Pastor Mike Hagoski, his son, my son and daughter, in front of the Big Dream. The building’s length is greater than its width.
Here’s the difference that prayer makes: When I first went to work as a missionary in Guatemala, I worked HARD. But nine out of 10 things went wrong; only one went right. I assumed this was the norm for a pioneer work.
After years of toiling thus, God changed the make-up of my day. He got me praying more — more time, greater intensity. I was frustrated with spinning my wheels. I realized that working so much was yielding so little. So I kind of gave up on my workings and asked God to work instead.
The result? Nine out of 10 things worked, only one went wrong.
Then I got my Big Dream — to buy a large church building that also housed the school. That never would have happened under the old scheme of me working — even if I labored intensely for a couple more decades. No, this came about suddenly, powerfully — you could say, effortlessly. Why? Because more effort now went into prayer, less into wearing myself out with human activity.
Don’t get me wrong now. I’m not talking about lazy pastor sipping soda in a hammock. I’m by nature a workaholic, and there was always plenty of work for me to do. I am saying that I wasn’t skimping prayer in favor of a needless workload. Prayer became my priority, not just an accessory to ministry.
So, do you want nine out of 10 successes or failures? Do you want your Big Dream? Then let your knees hit the ground and pray.
Sarah laughed at Abraham. A generation mocked Noah. No doubt, the other prisons gaped incredulously at Paul and Silas as they sang hymns while their fresh wounds dripped blood. These were all dumb to believe.
Lord, give us dumb faith. Grant us to believe — in the face of scorn.
Of course, there’s a difference between “dumb faith” and just being unwise. Grant us the ability to know the difference. Without balancing this teaching, I want to extol “dumb” faith.
Sarah gave birth at 90 years of age. Her laughter of unbelief turned into laughter of joy. Noah spent 100 years building an ark and telling people the reason why was that it was going to rain and flood the Earth. It had never rained previously. The Earth was watered a mist that covered the land. No wonder they didn’t believe him. He was dumb to believe.
Paul and Silas look out of their minds. Their wounds evidently hurt. And they’re there singing away happily. Did they appear to be drugged up?
Dumb faith is the answer to ministry’s greatest frustrations. It keeps you giving up hope, when any “reasonable” person could see clearly. When finances lack and obligations loom, dumb faith gets the miracle of money. When challenges are staggering, dumb faith keeps you from despair. It is quiet and childlike.
So let others laugh. You are good company — in company of Biblical heroes. They believed when it appeared to be dumb to believe.
Posted in church finances
Tagged Abraham, breakthrough, Faith, flood, fulfillment, Noah, offerings, Paul, prayer, promise, Sarah, Silas
When plaudits say “improbable” and “underdog,” they’ve grabbed my attention. Chelsea won the European Champions League for the first time ever a few days ago against a powerful foe. No one expected them to win against the talented Bayern Munich, which man-for-man outgunned the Blues.
I feel elated. I almost always root for the unfavored. That’s because we Christians — and our ministries — are always facing a daunting uphill struggle. The world has flush budgets and flashy pizazz. It’s hard for us to compete.
In the case of Chelsea, they exploited their defensive toughness to hold on through wave after wave of attacks. With just minutes to the final whistle, Bayern finally shot a torpedo that would sink Chelsea. It was what everybody expected.
But Chelsea didn’t sink. They remained buoyant. A corner kick and a header from Didier Drogba resulted in a tie score. When extra time couldn’t resolve the deadlock, the game fell to penalties. Chelsea’s ace goalie prevailed. While the favored were crushed, the underdogs could pride themselves with satisfaction.
No matter what the odds are, we Christians win in the end. Hold tight to faith as you battle in your ministry. Don’t allow that sinking feeling to sink your ship. God will bring the corner kick that will lead you to overtime, and you will prevail in the end.
Lionel Messi is arguably the best soccer player in the world at present. In 2,009, 2010 and 2011, he won FIFA’s best player of the year award. He has won five Spanish league titles with his club FC Barcelona, as well as three Champion’s Leagues. A lefty, Messi weaves through the world’s best defenders as if he lived in another dimension.
Strangely, he is humble.
The Argentine feels awkward when given an award at ceremonies, and he never talks trash about competitors. He always recognizes a debt of gratitude to his club, FC Barcelona, because it paid for his treatment of growth hormone deficiency when he was 11 years old.
In an post-Joe Namath age when super-athletes trumpet their own greatness, Messi is breath of fresh air. He is an example of Christian character even though he is not an evangelical Christian.
