priorities (3)

Whose Time Is It Anyway?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. - Genesis 1:1-5, 14-19

God created time to help bring order to our lives.  Day and night was established to mark sacred times, and days and years (v. 14).  Do you ever marvel at God's desire for order and structure instead of chaos?  Time brings order to our lives and exists to help us align our hearts, minds, tasks, and all things before God.

Time was Created for Man
God exists both within and outside of time- all at the same time.  This can be difficult to ponder.  For God to create time, He had to already be existing outside of time.  Once he created time, He was both within and outside of time- as God does not abandon His creation or works. 

As created beings made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), God ordained that we live, work, and worship within a structure called, "time."  When God created time, He saw it was good (Gen. 1:19).  His whole work of creation was completed in 7 days.  Have you ever considered that days did not exist prior to creation?  Even the existence of days point us toward God and many of His perfect attributes!  What a perfectly wise God we serve and worship!

The Fall of Man

Those familiar with the creation account in the beginning of Genesis are aware that by chapter 3, Adam and Eve fell into sin.  Sin brought a curse that affected all of creation, including man and time (Gen. 3:17-19).  Since then, all of creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:22) 

Taking a Good Thing too Far
Often in our fallen, sinful, world, time can seem to become a burdensome yoke or restrictive slave master.  This was not God's original design.  While time exists to help bring order to our lives, we can easily take orderliness too far- to a point where it can dominate our thoughts, actions, and attention.  When this happens, our relationship with God is the first to suffer.

Sin has warped how we see and utilize time in our daily lives.   It has caused activities, others-focused priorities, and self to usurp God's #1 place in our moment-to-moment lives.

Sadly, in our culture, doing things (whether to please God or self) often take priority over the abiding, deepening, relationship that God desires to have with us on a moment-by-moment basis.  When this happens, time can easily become an idol.  Activities on to-do lists are exalted before time with God, and our flesh becomes the driver of our lives instead of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  When this happens, and happens with increasing frequency, our awe and wonder of God, His power, perfections, and other attributes, are dimmed- often to a point where God may seem distant or even irrelevant.  Time, and the act of filling our time to accomplish things, replaces a deepening relationship with the Holy, Perfect, Sovereign, Mighty God of all.

When Attention to Time Overpowers the Holy Spirit
Have you ever been in a time of corporate prayer or worship (where two or more are gathered in prayer) that ended seemingly before the Holy Spirit had finished the work He was doing in that time?  Maybe somebody began repeatedly interjecting the word, "Amen" into the prayer meeting in hopes it would end so they could leave for their next activity.  Maybe the meeting was forced to end because the prayer leader had somewhere else they felt they or others needed to be at that time.  Or maybe the Holy Spirit was halted early in doing a ministering work because there was another church service to follow (and it was expected to begin on time).  Maybe a service was on the verge of becoming too long compared to how some attendees were conditioned to stay.  The Holy Spirit was chased away due to somebody's set time schedule.  Sadly, these kind of things happen more than we'd care to admit. 

The Holy Spirit does not often perfectly fit into our schedules, our set-aside times with Him, or the clock on the wall.  What if He desires to minister to or through you beyond, or outside, of your scheduled quiet time?  Will you let Him, or will you permit your other priorities to quench Him?

Some Pertinent Reminders:
God is sovereign (He can freely choose to do whatever He pleases whenever it pleases Him to do so). 

God is our King.  He engages us as He pleases.  Who are we to dictate to Him when He should meet with us?

God is not restricted by time.

His ways are above our ways!

He sees the past, present, and future all at the same time

He knows how He will resolve the meeting, service, or appointment that He'll make you late for- if you stay with Him until He's finished meeting with you.  He also knows how He'll glorify Himself to or through you if you'll let Him complete what He desires to do in that moment.  Will you trust Him to do so and permit Him to complete the deeper work in you He desires to do? 

He knows how He will adjust your circumstances (in ways only He can) so that you'll completely receive what He desires you to hear or experience when you're deeply in prayer, meditation, relationship, or worship with Him.  Will you stay with Him long enough to permit Him to do so?

God is a Perfect Gentleman.  Because He is, so is Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  He will not force us to be in communion, meditation, or worship beyond whatever else or whom we prioritize before Him.  He allows us to choose others before Him- but at our own loss.

The Spirit always ministers in the present moment.  He can not be delayed, DVR'ed, or Tivoed (recorded, and then watched/listened to at a different time)! 

The Holy Spirit can be quenched
(doused, chased away, grieved).  Through disobedience, prioritization of others or other things before God, the Spirit can be quenched or grieved. 

We can miss much, if not all, of what the Spirit may desire to teach or do.  This can happen by boxing God into specified appointed times in our schedules.  If we're inflexible with aligning our schedules with God's, we miss out on God's best for us in that moment and afterward.

