Category Archives: prayer

God Gives a Swift Kick…

Acts 12:7-9

7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. (ESV)

For some reason I really enjoyed reading this verse. The angel “strikes” Peter in the side. No peaceful nudge and whisper in the ear with a glow over the angel’s head (a la Touched By An Angel). Peter wasn’t touched, he was struck! Couple things come to mind. 1) It was time to go. No sense in waiting around for the right “moment.” Get up Peter and go! 2) People were praying. This is an awesome testimony to gathered, corporate prayer. The answer to pray was an angel coming in to Peter’s cell and kicking him in the side to get going. 3) We all need a swift kick every now and then. I almost wonder if Peter was in a place of self-pity. Feeling so sorry for himself he was inconsolable even when the angel showed up, so the angel kicked him in the side. “Get a hold of yourself man! God has sent me to rescue you! Let’s go, work to be done…”

Do you need a swift kick to get moving on what God is ready to do in your life? I often do. First-pray, pray hard and pray with others…that reminds me, February 25th we’re gathering to pray together as a church. 2-Don’t get so self-absorbed that you become non-functional. God may be ready to move in your life, but you’re too busy wallowing in self-pity. 3-Go! If God is kicking you in the side, you better move!

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Prayer List

Today we’re finishing our 17 WEEK series in Ephesians. Wow, it’s been fun, at least for me….Paul finishes this letter with a discussion on prayer as one of our weapons in the spiritual battle we are a part of as Christians. We’ve spent the last several weeks looking at the realities of the spiritual world. Paul then concludes for a request for prayer that I believe is a call to all of us who follow Jesus to constantly be praying for what is before us as we move forward in the mission He calls us to. With that in mind, we’ll be hitting prayer hard and heavy tonight. I’ll mention a few areas that we need to be constantly be praying about. I wanted to put together a simple list that could be used to guide prayer as it relates to areas of Ephesus Church and the city of Charlotte. Below is the list. I hope it will be of value

  1. Ephesus Church
  • People will discover Jesus
  • Relationships will be created, strengthened and restored
  • Disciples will be created 
  • Vision to Love Jesus, Love People, Love the City will continue to be lived out
  • Me! (Ben)
  • Ministry directors-currently: Children (Christina Edwards), Media/Tech (David Harkness), Connections (Karen Furr), Home Groups (David Koran), Worship (Seth Snider)
  • The vision to impact the people and culture of Charlotte will continue to be pursued
2. Foursquare (our denomination)
  • Jack Hayford-international president
  • Glenn Burris-national director/General Supervisor
  • Farrell Lemings-division leader (our direct point of contact)
3. Charlotte
  • The people of this great city
  • Ephesus’ place as a part of the culture of this city
  • Relationships to be established in and around the city
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Mission

I’m working on our final sermon in Ephesians this week and found some info from Barna that just really brings the reality of the Church’s mission to light in the US. We’re not cutting it. The reason we’re not cutting it, is we’re creating our own systems and culture and expecting the unchurched to come to us. But they have no buy-in or reason to come to us. We go to conferences and read magazines that show us all the latest and greatest (“bigger, better, faster” I like to call it) in the “church world” but nationally, church attendance continues to decline. I think we’re blinded to this reality by the emergence of ever more “mega” mega-churches. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing at all against big churches. It’s just that they really are the minority of what is happening spiritually. And while some of these large churches are doing tremendous things to advance Jesus in the US, others seemingly go a little bit the way of the cruise ship (I’m trying to be diplomatic, I’m really not at all wanting to be the bitter church planter because that is not at all motivating this post, long live the megachurches everywhere!). My worry is that kind of thinking and programming just moves Christians around from church to church and has too little impact on truly reaching those who don’t comprehend the reality of who Jesus is. Here’s a portion of Barna’s analysis of the particular study I read today:

“Unchurched people are not just lazy or uniformed,” the researcher continued. “They are wholly disinterested in church life – often passionately so. Stirring worship music won’t attract them because worship isn’t even on their radar screen. More comfortable pews cannot compete with the easy chair or the bed that already serve the unchurched person well. Church events cannot effectively compete with what the world has to offer. The only thing the Church can provide that no one else has is a life-changing, practical encounter – and on-going relationship – with the living God and with people transformed by similar encounters. Until such a connection is made, focusing on features, programs and benefits other than such a life-shaping encounter is more likely to lose ground than to gain it.”

