The Power of Prayer

A communion of men and women with God

by Mike Cavanaugh

When Phil first asked me to write a blog I thought I would simply take something that I have written previously and update it.  However, the more I thought about it the more I wanted my first and last blog to be more meaningful, more heartfelt than simply rehashing something of old.  For the last two years I have made a commitment to increase the amount of prayer in my life. When Amanda and I signed up for prayer team, we made a concentrated effort at home and thanks to a recommendation from a close friend I picked up the book Prayer by Timothy Keller (2014).  Definitely would recommend this book to anyone interested.  During the last couple of years I certainly feel blessed for the answered prayers I have seen with the additional focus on prayer, Bill Mingle’s son in-law being baptized; great moment, the fact we are moving to Austin, getting August’s vision corrected, the list goes on.  Even with all of that I still have a tendency to struggle with prayer and I would say that it boils down to two underlying reason that likely we all share in common. The first being fear of structure and the second being categorization.

Over the course of 2015 reading Prayer at least two different times, I have had fantastic little nuggets that spoke to me at different point while reading. There is one in particular that each time I have read it, really just speaks to me.  Here is what Keller says regarding prayer. “The power of our prayers, then, lies not primarily in our effort and striving, or in any technique, but rather in our knowledge of God. You may respond, ‘But God spoke audible works to Job out of a storm. I wish God spoke to me like that.’ The answer is – we have something better, an incalculably clearer expression of God’s character. In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… the radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of his being.” (Heb 1:1-3).

Keller goes on to say “Jesus Christ is the word of God (John 1:1-14) because no more comprehensive, personal and beautiful communication of God is possible”. No matter how many times I read that, how often I think about that passage it still overwhelms me.  The difficulty I have each time is simply understanding what Keller is saying.  This quote is one of the may reason why I have read prayer a few times, I forget the confidence that the passage gives me to stop worrying about how I pray.  There is no correct way to have a conversation with God and that is the beauty and power that there is in prayer.  Growing up Catholic with such an emphasis causes me to focus more on form and less on substance, this is at the heart of what Keller is say.  The power is in the conversation not how you approach it.  This is the fear of structure.

I believe though that there is more to my challenge of prayer than just the simplicity.  Modernity has given us many wonderful things like GPS, antibiotics, and instant burritos. It has also given us some less helpful things—including a tendency to separate our lives into distinct categories.  Rather than viewing our life as an integrated whole, we label activities as being part of our family life, or work life, or our spiritual life as if what occurs in one category is distinct and unaffected by what happens in the others (Jethani, S. 2015).  I hate this!  So often in my career I have had people try to explain to me the “work / life” balance.

In my opinion there is no difference in work life, personal life, spiritual life, prayer life, sports life, friends life, whatever.  There is one common word there, life.  By my standards of providing for my family all while enjoying what I do, I would say that I have had a fairly successful career and will contribute a large part of that to how engaged my kids and Amanda are in all aspects of my life. I don’t leave work at work or home at home, if I have a crappy day my favorite part is telling my best friend all about it, so she can tell me how correct I am in being upset. So many people I know try to separate these things and put labels on them.  This constant categorization forces us to try label everything for separation and this societal challenge creates that angst in our prayer life.

Too many of us think of prayer as something we must add on to our already full schedules like going to the gym or doing our taxes; this year sucked from a tax point of view. Dallas Willard offers a different perspective based on a more integrated vision of life: “Don’t seek to develop a prayer life — seek a praying life. A ‘prayer life’ is a segmented time for prayer. You’ll end feeling guilty that you don’t spend more time in prayer. Eventually you’ll probably feel defeated and give up. A ‘praying life’ is a life that is saturated with prayerfulness — you seek to do all that you do with the Lord.”

There’s certainly nothing wrong with setting aside time for prayer, but this is not the goal we are called to. Instead, we are to integrate our communion with God into all that we do and into every moment of our day. Each time you begin a new task today, briefly pause to remember God’s presence with you and invite him into the life you are already living.  Don’t worry about structure or time, just have a chat with the one that died on the cross so that our sins can be forgiven.

