Friday, December 6, 2013

7 Prayers for the Church - C.Proctor

      Some churches have church covenants and others don't.  Some require signatures and still, others don't.  Some ask prospects to attend a class, regardless of how long they've been saved, and others just invite them to come down front. 
      
      Regardless of how your church operates, one thing that we can strongly agree on is the need for you to pray.  Here are seven prayer needs everyone can pray to lift their church up before the Lord.



1.  The Pastoral Leadership
            The Senior Pastor/Pastoral Staff have some of the most difficult and yet very rewarding positions given to man. It has been said many times, the Pastor has a target on him the moment he is ordained.  If the enemy can bring down a pastor, he can bring down the church.  Praying for your pastor and other pastoral staff members is something we should do, even when we don't agree with something they have done.  That's right! Even if the Pastor has moved forward with a series on marriage, something you've heard for 40 years, and you're not even married, you still have an obligation......a responsibility.....no....the honor!  You still have the honor to take your leaders before God and pray his guidance, blessings and direction for them.  In fact, not doing so, can leave your leaders open to attacks and praying for them will also help you see them the way God does, despite your pastor's announcement of a three month series that you'd rather not hear. 


 2.  The Lay Leadership
                    Elders (referring to non-pastors), Deacons, committees that set the agenda (i.e. finance, personnel, nominating, etc) are desperately in need of prayer.  These individuals are called to help support the church. These fine individuals need your prayer, because just like the pastor and staff, they are tasked with some amazingly difficult responsibilities.  Responsibilities that can never be correctly carried out without God's blessings and direction.  You might think that "if they are that responsible, let them pray for themselves," but, your prayers for them are extremely necessary.  Pray for them before meetings, during meetings, and after meetings.  Petition God's protection around them, because not all right decisions are easy.  Ask God to guide them, removing fleshly responses and replacing them with spiritual ones.  It isn't us vs. them, we are all in this together.  We need to pray like it.

3.  The Spiritual Condition
             We know that the church isn't made up of the four walls surrounding our sanctuaries.  After all, if that is all the church consisted of, praying for the spiritual condition of it wouldn't make very much sense, now would it?   Since we understand that the church is made up of every believer, it is susceptible to spiritual warfare and attacks, including dryness and apathy.  We should be dillgent in our prayers asking our Holy Father to protect, strengthen, and grow the intimacy that our brothers and sisters have with Christ.  When marriages are falling apart, our duty is to pray.  When our brethren attends services out of pride, we must pray.  When a dryness has overtaken the Body of Christ, we must pray. It didn't catch God by surprise, could it be He is simply waiting on us to.......pray?

4.  The Growth of the Kingdom
           It only makes sense that we want to pray for Kingdom growth.  But how does that impact our prayers for the church?   Well, consider for a moment the purpose of the church.  Jesus told us to go and make disciples.  When a lost person trades their sin for salvation, another number is added to the Kingdom.  It isn't enough to pray for Kingdom Growth, it's our duty to pray about the role we play in it.  What can our church do to increase the Kingdom?  What should we be doing that we aren't and what should we stop doing, that we have continued simply for the sake of tradition?  These tough questions must be answered, by God (after all, it's His Kingdom and we are His church) to determine the appropriate steps.  Praying for such direction can bring about answers we never thought of.

5.  The Growth of the Local Body
         "Number's aren't important."   Early in my ministry as a Lead Pastor, I was guilty of saying this.  Many times I would make the comment that, "it doesn't matter how many people are here, as long as people are here."  On the surface, this comment sounds good.  It sounds holy and righteous.  Focused on the people in the pews and not worrying about those who stayed home. But unpack this statement and you can see a detrimental mistake.  All of those "numbers" represent souls.  Mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.  Each number is a real person. Each number has a real destination.  To count out the importance of reaching our communities is to count out the thousands of souls that hunger and thirst for the bread of life and the living water.  Our prayers to see more people enter the hallowed halls of our sanctuary/small groups/Sunday school is important.  To not focus on the outside, only leaves us focused on the inside and an inwardly focused church will surely shrivel and die.
 
6. Acts 1:8 Focus
             "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 
              
              Acts 1:8 churches are not inwardly focused.  They can't be! It plainly contradicts the scripture above.  Praying to become an Acts 1:8 church is simply asking God to break your heart for missions and the lost world around us.  It starts in our backyards (Jerusalem), but permeates into our state (Judea), continent (Samaria) and all around the world.  Along the same lines as #5, our prayers must be for action!  What are we supposed to be doing to reach all areas of Acts 1:8 for the King?  Praying for direction and seeing it through helps us become outwardly focused.  

