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“The One Prevailing Promise of the Church”—Pt. 1 CHURCHES PREVAILING AGAINST THE DARKNESS

Flying in an airplane at night, and looking out the window, I am struck by the profound darkness that envelopes the Earth. Yet, in the midst of the darkness are pinpricks of light; homes, businesses, and places of worship, that pierce the darkness and provide a sharp contrast  to their surroundings. Some of the lights are clustered together in small luminous communities, and in some places the lights are so numerous, and the glow so great, as to virtually prevail against the pressing darkness.

Churches, yours and others, are like those pinpricks of light, placed in the midst of the darkness by the hand of God. Your church exists to pierce the darkness, poke holes in it, push it back, to prevail against it; doing what Christ, commissions, equips, empowers, and expects the church to do.  Needed are churches that will not stand for evil, but rather stand against it, communities of faith not holed up inside their holy fortresses, holding out until Christ returns, but holding forth the word of God like a beacon in the darkness. Prevailing churches don’t wring their hands in frustration, or shrug their shoulders with indifference. Instead, prevailing churches faithfully resist the forces of darkness, and rescue the perishing in the name of Jesus.

But, how does a church become a prevailing church? Whether newly planted or long established, a church shines in the darkness with the same basic elements. Building a church that prevail against the darkness is not easy, but it is basic as 1-2-3.  There is one prevailing promise, two prevailing priorities, and three prevailing principles that are key in building a prevailing church. Lets deal first with the one prevailing promise.

The experts have much to say about church growth, the life cycle of churches, and why and how they die. While no expert, I have for 35 years, studied, observed, and experienced church growth and non-growth. I love celebrating with churches that are reaping a harvest of souls, and experiencing a season of divine blessing. But, I am also familiar with the plight of plateaued and failing churches. I strategize and sympathize with churches, stuck in a downward spiral, and numerical free fall. I ache with pastors who hear, and vaguely understand, that the church they serve will probably never turnaround unless they are replaced. While human expertise is of value, and experience can be a wonderful teacher, I most of all want to hear from the word of God. Is there any hope for the failing church? What does the Bible say about prevailing churches?

Of course, the Bible has much to say about the church, but there is one overriding statement, a soaring promise, that glows brighter than all others for the church. The promise is simple but powerful; THERE IS VICTORY IN JESUS! Jesus said, “…I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). What hope! What a help! What encouragement for the church! The church belongs to Jesus. He is its foundation, founder, architect, cornerstone, and builder. Jesus, who gave sight to the blind, healing to the leper, legs to the paralytic, sanity to the maniac, life to the dead, and new life to those who trust Him, promises that His church will prevail against the darkness.

“Hound and Bear” was a book we often read to our children when they were young.  The hound was a mischievous, and silly character, while his good friend Bear was gentle, serious, and sensible. One day Hound decided to play a trick on Bear. When Bear went to sleep in his little house, Hound painted the bedroom window black. The sun was shining brightly when Bear woke up the next morning and looked out the window, but all he saw was the blackness. Thinking it was still nighttime Bear went back to sleep. After a while Bear became hungry, but because of the darkness he believed it was only 12 o’clock midnight instead of noon. Bear went back to bed and slept all day and the next night. The following morning Hound knocked on the door, and laughingly revealed the trick he had played on Bear.

Satan, too, is into tricks. But his schemes are no laughing matter. Satan has painted all the windows of the world black so no one can see the light. Without the light of the gospel, people exist in darkness, wasting their lives, ignorant of blessings of God. But we have the great promise of Jesus that Satan’s schemes will not prevail. The Lord has given the church the keys of the kingdom, with which we are to bind the darkness, and loose the light (Matt 16:19). If by faith, we trust Jesus to build the church, believe in His promise, follow His plan, and depend on His power, the church will prevail against the darkness of evil and the designs of the enemy. THERE IS VICTORY IN JESUS!

Part 2 will deal with 2 prevailing priorities of the church.

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Why Preaching is Sometimes like Halloween…by Robert Beike

Sometimes preaching can be like Halloween. It can be a very frightening experience. Consider how many neighbors come to worship dressed as “church people,” many wearing masks to hide their real feelings. When you factor in all the people who promised to “be there in spirit,” church can be a pretty spooky place. Even the Pastor, often, wears a costume. It might be the coat and tie of past pulpiteers, or shirtsleeves and skinny jeans of a post-modern “communicator.” Either way, he’s dressed for the occassion.

The sermon itself can be a scary proposition.The preacher’s wife is scared that her husband will be misunderstood, or she embarrassed in some way. The preacher’s children are terrified they may become the main attraction in their father’s illustrations. Guests are afraid they will be singled out or feel left out, and the congregation must be scared of something. Why else would they huddle for safety in the back of the sanctuary. But, the most frightened of all is the preacher himself.