 

Jethani, Skye (2015) Daily Devotional Series. Retrieved from email devotional dated March 2015.

Keller, Timothy (2014). Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Good Teacher

Good Teacher

by Phil Baker

“Good teacher,” he asked “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone.”

Mark 10:17-18

Did you have a favorite teacher in school? Maybe someone who really connected with you or made a special effort to help you learn. For me, it was Mr. Mike Bowman. He was all of 5 feet tall at his proudest. Me and all the other seniors looked down on him while we looked up to him. But he commanded the classroom with his enthusiastic zeal for literature which expressed itself through his animated lectures. But he also made us laugh with his humorous commentary on current events of the world and our school.

How about a favorite Sunday School teacher? Mr. Robert Clifft taught me in Jr High. He was (and still is) an avid hunter and outdoorsman who makes his own turkey calls. He would spin yarns that could rival Jerry Clower. He even took the entire class fishing one Saturday, cleaning and frying our catches for lunch!

I made my first foray into teaching several years ago when my wife and I agreed to teach a Sunday School class for college age students. It was difficult at first. But I quickly found my voice and rhythm as a teacher. What I quickly discovered was that by teaching the Bible, I was learning so much more myself. I was forced to firmly grasp concepts and thoroughly explore passages.

Every church needs teachers – Sunday School teachers, small group teachers, children’s teachers. The pastor is just one man and can’t do it all. If you’ve never lead a class, I encourage you to consider giving it a go. It is definitely scary at first, but ultimately rewarding. You not only connect with those you teach, but you learn so much about yourself and what you’re capable of. And, as I mentioned above, you gain such a deeper understanding of the Bible, God & Jesus.

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t even have to be good.  Just be willing. Be yourself. Whether you write your own material, just push play on a DVD series or color with some kids, I guarantee your students will always remember you just as fondly as I remember Mr. Bowman and Mr. Clifft.

Contact me or Pastor Brock about opportunities to teach at Revive!

Phubbed

by Brock Benson

All of us know what it means to be snubbed right? It’s the moment when someone has wounded you whether intentionally or not by their attitudes and or actions. Most times when someone snubs you it’s intentional and they mean it to hurt you because they themselves are probably hurt. Regardless of how it happens or whether it is intentional or not it never feels great when we get snubbed by someone. And just in case you are wondering and looking for a real life example of what snubbery looks like, check out the 2011 box office hit “The Help”. Viola Davis and Emma Stone both play a hug role in unveiling how the idea of snubbing was so prevalent in the deep south among white housewives in the 1960’s.

On my way to work this morning I was listening to the radio where the inspiration and title for this post came. Doug and Jaci of the Fish were talking about how a new word was being coined because of the social struggles technology and having the world at our finger tips is creating. The word was “phubbed”, and it’s when someone snubs you via use of their phone. Doug and Jaci sited research from Baylor University which indicates more than 50% of spouses had been phubbed by their significant other. As the research and the thought stewed around in my brain a bit longer, I thought to myself “Yea, I have been phubbed before.” But then as I thought longer I thought more about how much I have been the one doing the phubbing. Truth be told, I do my phubbing in many more ways than just through my phone. And I bet we all do at times. Valuing people, their thoughts, opinions, and stories is at times really difficult for me. Especially once I sense I have gotten to “know” them, then phubbing in whatever way I may do it to them doesn’t seem so bad.

As a pastor this is probably not something good to admit but I hate being fake. I’m a default “A” personality type in many ways and consider myself very task-oriented. That can be good, and it can be very bad. People matter more than my tasks. People matter more than my twitter feed. My wife and son should matter to me more than me checking what the weights are on twitter for the latest FLW and Bassmaster elite tournaments or what is going on with Steph Curry’s injury. Yet often times I am tempted to phub those around me because I am convinced the world inside my phone is a better one than the one I am living in. My fear with this struggle in particular is it’s one the enemy can use to steal something away from us that is infinitely more valuable than any information we’re getting on the phone. Some of us are going to look up from our phone and the best years of life are going to be over. All because we just needed a little more time to scroll through the feed, check the email, send that text, make that call, listen to that podcast, read that blog, post that pic, etc. etc. etc.

