November 24, 2006

Prayers of faith for a son's dying father - Part 2

On November 18th, my friend Joe had attended the funeral services for Dan Hartman's father.
Joe had shared with me in an email how beautiful the service was and how the Pastor shared that Dan Sr., received Christ, bridging the gap between ourselves and God. At the conclusion of the Pastor's eulogy, he asked if anyone who wanted to receive Christ to raise their hands. There were at least 12 people at the funeral whom had acknowledged that they did want to accept Christ into their lives as Lord and Savior.
Joe saw Dan Jr., at church the day after and said to him how touched he was by the funeral service and he praised the pastor for inviting others to accept God's gift of forgiveness and salvation found only in Christ. As excited as Dan Jr., was about his father coming to know Christ before his death, he was even more excited to learn that those whom had made the decision to accept Christ at the funeral, were friends of his father.
As I read Joe's email and the wonderful testimony of those lives that were changed by the Word of God, this particular verse from the Gospel of John stands out to me where Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." (John 12:24, NKJV)
I cannot imagine the joy Dan Sr., experienced when he entered the gates of Heaven and met the Lord Jesus as He was waiting for him. I cannot even imagine his gratefulness to his son for faithfully holding onto the faith which he has had and often shared with others, as the Bible calls for us to do. Dan sowed the Gospel into his father's life and that reaped a harvest which Dan Sr., had no idea would amount to anything.
Whenever I go to California to visit my family, I really do look forward to the trip. I look forward to spending time with my mother, my uncles, aunts, cousins and my grandparents. On my recent visit, my mother met me at the airport to pick me up and I was surprised to know that my grandmother had insisted on coming along to see me at the airport. I love my grandmother dearly and it touched my heart so much that she wanted to see me when I arrived. I teared up a bit knowing she was waiting to see me with my mother. I felt much the same way when my grandfather suprised me and came to Parris Island to see me graduate from Marine Corps recruit training.
Think about whenever you travel. There is always someone waiting at one end to see you and they are waiting with expectation and joy for your arrival. I can only imagine the excitement Jesus has when He is expecting the arrival of those who have committed their lives to Him. Thank you Mom and Grandma for being like Jesus. I love you. Cheers Grandma!!

Celebrating Grandma's birthday in Carlsbad, California. September 2006

Jesus said that He desires for each person to be with Him where He is (John 17:24). If you are unsure that you would even go to Heaven when you die, I would encourage you to make the same decision as Dan Hartman's friends did. Take these steps toward Him, to have Peace with God.

"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3, NKJV)


References:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

November 16, 2006

Prayers of faith for a son's dying father

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ -- 1 Timothy 2:4

A few weeks ago, I had received an email from my friend Joe asking to pray for the father of his friend Dan, who was terminally ill due to a failing liver from years of alcohol abuse to his body. Dan's father was not given much more time to live either because his liver had been so badly damaged. I would also like to note that Dan, his wife and their children are all Christians and have been sharing their faith with their father for a number of years. Dan and his family were looking for a miracle. This is a true story.

Joe's email was sent to a few close brothers in Christ whom he considers to be faithful prayer warriors. After reading the email and understanding the grave consequences this man faced, I began to pray. My prayer for Dan's father was first, that if he should die, that he would not reject the message his son would once again share with his father, to know that Jesus Christ died for his sins and that by receiving Christ into his life, he would be assured a place in Heaven. Next, I prayed and asked God that if it was His will to heal Dan's father from the damage done to his liver, that He would do so in Jesus' name. I prayed that if God would heal him, that Dan's father would not take for granted the great gift God would grant toward him, extending his life for an unknown number of days. It would be God's will to be done, not mine, but above all, I prayed that Dan's father would acknowledge Christ in his life.

On October 25th, Joe sent this email:
"Hi Guys: I am very pleased and excited to inform you that Dan's dad (Dan Sr.), the person whose liver is failing gave his heart to Christ yesterday. I called Dan last night to see how his dad was doing and during our conversation he informed me that his dad's heart and spirit are soaring in God. Physically the doctors are not giving him much hope, however we know that God is the great Physician. Dan wanted to say thank you for the prayers that were made on behalf of his dad. Praise the Lord for salvation we have in Christ. I'll keep you posted. Thanks again guys for your prayers. God Bless, Joe"

My reply to Joe was, "THAT IS GOOD NEWS JOE!!!! When I received your email about this yesterday, I prayed that Dan would receive Christ above a healing in his body. If his death is near, I'd rather know that he gave his life to Christ and died, than live and be healed without Him in his life. His salvation IS the miracle. Now, if God wants to heal him, He will, whatever His purpose is will prevail."