The preacher stands before an expectant gathering scared that he will misrepresent or miscommunicate the precious word of God. Worse, he fears that the Spirit of God will not show up to animate the dry bones in the pews. Real, too, is the fear of unleashing a disembodied sermon to wander aimlessly for 45 minutes, or the appearance of a fleshless skeleton of a message that speaks more about work ethic than the exposited Word. The preacher is often haunted by the undead apparitions of sermons past, never quite alive, but unwilling to vacate his tortured consciousness. The preacher knows too well that what is pieced together in the laboratory of his study can take on a life of its own in the pulpit. Loosed from theological restraints, or unteathered by grace or compassion, a sermon can run rampant and out of control, leaving a trail of confusion and mayhem. Monday could find deacons or elders at his office door, carrying torches and pitchforks, demanding the end of the three point monstrosities the preacher harbors in his filing cabinets.

But fear is no match for faith, and it is faithfulness that drives the preacher to dispense healthy offerings from God’s Word and to transform the scary into the sacred. It is faith in God and faithfulness to their calling that helps preachers get past the fear and experience the hallowed in the preaching event. “Call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you…For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:5,6).

PRAYING BY THE NUMBERS (Five Prayers Every Believer Should Have On Their Speed Dial)…by Robert Beike

Scripture tells us to “Be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). Because prayer is a Christian’s lifeline there are at least five types of prayers we should have on our speed dial, ready to send at the appropriate time.

911 PRAYING / PRAY IN EMERGENCIES

(Psalm 102:1-2) “Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come before You. Do not hide your face from me in the day of trouble. Listen closely to me; answer me quickly when I call.”

This is easily the most common kind of prayer. 911 praying is a cry for help. The emergency may be our own or someone else’s. It might be sudden and temporary or sustained and long term. It could be a cry for help, or hope, or healing, a need for rescue or escape. The prayer may be as simple as David’s “Help, Lord” (Psalm 12:1), or Peter’s “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). But, God is already tuned to the problem and ready and able to respond. So, if in need of the ultimate crisis intervention, punch in a 911 prayer with confident expectation.

411 PRAYING / PRAY FOR INFORMATION

(James 1:5-6a) “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.”

Where to go for wisdom? Who to ask for direction, or understanding? We are confronted with these questions every day as we process life’s information and make choices that determine our life paths. While the wisdom of the world is ever present, the wisdom of God is always accurate, timely, and generously given to those who ask. The difference between taking risks in faith and a reckless decision is the promises of God. When you have a need to know, hit 411 on your prayer speed dial.

111 PRAYING / PRAY EVANGELISTICALLY

(Romans 10:1) “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God concerning them is for their salvation.”

Part of every believer’s prayer life should be the earnest intercession for the salvation of others. 111 praying is for one person to become one with the one and only true God through Jesus Christ. One approach is to pray for the salvation of one person for one minute at one O’clock each day. If necessary, a different person could be prayed for each day of the week. Set the alarm or alert on your cell phone and pray. Ask God to remove any obstacles that might keep this person from hearing and responding to the good news of God’s unconditional love. Ask him to orchestrate circumstances in the person’s life to produce receptivity to the gospel. Beseech the Lord of the harvest to send someone to share Christ with them. Then make yourself available to be that someone.

714 PRAYING / PRAY FOR SPIRITUAL AWAKENING

(2 Chronicles 7:14) “And (if) My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”

Research shows that the fastest growing religion in the world is Christianity–except in North America. With three-fourths of our population living in spiritual darkness, and three-fourths of our churches stagnant or dying, our desperate need is a widespread spiritual renewal. We are like fish in a dried up pond, gasping for air and clinging to life. 714 praying is not an option.

618 PRAYING / PRAY AS A SPIRITUAL WARRIOR

(Ephesians 6:18) “With every prayer and request, pray at all times, in the Spirit, and stay alert in this, with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.”

Spiritual warfare is real, and so are the consequences of ignoring it. When a person is born again into the kingdom of God, it is like being parachute dropped into enemy territory. Engagement with the enemy begins immediately. But God has given us sufficient armor (Ephesians 6:14-17), a host of heavenly allies (2 Kings 6:16-17), and a powerful arsenal (Eph. 6:17). Although Satan has placed a target on every church, believer, and family, we can stand firm and join the resistance movement by praying. Deploying all kinds of prayer energizes our armor, mobilizes our allies, and empowers our arsenal. Pray as a spiritual warrior, being assured that there is victory in Jesus.

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