7. Yourself
         I know, I know!  I just got finished talking about being outwardly focused and now I am asking you to pray for yourself!  Such confusion!!!  But I'm not actually suggesting you petition God for all your needs.  Not at this time, anyway.  Remember, you're praying for your church.  But then how can you pray for your church and yourself?  Allow your prayers to focus on what God needs to change about you, to bring about His glory in His church.   This is probably the most difficult thing to pray for many.  It might even be more appropriate to be placed at the top of this list, but either way, praying that God will change our hearts, heal our anger, deal with our sin will result in a healthier church.  Just think about it, all of these prayers must be initiated by a heart that is willing to serve the King.  Too often our churches are interested in serving the false god of tradition and pride. Revival starts in the heart of the believer and change begins with earnest prayer.  
 
     These aren't the only prayers you can pray for your church, but in my experience, many Christians don't know what to pray.  My hope is that this will get you started and help get your church on the right path, if it isn't already.


 


  
           
                  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

King and Queens - A VHA Production Review


          Just after 7:00pm Thursday night, November 21, 2013 Headmaster Jeff McCormick took the stage at Southeastern Technical College in Vidalia, Georgia to welcome the hundreds of anticipating family members and friends of 2nd - 5th graders of Vidalia Heritage Academy.  With the spotlight on the Headmaster, who was dressed in attire fit for a king, he started his welcome.  Just seconds into his introduction, out walked 5th Grader Jacob Thompson, later to be known as the Duke of Fast Foods, who boldly declared that this was his job and he could handle it.  As the audience laughed, Thompson turned back to them and introduced the fall performance of King and Queens.

                  For the next hour, the audience was theatrically transformed from their chairs into a world of fantasy, with a very real theme.  As "Brooke" played by Julie Catron, falls asleep during a tour of a medival castle, she dreams that she's back in the times of knights, kings and queens.  Through the well written story, Brooke learns from a carpenter, watchers later understand to symbolize Jesus Christ, that the world has many temporal offerings, none of which can bring everlasting joy and peace. She learns that the carpenter's Father has everything anyone could possibly want and need.  All they have to do is be willing to follow the carpenter to his father's kingdom.
               
                With outstanding performances of 19 other cast members and an enormous ensemble of vocal talent comprising of the rest of the 2nd - 5th graders, the play was truly a success bringing about the most important story of all, in a fun, exciting and hilarious 60 minute revue. Regardless that the cost of tickets help the school in many ways, the mere $10 was extremely reasonable for parents and family to sit back and allow the Gospel of Christ to be presented out of the mouths of babes.

               Weaved seamlessly through the play were fantastic visuals and beautiful music performed by the students. From the reminder that all girls are beautiful to God and that they shouldn't listen to the lies poured out from the world, to the command that we are to love and treat everyone with love and grace, tears could be seen in the eyes of many adults as the reminder of God's grace and love for us inundated the auditorium.

               In a day and age where great teachers are hard to come by, Vidalia Heritage Academy has once again proven God's provision by providing their students with an amazing faculty whose love for Christ is evident by their desire to serve the King by serving His children.

              Public and private schools across our nation have taken on the unfortunate role of becoming poverty stricken.  With teachers from sea to shining sea pouring out their own money into their classrooms, resources becoming limited, and education restrictions become stricter, it's a wonder why teachers take positions at private schools in small communities that can't offer the level of state pay, benefits and retirement that many public schools can.  It's a wonder, that is, until you meet the teachers of Vidalia Heritage Academy.  Once you do, it won't take long for you to realize that their remuneration comes in the form of more than money and benefits.  It comes from knowing that they are free to pour the love of Christ into the lives of children. To be able to step out in faith, and watch the Lord guide your path, keeps these warriors in our classrooms.  Thank God for the many blessings that He has made available at Vidalia Heritage Academy.

            Another VHA success story and once again my hat must be tipped to the hardworking faculty and staff of the school.  To the students that aren't ashamed to love Christ in a world where it's not popular to do so.  And to the parents who invest the things of God into their children by supporting VHA.

           I didn't just enjoy another performance.  I was reminded of how special we are to God, something that we all should be reminded of daily, so we can truly appreciate it.  There was a powerful message delivered tonight.....and that sermon, boys and girls, will preach!



C. Proctor




Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What if I don't feel like smiling?

Originally posted as part of the Scroll newsletter - The week of April 17, 2013.