Joe also shared that Dan had acknowledged the same thing saying, "His soul is more important than his physical healing!!!!!"

Well, Dan's father met Jesus Christ for the first time in Heaven yesterday afternoon when he died.


Coming to faith in Jesus Christ is more than just intellectually understanding who He is. God wants each person to know what He has done for them, removing the judgment of sin from their souls, through Jesus Christ and His death on the cross.

The Bible says, "For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved." (Romans 10:10, NLT).

Still don't think you can come to Christ because you feel that your sin is too great to warrant God's forgiveness? Let me reassure you that, "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7, NKJV)

If you are unsure to know that your sins have been forgiven, it is time you had a heart to heart talk with God. I would encourage anyone to having that talk with God right now and you can do that right here.

The Bible confirms that no one can predict what will happen tomorrow where it says, "whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." (James 4:14, NKJV). We do know that one day we will die, we just do not know when.

While it hurts deeply to lose a loved one to death, there is joy knowing that when a person has given their life to Christ, death is not the end, only the beginning.

I am still praying for members of my family, the same thing that God wants for them, "to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth found in Jesus Christ, who gave Himself to be a ransom for all." I hope you are too.

Dan, we all look forward to being with you and your father, in Heaven with Jesus. God bless you with His comfort and peace.
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1, NKJV)


References
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked "NKJV™" are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

November 6, 2006

Lessons to learn from Ted Haggard

For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed,
and nothing hidden that will not be known.
Matthew 10:26, NKJV

Last Thursday, just a few days before election day, I read on-line and heard the allegations on television, against Ted Haggard regarding his suspected involvement with drugs and relationship with a male prostitute. My heart ached once I heard this news.

I wanted to believe that the allegations against him were completely false. Since the state of Colorado was set to vote for a ban on same-sex marriage, I had thought that this was a crude tactic to destroy the credibility of a man who was a strong advocate, to the state of Colorado and the country, regarding a ban on same-sex marriage. As the events unfolded and the truth began to emerge, Ted Haggard admitted to the allegations against him that he had been sexually immoral, a deceiver and a liar. While this situation was more than embarrassing, I began to take a look at this to find a lesson to learn and appreciate from it.

Larry Stockstill, pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baker, Louisiana said, "God chose to reveal Pastor Ted's sin," he said. "In this case, God chose at this particular moment to allow this sin to be exposed. Now we can be mad at God. We can say that's not fair. The timing is terrible. Or we can say Blessed be the name of the Lord. One of the things I've learned about God is that he is wiser than me. ... What's going to happen in the nation? You know what? I don't think that's your concern or mine. God is a holy God and he chose this incredibly important timing for this sin to be revealed, and I actually think it's a good thing. I believe America needs a shaking, spiritually.

In an article published by Pastors.com, Wayde Goodall wrote, "President Clinton commented about his liason with an intern in the oval office by saying, "I did it for the worst possible reason of all - because I could." His honesty with that comment is an admission that he had a battle going on in his mind. And every day people fight their own personal battles - whether they are the leader of a nation or the head of a household."

Here is a hard question, what if God chose to reveal the unconfessed sin in your life? Proverbs 10:9 says, "He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known." A person who spends quality time in prayer and studies the Bible, on a daily basis will strengthen his or her walk with Christ. It will not prevent them from being targeted with temptation to sin, but it will certainly give them the strength to resist the temption. Having an accountability partner will reinforce this too.

Over the past few years, the leaders of the men's ministry at my church have continually stressed, the importance for each man to have an accountability partner. One man holds himself accountable to another, more mature Christian, whom can be trusted with the most intimate aspects of his life to help him grow and mature in his relationship and walk with Jesus Christ. This requires openness, voluntary submission to a trustworthy partner and consistency. Openness with an accountability partner is the foundation for building a relationship with a mature Christian brother or sister in Christ. If only the minor struggles are revealed, time and effort to help someone continually grow spiritually becomes pointless. The area of a person's life that has the potential to cause the greatest harm to the body of Christ, is probably where the deepest commitment to accountability is needed. In the book of Ephesians 4:22-24, the bible says, "that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the decietful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness."