How about you? Have you been phubbed before? How did it feel? Maybe we don’t even feel it because everyone is numb to it now. What about a little bit more convicting question; have we been the one who has done some phubbing of our own? Do you struggle with phubbing the people closest to you like I do because you sense that you already know their story and everything about them and thus you give yourself a pass? Don’t miss the best of life because you are vicariously scrolling through someone else’s. Parents of teenagers, challenge your teenagers by exhortation and example to stop phubbing you.

The struggle of living in virtual reality verse the present one will continue to be something many of us battle as a first world problem. We will continue until Jesus returns to believe what we see in our phone is better than what we have.  Yet my encouragement for myself and anyone else reading this is to heed Proverbs 21:11 “when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.” May we learn from our mistakes and look more like Jesus.

I want to close this post by sharing with you a challenge my little brother shared with me two summers ago when he lived with us. Whenever I was guilty of phubbing those around me he would challenge me with a simple but memorable phrase “Disconnect to Connect” Brock “disconnect to connect”.

 

Be Revived,

Pastor Brock

Revive Your Smart Phone

Revive Your Smart Phone

by Phil Baker

What’s that in your hand? A phone you say? I hardly ever see you talking on it. And when I do, you’re holding it like a slice of pizza. You mostly text and use it to check social media. This is probably true for most people today. In fact, there’s a good chance you’re reading this very blog on a smart phone right now! All the more reason for Revive church to have an app.

We are launching this app with much excitement and eagerness as it will hopefully help us do 3 things:

  1. Connect with our members.
  2. Reach our community.
  3. Disciple others.

How will an app do all this? Obviously having this on your smart phone will make it easier for Revivers to check in during the week, read this blog, listen to past sermons and to give. If our members are more connected, this could help us reach our community by making it easier to share content with friends and neighbors giving them a better feel for our worship services and our culture and hopefully leading them to connect with us in person. Through all these tools, we also hope it will bring you into a closer walk with God and inspire you to get deeper into His word.

Download the Revive church app now by going here.

Orientation

by Brock Benson

Orientation. How many people hate the concept? I know it was not particularly one of the highlight experiences I enjoyed as I attended Student Orientation at Seminary. Probably because there is so many images of wasted time and space taken up through hours on end of sitting through meetings and assemblies in which I didn’t feel were of much immediate value. I know in the long run they were a necessary evil if you will but overall I would guess there are not a lot of us who look forward to orientations. Whether its orientation for the new school we are attending, a new job, or some kind of other training, there are not a lot of us that get super hyped about a good orientation seminar. And if you do happen to be one of the ones who do get hyped for an orientation please let me know your secret.

Even though I may have a lack of desire for orientations I do see the general purpose for why they exist. Whether it’s a company with its employee’s or a school with its students, the idea of an orientation and the purpose for having one is to help those in attendance understand what it means to “orient” themselves around what they are getting ready to enter into. For the student who needs to know how the campus is laid out, what the schedule is for certain course offerings, or the employee who needs to know the rhythm and reasons for the company policies and procedures, there are multiple reasons why orientations are good things for schools and places of commerce. They help the ones who attend get adjusted and familiarize themselves around the experiences they are getting ready to enter into. A recent question I have been struggling through is why don’t more people “orient” themselves around the life of the church, her activities, programs, events etc.? It just honestly frustrates me every time I think about why more people aren’t doing that. To me it makes perfect sense because I was raised in the home of a pastor and as you can imagine our lives were “oriented” around the church and her calendar. And to be fair there was so much God taught me and is still teaching me through the experience of being raised in a pastor’s home now that I’m a pastor. But as I lead a flock of my own now there are things I’m starting to ask about long term church strategy I’ve never quite asked or wondered before. Quite honestly it feels as if recently God’s showing me my question about why more people aren’t “orienting” themselves to the church may not be the right question.

