What to do about the labor shortage in the Lord’s work

“But when He saw the multitudes, (Jesus) was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.  Then He said to the disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:36-38).

Little of this is what we would have expected.

The newly baptized Savior was moving in and around Galilee preaching and ministering.  Was this the first time He had “gotten out” and seen the crowds, growing up as He did in the small town of Nazareth where He worked alongside His father in the carpentry business?  Was this a surprise to Him, seeing the crowds in this way?

The people seemed as sheep with no shepherd.  Think of what that means….

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Ron Dunn’s stories about prayer

Ronald Dunn, now in Heaven, was a prolific writer and speaker on prayer and the deeper life.  He pastored in Texas and authored many books.  What follows are stories taken from his book “Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something: The Incredible Power of Intercessory Prayer.” Published in 1991 by Thomas Nelson.

First story. (I’ve heard this from numerous speakers, but it’s Ron’s story.)

I was speaking at a banquet for a church’s intercessory prayer ministry when (this mother of a teenager) shared a recent answer to prayer. A few days before, as she was getting a pie ready to put into the oven, the phone rang,  It was the school nurse.  Her son had come down with a high fever and would she come and take him home?

The mother calculated how long it would take to drive to school and back, and how long the pie should bake, and concluded there was enough time. Popping the pie into the oven, she left for school. When she arrived, her son’s fever was worse and the nurse urged her to take him to the doctor.

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If I could make one change in your church

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations…” (Mark 11:17)

If the church asked me to suggest one thing that would make the greatest improvement in all they do, I would not hesitate.

I would make their worship center a house of prayer.

While that could involve a number of things, the most obvious change would take place in the worship service.

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Great and mighty things thou knowest not

“Call to me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).

God knows a zillion things we do not.

Let’s start with that no-brainer.

The overwhelming majority of “things God knows” are, I expect, reserved exclusively for Him. “The secret things belong to God,” we’re told in Deuteronomy 29:29. The farthest reaches of this enormous universe are seen and appreciated only by Him and His legions.  And the heavenly realm itself is His and His alone.

However.

The Heavenly Father has many things He is dying to show us, to reveal to us, to allow us to stumble upon, or learn in His classroom.

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Prayer: He has taken all the work out of it!

“Your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him.” –Matthew 6:8.

We would all like to lose weight without dieting.  We’d like to get healthy and have our muscles toned up while we sleep.  We’d like to get a college degree without going to class or studying.

Those are not about to happen.

Spiritual disciplines require great effort from us also.  Whether we are fasting and enduring great tribulation for Jesus’ sake, or doing something as simple as studying our Sunday School lesson and offering grace before meals, conscious effort is required, and that means a strong focus on the Savior.

Prayer is hard work, we are told.

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Fear: What happens when we quit trusting the Lord

“Why did you fear? Where is your faith?” (Mark 4:40)

Not long ago, I arrived early at the church where I was to preach that morning and found that a Sunday School class was meeting in the auditorium.  I made my way to a chair and joined the dozen or so adults of various ages.

Whatever scripture they were studying that day, they had wandered far afield from it.  Class members were excitedly speaking against abortion, gay marriage, transgender acceptance, hate crime laws, political shenanigans, the coming world government, the antichrist, President Obama, and the possibility of an armed uprising in America so everyone had better have plenty of ammunition. Also, blood moons, Armageddon and Joel Osteen.

At one point, during a lull, I asked, “So, what is the scripture for today’s lesson?”  As far as I could tell, only the teacher caught the irony (and gentle rebuke) of that.  He named some place in one of the prophets.

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Leave room in your theology for mystery

“…I know not; God knows.”  (2 Corinthians 12:2)

Some things you will never figure out in this life.

Some mysteries you will eventually see–or the Spirit will reveal them to you or someone much smarter than you will explain it to you–but you haven’t so far.

Until then, humility is the order of the day.  (And, yes, afterwards, humility is still in order.)

Here’s one that has me going.

In Romans 8:26, one of my favorite “prayer” verses, after informing us that “we do not know how to pray as we should”–I knew it; I’m just surprised that Paul admits it!–and after saying “The Spirit also helps us in (that) weakness”–we read that “the Spirit Himself also intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Okay. That sentence carries mystery enough to occupy me for the next few years.

There’s more.

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The dumbest prayer I ever prayed

“When He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold” (Job 23:10).

No one volunteers for testing. Not if they know what’s good for them!

However, one day not long ago I prayed this prayer:

“Lord, please let one of the churches where You send me to minister give me an offering so abysmally small that I will have to reaffirm that my trust is in Thee and not in man, not in money, not in things.”

Okay. I don’t ever intend to do that again.  (smiley-face here)

Here’s the background…..

First: The Lord is my Source.

“The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel” (I Corinthians 9:14).  The laborer is worthy of his hire, as Scripture says in numerous places.

But the Lord is the Source for all of us who labor in His vineyard.

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A praise sandwich: The most fundamental lesson in the Lord’s Prayer

“Our Father, who art in Heaven….” (Matthew 6:9)

The Lord’s Prayer is a praise sandwich. Okay, maybe a “praise parenthesis.” Envelope? (I’m searching for the best metaphor. Anyone got a good one?)

This prayer begins and ends with praise. In between are the personal requests we make for ourselves.

The Lord’s Prayer begins with a concern for Thy Name, Thy Kingdom, and Thy Will.

It ends with Thy Kingdom, Thy Power, and Thy Glory.

In between, we have Give us, Forgive us, Lead us, and Deliver us.

What could be simpler?

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What I told her when she said her prayers were so weak

“It’s not all up to you.”

She had given me a burdensome list of prayer needs.  Her husband was battling a terminal illness, her daughter was in a bad situation, the grandchildren were at risk, and she herself felt so far away from the Lord.

I’m breaking no confidence in sharing this.  First, she gave permission, and second, her needs are not unlike a dozen people whom I know. There is a lot of this going around.  A few minutes ago, a mother whom I do not know, but who found us on the internet, wrote with a similar list of prayer needs.

She asked me to pray for her. She did not ask for advice. However, while I am indeed lifting her needs in prayer, the next best gift I can give is to encourage her own praying.’

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