Liberty Within Prayer
During corporate prayer and worship (where two or more are together doing so), it could be made known to all in advance that all in attendance have liberty to come and go as they please.  This permits the Holy Spirit to continue His work within that time until He's finished with those He's ministering to or through- should they choose to wait for Him.

He extends liberty to us in each moment- to choose whether we'll invite or ask Him to fill, use us, or show us anything we're missing in that moment.  As a Perfect Gentleman, He always leaves the decision up to us.  That's liberty (for better or worse)!

When the Lord has completed showing, teaching, or doing what He desires, He'll release you to your next assignment, activity, etc.  He is trustworthy!

Keeping the First Thing the First Thing
Psalm 24:1 says, "The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it."

We belong to God.  We are created to be in constant relationship with Him.  He desires our attention, affection, worship, joy, meditation, lives, hearts, minds; all of us, always to be centered upon and within Him.  Time belongs to God.  The clock gives structure to our days and nights, but He should always rule over time- the time He's given us to live, serve, love, and worship.

Aligning ourselves with God will help us see Him more completely, and catch the greater depths of relationship He desires to have with us.  This is sometimes referred to as redeeming the time.

Let's redeem the time well and yield to the Holy Spirit in His timing!

Lord, you are my all-in-all.  Everything I have and am is Yours.  The time you've given me this day belongs solely to You.  Thank you for giving me this day and night ahead.  I desire to utilize the time you've given me in fellowship with You- even while I work, serve, and do all things as unto You.  Have Your way in me and through me.  Help me to realize things I hold on too tightly to, and grasp You more fully in my heart, mind, life, and soul.  Be glorified and magnified in this day.  Teach me Your ways and show me greater depths of Your heart for me and others.  You are the One I seek.  I worship You.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

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If Your Life or Church Were a Word Cloud


I love word clouds. These computer-generated word assortments depict the frequency, size, or relative importance of the words on a website or print document.


The main thing I love about word clouds is that they don’t lie. You may think the theme of your website or document is one thing, but the word cloud will tell you what your REAL message is.


If you do a word cloud of the Gospel of Matthew, for example, it should be no surprise that the name Jesus is very BIG. The other key words are God and Kingdom.


In contrast, the word “church” is only used in two passages of Matthew (16:18 & 18:17), and these are the only times it is mentioned in the four Gospels. Think about this for a moment. Is it possible we’ve sometimes been guilty of magnifying the church as even bigger than the kingdom—or even bigger than Jesus Himself?


The beauty of word clouds is not only the words that turn out to be BIG and bold, but also the ones that are SMALL and faint. What a wonderful illustration of life’s priorities.


So, what if someone created a word cloud of your life—your words, thoughts, motives, and actions? What words would be BIG, and which ones would be SMALL? Would JESUS and KINGDOM be big or small? Would you be encouraged by your life’s word cloud, or embarrassed? Would you be willing to have the words projected on a screen for all to see?


The good news is that there’s still time to improve your life’s word cloud. Of course, this won’t be an easy process. You will have to deny yourself daily, take up your cross, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).


But changing your word cloud will be worth it. Just think of the beautiful new picture God will create as Jesus increases and you decrease (John 3:30).




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Recently, I enjoyed the honor of providing teaching and leadership in prayer at the Moody Bible Institute’s Pastors’ Conference in Chicago, Illinois. In addition, I was joined by both my sons, who helped lead worship for the prayer sessions, and my brother, a pastor from Texas, who assisted in the prayer times and co-taught my workshops. It was a great reunion of “the brothers” from two generations.

For over twenty years, MBI has served pastors through this conference with a strong emphasis on biblical teaching and practical training in church leadership. For the last two years, they have allowed me to lead an early morning prayer session for those willing to attend. Last year, it was in an auxiliary auditorium and attracted hundreds of pastors each day. This year, they moved it into the main auditorium and graciously promoted it as a plenary session. Again, hundreds of pastors came each morning as we engaged in powerful sessions of Scripture-fed, Spirit-led, worship-based prayer.

A Bold Decision

I applaud the leadership of MBI for this commitment. Strange as it sounds, it is a bold move, as very few pastors’ conferences today give any priority to extended sessions of prayer. Content is always king. Music is usually paramount. Articulate and dynamic personalities are the draw. Prayer is typically an “opening” and “closing” formality in most cases. Thank God for Moody’s willingness to begin to find the balance we see in Acts 6:4 where the culture of church leadership was marked by a commitment to “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). It did not matter who led these sessions at Moody. The victory is in the fact that they existed at all.