Why? Because he is grateful and humble. When we pray for finances and revival, we must remain grateful for what God has already given us, we must remain humble in patiently praying and waiting on God. Prayer is humility — it is an acknowledgement of our inadequacies and our dependence on a Higher Source.
When you’ve got a winning team, it’s easy to keep it up. When you’ve got a losing team, it’s easy to keep losing. But how do you go from losing to winning? This is one the most difficult feats. Probably 98% of ministers and businesses would like the answer.
Too many books promising success are written by successful people! They promise the secret to success but, in fact, often miss it themselves because, as I said, once you have success, it’s too easy to maintain. Those who enjoy success don’t really know what the key is. They just enjoy it. They write books without knowing. We think they know, but they don’t. We buy the book looking for the key and don’t find the key. Not enough has been written about turnarounds.
I had a winning team in soccer. At the same time, I was coaching a losing team. With the losing team, we worked the defensive line so hard that they actually starting blunting the opponents’ attacks. And the team started winning!
Two secrets: Identify what is deficient and work on that until it is corrected. Secondly, as Jim Collins says, remember that the worst enemy of “excellent” is “good” — not “bad.” In other words, if you are doing good, it is too easy to congratulate yourself and desist from improvement. Break up your status quo and don’t settle for anything less than “excellent.”
As Christian leader, a good place to start changing may be prayer. How much time do you pray? What is the intensity of your prayers? It’s not some marketing trick or cutting-edge ministry that’s going to draw in people. It’s God. So a back-to-the-basics approach may be best. Of course, I can’t address every situation in this short blog. But I can address the heart of a leader who longs for greater things. Keep longing, because that is part of the solution. Pray and let God guide you to the solution.
Posted in ministerial motivation
Tagged Christian, excellence, Faith, from losing to winning, good and great, illustration, jim collins, key, ministry, prayer, sermon illustration, soccer, success
Practical. That’s what we are. It’s only natural that we look to logical sources of income: church members who tithe, donors, special offerings. etc. We do our accounting with precision.
So it was natural that the Israelites would complain: Why did you bring us out here in the desert – to die? There was no identifiable source of food out there in the God-forsaken desert. Just scrub brush, sand, rocks, sun – lots and lots of sun. Wind. Where were they going to get grub from? Slavery in Egypt was bad. But dying of starvation was certainly worse.
But God is NOT practical. He operates outside of our dimensions. He is NOT limited to logical sources of income. When he provided manna for the Israelites, he manufactured it — out of thin air. Einstein taught E=mc2. The equation tells that material can be converted from energy and the speed of light. I don’t know if God used Einstein’s equation. But when he brought angel’s bread, he conjured it out of nothing.
This is the kind of miracle we need. We need money for ministerial urgencies now. Where is going to come from? Out of thin air. Don’t be discouraged about impossibilities. God will bring in the money you need, and you needn’t worry about the origin of the money. He can make it out of thin air.
The devil is constantly sabotaging your faith. In war, sabotage means attacking infrastructure to disrupt and derail normal operations. Industries are blown up. Communication lines are cut. Transport is bombed. Satan’s constant barrage on your mind and life will kill your faith — if you let it.
Such is the story of Elymas. Paul testified to Sergius Paulus, a proconsul on Paphos Island. But his counselor resisted the evangelization. Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. — Acts 13:8. Paul rebuked the sorcerer, and God blinded him. Subsequently, Sergius Paulus believed.
Elymas is alive and well today. He circles like a tiger looking for the opportunity to strike and slay your faith.
What is surprising in verse 6. There we see this witch masqueraded under the name “Bar-Jesus,” which means “Son of Jesus.” It is possible he had heard about Jesus’ powers and used this name to bloat his reputation. But in truth, he was a Satanist.
What does this mean for us today? It means that some of the very people who call themselves Christians will be those who undermine your faith. Make your faith grow in the Word and in prayer. And be careful about advice given that sabotages faith.
Posted in Financial Talk
Tagged Bar-Jesus, blessing, Christianity, Elymas, Paphos, Paul, pray, prayer, praying, Sergius Paulus, upper room, victory
You may be accustomed to praying to your “Father,” but today I’m going to encourage you to pray to your “Daddy.”
When my sons address me as “Daddy,” it signifies greater love and intimacy, greater confidence with me. I am their loving protector and benefactor. “Father” sounds like too much respect, stand-offishness, emotional detachment and formality. “Father” is good for dead religion. But if you want answers to prayer, “Daddy” sets a better tone. “Daddy” musters faith.
