever they went (Matt. 28:18-20), and the apostle Paul makes it clear that this cannot be done without vocalizing the gospel. (Romans 10:14-17) Like Josiah, the change must begin in us. We must discover the precious truths of the Word and fill ourselves with them, responding in repentance and prayer, but it won’t do the world any good if we don’t tell them about what we have received.

When, by the power of the Holy Spirit, they hear and are “pierced to the heart,” there will be great reformation, which leads to our final observation.

5. Ruthless Reform

All of what we have looked at beforehand leads to this; the destruction of idolatry and a return to the one true God. Josiah’s reform was ruthless, a tearing down, burning up, and desecrating of every place of idolatry in his culture. Unlike many kings before him whose half-hearted reformations removed some of the high places and temples, Josiah does not stop until there is no altar left standing.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating going and destroying buildings or objects or people that are idolized, but there is a way that we are called to bring war to bear against that which draws people away from loving the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strengths. To understand how that looks in your context takes much discernment, counsel, and wisdom, much of which will flow from practicing what we have already noted. The main point I want us to take from Josiah’s life is something I’ve written about before; he didn’t stop the battle against sin until it was completely finished, and neither can we.  I urge you, do not stop working to see yourself and your culture transformed until it is utterly conformed to the image of Christ. And that means you don’t stop working until either you lay down to die or Christ returns to complete the work.

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Judah had Asherah poles, altars to Baals, high places set up to worship the sun, moon, and constellations, altars for the sacrifice of children in the valley of Topeth, astrologists and necromancers, and houses of male and female cult prostitutes. We have the love of personal appearance, self-gratification, naturalism, abortion, horoscopes, and pornography, in day-to-day culture.  Josiah, at the age of 26, instigated a transformation in Judah that hadn’t been dreamed of for over 200 years. He came in contact with the Word of the Living God, repented, sought God, proclaimed the Word, and did not allow any idol to stand in his lifetime. My friends, do we not need Josiah’s in our day? I see no reason why we cannot be like him, if the Lord so wills it.

Join me in praying and working to see such a thing come to pass.