To bring a little bit more continuity to what I am trying to express let me digress just a moment on church strategy. In many of the ministries I have been around in my short amount of life I would say the majority of them employ a similar type of strategy. Meaning each church had similar programs, events, and calendars. Some of them obviously had bigger budgets so the programs, events and calendar’s may have been a bit better or fuller but overall they looked the same from my limited vantage point. And again my opinion was it seemed to me like the strategy as it was seen through the calendar was so those churches could orient themselves, their schedules, and overall their lives to the things the church was doing or putting on. After all we have to stay active as church for our membership right? Now here is the catch if you will. Most of the time church leadership gets depressed, upset, frustrated or a litany of other emotions when they plan things and only “the few and the faithful” attend them. Inevitably time and time again unhealthy judgment begins to take place and metaphorical stones begin to get tossed by the F&F crowd towards everyone else who isn’t in their crowd. I know because I’m a long standing member of the F&F crowd who has thrown his fair share of stones. After the stones are tossed is it any wonder that those who are bruised, beaten, and hurt end up limping away to find help elsewhere? Thus the cycle of church splits, church hopping and overall frustration continue to manifest themselves…. This struggle I believe is highlighted in a greater detail in the smaller church world like I serve in. So what gives? Why the continued mess and heartache?

Look before I go any further I am not claiming to have the answer but I believe God has shed some light into my heart with maybe just a bit of why this is such a struggle and maybe some suggestions for myself and others in similar positions like I find myself in. Last Thursday I was invited to attend a luncheon for Church Planters where the guest speaker, Nick Lappara, spoke on the topic of vocation in the Biblical story. The talk was incredible! One of the big takeaways I walked away with was until we see our vocations tied directly into and with the Missio Dei (mission of God) our struggle with the sacred/secular divide which is so common within my heart and everyone’s heart will continue. To put it more simply we live with the constant nagging that there is this divide between my Sunday/Church life self and my “natural/normal” life and desires….. And the historical church honestly hasn’t done a great job at helping her parishioners work through this angst.  (We should be helping people see there isn’t such a divide when you trust in the gospel. People must see God works through our desires and makes them glorifying to him.)

Upon further meditation of this talk it occurred to me the same struggle is attacking the church through how she implements strategy and the calendar. In a completely different talk a few weeks prior I was watching Perry Noble, a well known Pastor in South Carolina comment on church strategy as a whole and how the common church calendars didn’t really reflect the Missio Dei well. And I am not quoting him verbatim but in a sense he said with the typical church set up of Tuesday night visitation, Wednesday night Bible study, Friday night softball, and Sunday morning and Sunday evening worship and the often Saturday seminar/Bible study, when are we giving people the opportunity to be authentically and organically around lost people within their community? Pragmatically it’s hard for that to happen if in all of their free time they are at the church doing something….. I am not trying to bash church programs, events, or anything else because everything has its place and purpose. My genuine hope is to start a conversation about what it means for a church to structure her strategy more upon the missio Die and less upon her calendar.

I don’t know what this means completely but I do know I’m tired and frustrated in trying to convince people to be a good Christian one must “orient” their life around the church and her calendar happenings. Honestly I am very guilty of calling and leading people to be more involved with our events than I am the gospel and our God. I don’t believe the former approach and strategy is working and I don’t believe it’s Biblically faithful within the dispensation we find ourselves in.

As we consider the Biblical account, it’s important to recognize Israel lived in a theocracy of sorts. There was no divide in the church and state when they worshipped and followed God. Today we live in a time period where this separation exists. I’m not a political advocate of this separated system because it’s not God’s system. And one day God’s system will be back in order according to Revelation 21. But for now it’s my calling to try and lead and live in such a way that embraces the missio Dei within the dispensation I’m in. Theologically I believe in the distinction of Israel and the Church. The church hasn’t replaced Israel. Yet for the first time I’ve kind of come to realize unknowingly I adopted a strategy of church life and ministry which acts and advocates as if the church does replace Israel and as such everything in life must now be oriented around what the church does. Jesus told us to be in the world but not of the world. Jesus set in motion a different strategy within our dispensation by the ministry he exhibited and the mission he left us with. Did Jesus and his followers attend the temple and practice Judaism? Yes! – teaching us that there is a purpose to gathering for worship. But he also did something more in the gospel. He showed us the gospel starts in the temple but goes beyond it too. How can the church teach people to orient themselves around God’s mission more faithfully and less on her calendar?