The Biblical Ideal of a Young Heart
Last week, after the first morning prayer session, a young man who appeared to be in his early 20’s approached me. He was blessed by the prayer time and asked if I led events like this at other pastors’ conferences. He asked what I felt about the attendance that morning. I told him I was thrilled that 400 or more came. In his idealism, he responded, “I was shocked that all of them did not come. I thought pastors were supposed to be committed to prayer. These are the guys leading our churches. No wonder we are in the condition we are in.” I tried to explain to him that it was an early hour, men were tired and perhaps they had scheduling conflicts. He was not to be deterred. His angst was obvious. I fear his concerns may be more legitimate than I wanted to admit. In all honesty, I had to search my own heart as I wondered if I would have attended if I were not leading the sessions. We all fight the battle of prayerlessness, distraction, and apathy.

Dreaming of a Better, Biblical Balance
As I reflect on the conversation, I do wonder about where pastors really are in their true passion for Christ through prayer. On a broader level, I wonder why pastors’ gatherings, particularly major conferences, feature so much emphasis on information with so little real time dedicated to the actual experience of praying together. As I thought of all the answers that might be proposed, I have decided to leave it up to you, the reader, to draw your own conclusions. Most of my ideas really are not edifying to share in this context.

Rather, I want to take a positive approach and consider what it might look like in the days ahead if major pastors’ gatherings began to move toward a better balance between prayer and the Word. Of course, it could be argued that because prayer is mentioned first in the priorities of the early church leaders in Acts 6:4 (and in the example of Jethro’s three-fold advice to Moses for establishing leadership priorities in Exodus 18:19) that prayer should have a more prominent place than the Word. Realizing this may sound like heresy, I would like to suggest the possibility of equal time: fifty percent prayer and fifty percent preaching. How about one-third prayer and two-thirds preaching? How about one-fifth prayer and four-fifths preaching? Any of the above would be a monumental move toward biblical balance, fresh power, and extraordinary unity.

A Radical Scenario
Imagine with me the possibility of an upcoming national pastors’ conference, held in a major city, conveniently located somewhere in the central U.S. Let’s call it “The Reconfiguration Conference.” The slate is filled with the ten most popular preachers, all with blockbuster books and mega-churches. A half-dozen Grammy Award-winning Christian artists are scheduled to provide the music. No expense has been spared in promoting the conference and every imaginable technological tool has been arranged to make the conference “high-impact.” Thousands of pastors have registered and are beginning to arrive with great expectancy of an experience that will really pump them up.

However, the conference planners encounter a major complication. All ten of the keynote speakers and every one of the musicians slated for the program happen to be in the same city the day before for a different event. That night, the airport in that city is shut down by fog and is projected to remain closed for three days. None of the featured platform personalities can get to The Reconfiguration Conference.

After a stressful night of reconfiguring The Reconfiguration Conference, the organizers step to the platform for the opening session with the shocking announcement. They share, “Due to circumstances beyond our control, none of our speakers or musicians will be able to attend. Nevertheless, God has clearly spoken to us about an even better plan. We have a small, local worship band ready to help us for the next three days – and we are going to spend every session at the feet of Jesus in prayer.“

It is rather fun to imagine the response from the crowd. Would they be disappointed? Thrilled? Angry? Eager? Of course, the real question is, how many would actually stay? What would they do instead?

Imagine the Possibilities!
Imagine if the pastors did stay – with open hearts, eager to seek God’s face, worship in spirit and in truth, and call out in faith to our great God. Consider what could happen if thousands of pastors spent hours together in simple but sincere worship, praying from the Scriptures, following the prompting of the Spirit.

More specifically, think on these possibilities:
• Pastors would discover a fresh spiritual delight and joy in the presence of Christ
• Pastors would find fresh encouragement in the application of God’s Word in the course of praying from the Scriptures for several days
• Pastors would experience an organic and powerful unity, together on their knees
• Pastors would open their hearts to Christ in ways that might cultivate fresh repentance, faith, and commitment to His Lordship
• Pastors would open their hearts to one another, experiencing deep healing and bearing each other’s burdens in a posture of prayer
• Pastors would receive fresh vision and direction from the presence of Christ, even as they did in Acts 13:1-2
• Pastors might find greater reward at the feet of Jesus than they would have in the crowd listening to gifted speakers and talented musicians

It could be the “accidental” beginning of a new day. It might spark a genuine revival. It might ignite a fresh passion for pastors to go home and lead their churches in similar experiences.

Dreaming of a New Direction
It does not hurt to dream, even if you have to create bizarre scenarios to make it work. Yet, this is the kind of dreaming we desperately need if things are going to take an exponential and supernatural step in the “revival” direction.

Yes, I think it can be, should be, and must be. Thank God for places like the Moody Bible Institute, along with other conferences, that imagine these possibilities and take steps to move in that direction. God is able, if we are willing. The world is waiting for a fresh revelation of their only hope – which is Jesus Christ, living through a revived church. May that hope burst forth among pastors all around our nation for Christ’s glory.

Copyright © 2010 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

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