Chester's Note:  As I was sitting down this afternoon to write the article for this week's newsletter, I came across this entry from April.  I feel it is still very much applicable today as it was when it was written (before Silas went home to be with the Lord).  I hope you enjoy it.


A message from

Pastor Chester

Psalm 62:6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

 

When discussing the importance of smiling to visitors, a member recently said, I'm finding it hard to smile today..... Please pray for Silas's family. They are enjoying his last little bit of time here on earth and I know that this time is so precious to them. I know this is devastating to them and life is HARD right now.... my heart is breaking for his parents and brothers who will be left behind to endure the pain of his loss. I know God is able and will comfort them, but I know the sting of losing someone is hard. Jessica's (Silas's Mom) latest update is that she and Archie had to pick a burial spot and make his final arrangements today and that it was something that no parent should ever have to do for a 4 year old child, I agree…

 

            As for many of you, April 15 was more than a tax deadline this year.  Upon hearing the news of the terror attack in Boston, I was glued to the television and remained there until I fell asleep.  Hearing the same report over and over I kept asking myself (and God) “why?”  I understand the theology of living in a fallen world and all, but when tragedy’s take place I hurt like the rest of you. The member’s point was basically, “How can I smile to visitors in church, when I can’t even find a reason to smile right now, because my heart hurts so much.”

 

I think it's so very important for us to remember something. We aren't at church to make people feel welcomed. Although, that is definitely something we should do, if you walk into church with a heavy load, better to leave it at the altar with God than fake a smile and wear yourself down even further. Ecclesiastes 3:4 reminds us that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Today may be your time to weep, it was for me. But, we must remember who our Lord is and that “Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b)
 In the midst of sorrow, find encouragement in that Jesus is who God’s Word says He is, for in Christ alone, we find our reason to smile.

 

Walking arm in arm for the Glory of God,

Chester

Monday, August 12, 2013

Lean On Me.....not, really.

Warning:  This entry is going to have a lot of "I's" but I just want you to bear with me before deciding that I need a humility break.



I'm saved
I have a beautiful family whom love me very much and I them.
I have loving parents and step-parents.
I have awesome brothers (and their wives) and a whole crew of wonderful step-siblings, nieces and nephews.
My in-laws are amazing.
My sister-in-law (her husband, his kids) and my brother-in-law are also amazing.
I have some very close friends, some of which I don't see nearly enough.
I coach wrestling and golf at a great Christian school.
I'm ordained.
I'm almost a college graduate (B.S. Business).
I have plans to earn my MBA, Graduate Certificate in Pastoral Counseling, m.Div and perhaps a Doctorate in Leadership.
I've written a book, and the reviews are great...so far.
I have a great position in the Pastoral ministry.
I love the people of our church dearly.
I love the staff of our church dearly.
I am gifted in broadcasting and love to host the football friday programming.
I love writing on my blog and seeing what people say about it.
I've just started a weekly podcast for our church and I'm excited about it.

And yet....I struggle.

I have a tough time not reacting when I get upset.
I have a tough time not being depressed.
I have sleep apnea and if I don't get a good night on my CPAP I can't function well.
I rise and fall.  Some days I'm excited about everything and other days nothing is good.
Most of the time I don't feel like I'm being used the way God wants me to be, so I take on more, just to find out that it was the wrong decision.
I pray hard, sometimes angrily, because of how I feel.


Now, about God.



God saved me
God gave me a beautiful family whom love me very much and I them.
God gave me loving parents and step-parents.
God gave me awesome brothers (and their wives) and a whole crew of wonderful step-siblings, nieces and nephews.
God gave me amazing in-laws.
God gave me an amazing sister-in-law (her husband, his kids) and brother-in-law.
God gave me some very close friends, some of which I don't see nearly enough.
God allows me to coach wrestling and golf at a great Christian school.
God ordained me.
God has almost brought me through college. (B.S. Business).
God has plans for me to earn my MBA, Graduate Certificate in Pastoral Counseling, m.Div and perhaps a Doctorate in Leadership.
God granted me the ability to write a book, and blessed me with great reviews.
God gave me a great position in the Pastoral ministry.
God has put people of our church for me to love dearly.
God has blessed me with a fellow staff to love dearly.
God gifted me in broadcasting and I love to host the football Friday programming.
God gave me the love of writing on my blog and seeing what people say about it.
God blessed me with a brand new weekly podcast for our church and I'm excited about it.