Perhaps I’m creating a false dichotomy. Or maybe I’m identifying one that’s just really uncomfortable to talk about amongst church leadership. We all struggle because of sin to not make up and have church agendas, goals and calendars that are self serving in some way. And often times the churches we lead will drift into having agenda’s and missions that are more about us then about God’s mission. I remember Matt Chandler telling a story in a message about a professor who said something pretty sobering. The professor said something to the effect of as a Pastor you will find that what you hate about your church is what you hate about yourself spiritually. Not sure how that really applies here other than to point out that no church and no calendar is perfect because the people who lead them aren’t perfect.  Therefore it’s right and good to overall ask ourselves what are we calling people to “orient” themselves to? Our church or our God?

 

 

That’s It?

by Kyle Hope

This past weekend, I was reminded yet again of how disappointing things are in life. I know that’s a pretty depressing start, but hear me out till the end. I am not a big fan of TV shows, but I do watch one in particular that has to do with “walkers” and the apocalypse. (you know it..) This show had it’s season finale Sunday, and for weeks in advance they had been leading you to believe something huge was going to happen to the main characters. After a drawn-out, uneventful episode that was comprised mostly of commercials, the show ended abruptly with a cliff-hanger. The viewer learned nothing big in the story line, and 90 minutes of people’s time was flat-out wasted. I went into the episode expecting a resolution to the hype, and it never came. As I went to bed, I felt restless because of the unresolved nature of the episode. I couldn’t stop thinking, “how can they end the season like that!?” I was severely disappointed.

This silly example of a TV show shows the bigger issue that we will always face in this world, we won’t be satisfied with it. We all, at some point, buy into the hype of an idea or a thing, only to be left disappointed and saying, “that’s it?” Maybe you thought getting married would cure your loneliness. But it didn’t. Maybe you thought that higher position at work would give you security. But it didn’t. Maybe you thought winning the championship would make you a winner. But it didn’t. In doing these, we’ve made an idol up in our heads and told ourselves, “that’ll fix my problem.” But in reality, those searches for fulfillment will only lead us further away from real satisfaction. These dreams of romance, money, power, and victory are all things of the world. While the aspiration for those things is not necessarily bad, we must know that our expectations of them will not be met while we are on this earth.

When I think of someone who was discontent with the world, I think of Solomon in Ecclesiastes. He was perhaps the richest man of all time, yet he still referred to everything as “meaningless.” He had everything you could ever imagine in this world, yet he was still left saying, “that’s it?” But Solomon concluded Ecclesiastes with a statement that brought meaning to his life, and can be applied to our lives as well, saying, “Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.” (12:13) It is our duty to obey God, and Jesus told us what the greatest command was, and it is to love God. (Matthew 22:37-38) So the Bible ties itself together here and tells us that in the midst of our search for joy, we can only find it in the love of God. Christ said “I am the the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.” The struggle of fulfillment is what Jesus was talking about in that passage. He knows what you’re hungry for, and He is adamantly telling you that He will satisfy it. Jesus is the answer to whatever you’re craving in this life. He is it. Our disappointments in the things of this world, including zombie TV shows, are just events planned by God so that you may come back to His glorious satisfaction. Only with Christ can we stop saying, “that’s it?” Because Christ is the answer to that question. So join me loving Him more than anything that this world has to offer. He will never disappoint us in this life and in the life to come, He is it!

VBS Prep

VBS Prep

by Andrea Gentry

A few years ago I found myself sitting once again in LifeWay’s main sanctuary in downtown Nashville. I was there for the VBS preview events. As I sat there all I could think of was how to make an awesome stage set for our church’s upcoming VBS in June. Enter Dr. Shane Garrison. He took the stage and began to redefine two words for me.