Barna noted that the millions of young unchurched have no understanding of or interest in a church, even if it is “contemporary” in style. “Millions of young adults are more interested in truth, authenticity, experiences, relationships and spirituality than they are in laws, traditions, events, disciplines, institutions and religion. The confluence of preconceived notions, past experiences and evolving lifestyles and values means that existing churches simply cannot reach millions of today’s unchurched people. The rapidly swelling numbers of unchurched people may be forcing existing churches to reinvent their core spiritual practices while holding tightly to their core spiritual beliefs. It will take radically new settings and experiences to effectively introduce unchurched individuals to biblical principles and practices.”

This Sunday we finish 17 weeks in the book of Ephesians. Paul finishes this letter by challenging God-followers to pray all the time, in the Spirit, for each other and for our leadership so that the Gospel will go out with clarity and boldness. I believe today, that clarity and boldness means we must heed the findings of Barna and realize “missional” and “context” are not just the hip buzzwords of the Christian subculture, but are absolute necessities in impacting people all around us with the eternity of Jesus. That’s where our prayer will be focused this Sunday and going forward as a local church in Uptown Charlotte, I hope you’ll pray for Ephesus and pray the same for wherever you are.

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Time to pray, really pray

This is a message I just sent to the Ephesus team. Feel free to join with us as we pray for Charlotte.

 

Ephesus Team,
I haven’t written all of you recently and I wanted to challenge you to concerted prayer as we go into the Fall. I have been challenged to redouble my prayer for Ephesus and especially the city of Charlotte as we prepare for the next step in what God has for Ephesus. As you are all aware, we’ll be making a transition back into Uptown in a month or so. I’m reminded again as I pray, that this is the place God has called Ephesus too. He’s called us to Love Jesus, Love People and Love THIS City. I just listened to Pastor Jason’s sermon from the week I was gone, and he reminded us all of this call God has put on Ephesus. We’re called to love people. People that don’t yet know Jesus. People that are maybe different from us, or maybe not so different, but still searching. We’re also called to love this city. God put out a vision of impacting the culture of Charlotte in radical way. This isn’t about just another church gathering a few folks together to worship and wear t-shirts instead of ties…it’s about making such an impact that people want to know what’s changed in this city. That people will be pushed, pulled, loved, challenged by Jesus and the Cross. The media, art, education, and very culture of Charlotte will shift because of the impact of what God is doing.

I’m concerned that in the midst of “making church happen” each week we’ve (me included!) have lost sight of the vision God has placed before Ephesus. It’s very big. It requires every one of us to step up our game. That begins with prayer and our own personal lives. We must be regularly repenting, regularly in prayer, regularly in God’s Word and regularly seeking opportunities He has placed before us to advance this vision. This isn’t life as usual, this is the big time. I’m challenging you to step out with me starting with repentance and prayer. I’m throwing down the gauntlet, who’s ready to go? 

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This week

Crazy week. I’m speaking in all 3 services at Grace Covenant this week about the church plant. It’s an exciting, awesome opportunity to share the vision with about 2200 of my closest Lake Norman pals! I have to be honest, I’m a little nervous, and I might even say a little scared. This is HUGE! What God wants to do is HUGE! This is the shot to get people excited and on board. I’m totally approaching it from way to much of “man” perspective. I need God to move, the Holy Spirit to move hearts and lead people to action in support and actually going with us. I need your prayers BIG TIME! This is going to be battle and I need your prayers going in. I want to speak God’s words and not my own, always a challenge for me. This is his deal and He’ll make it happen…

The final touches are being put on the new website, ephesuschurch.tv, still very much under construction, but at least it’s there! The final video with ending is up! I’ve finally put them together in final form and it should be available on Youtube shortly. Also I’m excited about the new Ephesus Church Charlotte Facebook group. 60 members strong and growing! Very cool stuff. Jump over and join if you haven’t already. I’m also excited about starting video devo’s hopefully next week. I want to start doing a 5 minute weekly devo on video. Initially we’ll walk through the book of Ephesians and see where it goes from there.

Be praying for this Sunday.