And even though I struggle:

God has worked on me so that I react less quickly when I get upset.
God gives me the strength to climb out of the depression when it starts.
God blesses me with more good nights than bad and the ability to have a machine help along the way.
God raises me up and allows me to fall. When I fall, it's usually my fault or my focus is wrong.
God continues to be patient with me, even though I take on things He didn't assign me.
God let's me get mad, cry and fuss.  But He always holds me until I'm done and then wipes my eyes.

I guess it's all who I lean on as I walk down this road...


Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;   Proverbs 3:5








Thursday, August 8, 2013

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth....

2 Timothy 2:15

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (KJV)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (NIV)

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (NASB)

             Just a few different translations to compare as we consider what it means to "rightly divide the word of truth"

There are two types of scriptural interpretations for us to consider today.
  
                    Eisegesis (pr. eyes-uh-Jesus) -  making scripture fit what you want it to say or in other  
                                                                      words, using scripture to validate your point of view. (to 
                                                                      draw in)

                    Exegesis (pr. ex-uh-Jesus) -  taking a critical view of the text understanding it's origin,
                                                                  meaning, author, audience and original translation. (to draw
                                                                  out)

Now, many (if not all) Bible scholars and teachers will agree that an exegetical approach to studying God's word is much more responsible than its counterpart.  What many won't agree on is who is actually studying/preaching/teaching exegetically and who is not. 

But come on......think about it......

Can there honestly be more than one truth?  More than one right answer? 

Can Paul be right when he says we are "saved by grace and not works...[Eph 2:8-9]
If so, does that mean Jesus is wrong when he says "But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." in Matthew 6:15??

What about when James says "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." in Jas 2:26?

Any one of these verses can be taken out of context or mean different things to different people. But none of them have more than one true meaning and all of them agree with the other!  This is why the world constantly criticizes the Bible by saying "it's full of contradictions."

But as believers, we know the Bible is not full of anything but truth.  Therefore the breakdown (maybe responsibility is a better word) must be with us....believers....teachers....pastors....

Let me be clear....
                        God's word = Truth. 
                        God's word + man's interpretation = does not always equal truth

Now am I able to "corner the market" on exegetical interpretation of God's word from beginning to end?  I daresay, no I am not.  But that doesn't mean I don't have the responsibility that whatever I claim God's word to say, I'd better be sure that's what it says.

It's a sad case, but anyone can stand before others and claim to know what God's word says.  Anyone can start a blog or write a book (anyone! trust me!!) but (to quote Dr. Ian Malcolm [Jeff Goldblume] from Jurassic Park "Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should."

Ok, I know...we aren't talking about scientists....nor are there any T-Rex's chasing us around.  But what we must consider is that we can become so preoccupied with preaching/teaching a certain way (that being the "could") that we fail to stop and ask God if we are doing it right (this being the "should"). 

The Greek word, orthotomeo, is where we get "rightly dividing" and it means "to cut straight" so it is safe to say, we must cut through all the garbage (that man adds to the equation) and get right down to the meat of what God is saying.  To truly do this and then to preach it is the only Godly way to spread the Gospel.


 It is from this irresponsible interpretation that we get all these "made up rules" in the church we so fondly call, "tradition." So before you say "I know what this means," you need to make sure.

You make sure by first praying (and keep praying as you study), then understand the author, his audience, the origins and customs of the times, and how it is applicable to you today.  After all, Exodus 31:15 says "For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death." 

That verse is true.............but is it applicable to us today?  No, not in literal practice anyway, simply because this was written when the Jews were under the Law.  You and I are under Grace, found in Christ. But we can take the example found in this verse and make sure we have a day to rest and regenerate.  God didn't do this because He needed a break.  He did it to set an example for us.

One last thought as you ponder this post.   In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul was writing to........Timothy, not us.

Blessings as you figure that one out!
Chester






Sunday, July 28, 2013

I Can't!!!

"Can't never could...."

"Can't doesn't cut the mustard." 

"Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're always 100% right."

I've heard it said that we can do anything we put our minds to.  As children we were told that we could "become anything we wanted to when we grew up."

I mean after all, who in their right mind is going to tell a child, "you can't become the President one day," if the child says that what they want to become.

Would you really look at a sweet, innocent child in the eyes and say, "you probably won't amount to very much.  But hey, you're a good kid."

Or what about, "you may think you know what you want to be, but I really know what you need to be!"   I hope not, but many parents do just that!

For those parents who aren't trying to live vicariously through their children, their desire to encourage them to do their very best and try very hard is admirable, but is it the right thing to do?

As an adult though, I don't really buy into that logic.  I know it sounds harsh, but isn't there a better approach?