Dr. Garrison was there to speak about the spiritual orphans in the neighborhoods and communities that have no access to the Gospel in their homes. Stage props left my brain and two words flooded in with the overwhelming need to look at VBS as more than a week you work hours on end in the hope the end of the week was near – “Spiritual Orphans”. Those two words continue to be the reason why I put my heart into VBS. Think about the “go to” scripture for VBS, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.  Now think about the word Orphan just for a minute. Each one of us at one time after our first breath of life was a spiritual orphan. And at one time in our life something or someone helped us to be adopted into God’s family and come to understand the gift God gave us through His son Jesus Christ.

As he began to speak about being that Spiritual Orphan so many years before and how this event called Vacation Bible School changed his life, I couldn’t help but wonder could God use our small church to make a kingdom impact in the life of a child the way it had with Dr. Garrison?  God used VBS to lead him to salvation, but it didn’t stop there. God laid it on the hearts of the VBS volunteers to make a commitment to invest in a child. The church invested by picking him up each week for church and feeding him with physical and spiritual nutrition, praying with him and for him, seeing him through Elementary, Middle and High School and on to college where they financially supported him.  Dr. Garrison’s academic education is as follows: B.S. Religious Education & Sports Medicine – Campbellsville University; M.Div.Bl. – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; M.A.C.E. – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Ed.D. Leadership – Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I believe the answer to the question is YES God could use Revive to make a kingdom impact. But it will take some “Prep Work”.

Here are a few of Dr. Garrison’s reason to say “Yes to VBS”

  1. VBS is highly inter-generational. Meaning all age groups, both young and old, and everything in the middle, interact and spend time together for one week.  They worship together, study together, fellowship together, and serve together.  What other ministry effort joins hundreds of volunteers from all ages for one week and structures an experience where they get to know one another and serve as one big, happy family?
  2. VBS is very collaborative. When kids’ ministry leaders attempt to pull off a VBS week, it requires significant time planning, collaborating and communicating together.  There are various teams, such as preschool, crafts, music, food, administration, follow-up, etc, all working together to make sure all the details are managed.  Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds talk and share ideas together about what they should do and what they should avoid.  I would have to believe this week is the most collaborative ministry event on the church calendar.
  3. VBS is intentionally evangelistic. It goes without saying that VBS far outpaces most other ministry efforts when it comes to intentional evangelism.  I have heard a leading VBS expert (from my SBC tribe) say that for the past 30 years there has not been any other ministry effort even come close to the number of salvations that VBS has seen.  Revival meetings, disaster relief, food and clothing ministries don’t come close.
  4. VBS is one of the remaining creative outlets in the church. With the ending of the Easter pageants and Christmas plays, there are not many outlets left in church life where Christian people are encouraged to use their artistic gifts.  There are not times when sets are built, rooms are elaborately decorated, costumes are pulled out and put to use, paint brushes and construction paper fly wildly.  The Creator God has created us to be mini-creators, but there are not many ways to utilize those gifts any more, particularly in the visual arts.  VBS provides this creative outlet each and every year.
  5. Lastly, VBS has service opportunities for every believer in Christ, no matter their spiritual maturity level. Everyone can serve somewhere.  Whether you have been a Christian for less than a year or you are nearing the time when you will see Jesus face to face, VBS has a place for you to serve.

When you put these 5 things up against almost every other ministry venue in the local church, VBS stands above.  While the music ministry is inter-generational, it is not intentionally evangelistic.  While Sunday school and small groups are very collaborative, those ministry venues are not overtly creative.  VBS stands above.  It has benefits that other ministries do not have.

 

Prep Work to do list:

* Is your heart and mind ready to invest in God’s Kingdom? The Bible is God’s greatest investment manual. Are you reading it?

* Are you making time to hear what God has to say? “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

* Are you ready to invest in God’s kingdom more than one week out of the year? “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders making the best use of the time.” Colossians 4:5

* Are you ready to share the burden of spending time out of your day, week, month, or years to make sure a child gets what he or she needs to grow spiritually? “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

* Have you started to pray for the VBS families church and un-churched that God will bring? “Brother, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them are that they may be saved.” Romans 10:1

* Are you ready to say YES to VBS?