I believe this is what Paul communicates. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” — Gal. 4:6 (See also Mark 14:36 and Rom. 8:15). You are not addressing an overbearing, unwilling, disciplinary “Father” but a loving “Daddy” whose very heart beats to give what you want and need.
When my kids need new shoes (though I don’t have money), I am looking to see what I can do to get them.I give to my kids as many good things as I can. I prefer to give to them rather than myself. Don’t you think our Daddy in Heaven is that way? I do. Today, address God as “Daddy.”
For Jesus, it was faith. But for the Roman centurion, it was simply an understanding of authority. Two different perspectives. Two sides of the equation. One desired result.
For I myself am a man under AUTHORITY, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great FAITH.– Matt. 8:9-10 NIV
Impress Jesus with your prayers today. But don’t worry about an alchemic formula to conjure faith. Just meditate on authority. Imagine yourself in the Army. After all, you ARE in God’s Army. When orders are given, they must be executed. If not, there’s always a sanction, even to the extreme of a court-martial.
When we pray, we are asking God to give the order. He’s the Supreme Commander of the entire universe. Everything must obey his whim. Once he gives the order, it is done. Pray for Him to give the order.
Jesus was impressed. The centurion’s paralyzed servant was healed.
The Tuskegee fighter pilots were, initially, despised for being black. But as their escort missions saved bomber crews over Germany, they became greatly appreciated. At first, black pilots would be kicked out of officers’ clubs. Soon enough, the white bomber crews invited them to the drinks.
The airmen and their support crews are a lesson in perseverance. They won a hardfought victory, not only to stamp out Nazi oppression, but also to stamp out racist oppression.
Be a hero. You’re in ministry. At times, you are despised, unappreciated, unapplauded. Though no one thanks you, God does. Not a sparrow falls outside of His knowledge. So too, everything you do — EVERYTHING — is being filmed by the camera in the sky. Every time you clean the church bathroom. Every time you pray, and no one else comes to prayer. Every time, you forgo a treat to scrimp on behalf of church finances. It ALL gets a reward.
There were times when the Tuskegee Airmen bristled under official racism. They were tempted to quit. Why put your life on the line when you’re overlooked and even despised? But they remained faithful to their mission. And they wrought a great advance for the cause in World War II and for the cause of equality. Today applause thunders for them, tomorrow for your selfless sacrifice.
Nine hundred zealots made their last stand in 72 AD against the invincible Roman army at a pinnacle plateau called Masada that looms 1000 feet above the desolate Judean desert. With thousands of soldiers building a siege ramp, Jewish freedom fighters committed suicide rather than surrender to their oppressors.
Today, Israeli soldiers complete their training with a rushed ascent, followed by a group shout that echoes over the valley floor: “Never again shall Masada fall!” It is the battle cry of survival for a people surrounded by enemies.
Do we wage war with fierceness against our enemy, the devil? Masada inspires greater intensity for our prayers. We can’t reconcile with devil; we can’t seek terms for peace. Surrendering territory to the world is not an option. We are called to extend the Kingdom of God, not retract.
If you are in ministry, don’t become distracted and side-tracked. The stakes are too high. Be inspired to fight to the last for the souls of men. You are too important for the war to quit or give up. Today’s struggle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers — in prayer (Eph. 6:12).
Posted in prayer
Tagged 72 AD, believe, Christian, Faith, freedom fighters, intensity of prayer, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Judaean Desert, Masada, never again!, Roman, zealots
Anne Frank hid with her family in Nazi-occupied Netherlands for two years. She wrote a diary which has resonated worldwide since publication after her death in a concentration camp. It’s impressive to see how a world can be impacted from seclusion.
Anne Frank’s story is one of optimism. It is one of inauspicious work changing a world. Did she realize the greatness of what she was doing? Did she realize the extent of her reach?
The parallels with a prayer warrior are noteworthy. Your labors go unnoticed but impact the entire world. Prayer requires optimism. You may not realize the extent of your reach.
Pray, pray, pray. Prayer is never a waste of time. Doing other things may be a waste of time. It’s ironic that we try to do so much. If we would only pray, God would do so much. He is able to do much! We are incapable of doing much. Much of our best efforts are frustrated. It might be good for you to DO less and PRAY more.
When I was a missionary in Guatemala, after years of running myself ragged in activities, I put the brakes on. Tired, I tried prayer. Not that I wasn’t praying before, but I started praying more. More time, higher quality, greater intensity, in prayer. Get behind the wall, where the real work will be done.
Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. — Psm 127:1 NIV