Try this one on for size,

Teacher: "little Johnny, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Johnny: "Whatever God wants me to be and I want to be great at it."

I believe it is more honest (can you be "more honest?"  If you aren't 100% honest, isn't that a lie? Hmmm) for us to teach our children that God has a purpose that He created them for.  As we teach that, it is important for us to teach them to do their very best, but to do it for God.

 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. I Cor 10:31

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Col 3:23

So the next time your child (or anyone for that matter) tells you what they "want" to be, ask them if they know what God created them to be.  The truth is, we have a lot of unhappy Christians who are "stuck" in places that God didn't create for them, but they chose to be there.

Now before the critics say:  "sometimes circumstances are unavoidable" I'd caution you to understand that what I'm talking about is making a choice.  A choice, mind you, where a person chooses to (at all costs) discover and fulfill their purpose that God created them for.

It is at this point that even though we may not be good enough to do whatever it is God has created us to do, He will manifest Himself into our lives through the Spirit and accomplish that which he created us for.

“The answer to Moses’ persistent pattern of “I can’t” was not “Yes, you can, Moses,” but “I can, I will, I AM." ----  Excerpt From: Macdonald, James. “Vertical Church.”




Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Agree to Disagree? As long as I agree that you're right!

I should probably start by apologizing for not writing in a while.  Pray with/for me that I will start contributing to this blog more frequently...like every few days.   The tough thing is that as much as I talk, I don't feel like I have a lot to say!  I know, crazy huh?


Last week Chick-Fil-A opened up a restaurant in our town.  It was very much to my pleasure to know that a place I loved to frequent when out of town was now going to be right down the road.  Furthermore, I have never once had a negative experience in a CFA and I love that fact!

So in my joy I decided to post on Facebook this......

"After visiting Chick-Fil-A today (which only took 11 minutes to get me from 4 cars away from the place where you place your order until I got my food) I am convinced of one very important fact that I have learned from every Chick-Fil-A I have ever been to. It doesn't matter where you hire employees from. It doesn't matter what race they are. It doesn't matter if they are male or female. What matters is that they either have a respect for the company they work for and that company has a respect for the customers and God, or that the employees have a relationship with Christ and are encouraged to live it out at their jobs.

Those who disagree have a right to disagree and some of them will with much passion. But when I leave a McDonald's, Hardee's or any other fast food restaurant (regardless of the city or town it is in) I'm unusually surprised if I have been made to feel special just for buying their food.

But when I leave a CFA, again regardless of the location, I receive a feeling that I have come to expect from them and appreciate more every day.

The lesson - When God is on His throne, amazing things will happen. People show love, appreciation and warmth that comes from his Heavenly throne. It should make us stop and think, if God does that from His throne at a fast food restaurant, what will he do if we put him back on his throne in our churches, homes and lives?

An excellent spicy chicken sandwich. An even more amazing lesson from the King of Kings!"

BIG MISTAKE!!!

Okay, it wasn't that big and in fact, I don't think it was mistake. Neither did the 118 "likes" I received.  But what happened was a few questions and comments about my opinion of Christ and "Christian Chicken" were raised, some of which questioned my motives and integrity.   As I played and replayed this conversation in which I defended my stance with love and scripture, I began to think "why has it become  wrong to exercise your first amendment rights as long as your comments are respectful on Facebook or anywhere for that matter."

It seems that in our country there are certain things that cannot be said without causing a storm of attacks.  But what amazes me is that when the opposite thing is said, no one says a thing.  Let me clarify what I am trying to say.

If I were to say "I LOVE hamburgers" and it wasn't politically correct to eat hamburgers I would receive a barrage of comments and criticisms of how I am trying to force hamburgers down people's throats.

Now if at the same time someone were to say that they wish all the hamburger eaters would develop cancer and die, it might raise a few eyebrows but very few of the "hamburger haters" would consider such a hateful statement wrong and simply hide behind that person's 1st amendment right.

So what are the hamburger lovers to do?  I say it's time they stop sitting in their holy huddles hidden away in dark rooms where no one can attack them eating their burgers.  They don't need to expect everyone else to enjoy hamburgers, but if someone asks what their favorite food is, they shouldn't be afraid to answer honestly.

Now that being said, if you don't agree, that's perfectly fine.  I have had so many people tell me, "don't be too honest on your blog, you have to remember your well known and that could cause problems for you down the road."

Um? Excuse me, but am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.  (Galatians 1:10)

Now.....let's go eat some chicken!