An accountability partner's role is to make themselves available to another person, at any time, if they feel they may be tempted to sin. Also, they have the right to ask some very difficult questions too, like:

  • Have you compromised your integrity in any way?
  • Has your thought life been pure?
  • Have you committed any sexual sin?
  • Did you put yourself in an awkward situation with someone of the opposite sex?
  • What one sin plagued your walk with God this week?
  • Did you look at someone of the opposite sex in the wrong way this week?
  • What are you wrestling with in your thought life?

Tough questions aren't they? You bet and I have been on the receiving end of some of those questions and more too. The first time those questions were asked to me, I lied. When my friend followed up with another question, this one did it for me. He said, "Did you just lie to me about anything we discussed?" Again, I lied. It wasn't until a few days later when I had seen my friend did I confess to him that I was not telling the truth to the questions he had asked me a few days earlier. While I felt horrible to confess my sin to another brother, which the Bible calls each one of us to do, I felt relieved that I did not have to bear the burden of this lie anymore.

The Bible says in James 5:16, "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed." This is what Ted Haggard had done which I believe will bring a great deal of healing and restoration to his life.

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, "I beseech you therefore, bretheren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1) Whether it is a sexual temptation, alcohol, drugs, smoking or being overweight and doing nothing about it, is still destructive to God's creation of the human body and it should not be abused. Sadly though, Ted Haggard's sexual immorality was a pleasing offering to Satan rather than to God.

So, the lesson that I have learned and appreciate even more, is the relationship I have with my accountability partner so that I can be a stronger witness for Jesus Christ. My accountability partner wants to make sure that there is not even a hint of sexual immorality in my life (Ephesians 5:2) that might ruin my testimony and witness for Jesus Christ to others. It is also important to note that, God wants to see that each one of us are above reproach in His sight (Colossians 1:22) and that is done when we personally accept Jesus' death on the cross as the satisfactory payment for our sin. Each one of us holds ourselves to a level of accountability at work, to our families and even our finances, shouldn't keeping ourselves spiritually accountable be important too?

Lewis Drummond (2001) in his book about Billy Graham said, "Billy Graham is forthright in laying down the principle that before purity of life can be experienced, all sin must be confessed and forsaken.'" (p. 131). Ted Haggard had not been living a pure life for approximately three years, nor had he confessed his sin and forsaken it until it was exposed. Many people are guilty of not confessing their sins and not forsaking them and without Christ in their lives, those sins are not "hidden from God's sight, but naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:13)

There are too many people in this world who take for granted, God's grace. His unmerited favor and love, where He did not deal immediately with punishing us for our sins as we deserve. Instead, God has dealt with the guilt of each one of our sins, through the innocence and sinlessness of His Son Jesus Christ. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) Furthermore each person needs to recognize that, "The law of Moses (the Ten Commandments) was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins." (emphasis mine, Romans 8:3, New Living Translation)

No matter who you are, nothing can be done to satisfy the punishment of sin that is greater, than when God punished your sin, my sin and the sin of the world, in Jesus Christ. The problem is, people have not acknowledged or received God's forgiveness and they continue to live with judgment waiting on their time of death.

Ted Haggard had to face the embarrassment of his situation to the church congregation (14,000 people), his family, countless pastors and churches around the country (30 million+) and even embarrassment to the President of the United States. While I would rather not have to face the embarrassment of my failure to obey God and sin against Him, to the entire world, I would rather face my accountability partner and his correction, even correction from my Pastor.

The more that I can spend quality time studying the Bible, devoting quality time to prayer and staying in contact with my accountability partner, the less likely I am to fall into the temptation to sin.

"so that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation." Among these you shine as lights in the world, holding forth the Word of Life, so that I may rejoice with you in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain nor labored in vain." Philippians 2:15-16

References:
Gorski, E. (2006). Haggard: "I am a deceiver." Retreived November 6, 2006, from http://www.denverpost.com/comics/ci_4609054

Goodall, W. (2206). Great men may fall, but they don’t have to stay down. Retrieved November 9, 2006, from http://www.pastors.com/rwmt/?id=284&artid=9980&expand=1

Drummond, L. (2001). The Evangelist. Nashville: Word Publishing

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1)Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

Additional resource info: What are the consequences of sexual immorality?

Critical Reminders for Pastors from Pastor Ted Haggard's Fall - Greg Stier

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