Monday, January 31, 2011

Could this be the beginning?

I didn’t know how many came to the first “Pray for Awakening” opportunity today. Honestly, I didn’t look...I was praying. I could not help but hear the shuffle of people coming in and out and the occasional cough, so I knew many were gathered. Some of our staff told me afterward that there were over a hundred. I’ve already gotten several notes and emails from people who said they prayed. A lot of them say the same thing that I feel: God may have begun something significant.

I remember hearing Tom Nelson say, “Prayer doesn’t just bring revival. Prayer IS revival. When God stirs Christians’ hearts to pray, you’ve got revival, because Christians generally don’t pray.”

The more I think about that quote, the more I believe it is true. I’ve had my own battle with making time to pray consistently and fervently. But as I continue to study and teach God’s word in a culture that is running as hard as possible toward depravity, as I grow older and watch the church grow less effective, as I see so many people deceived and miserable when they buy the enemy’s lies, I realize my inability. I realize that God is our only hope. I realize the only alternative to awakening is judgment. That scares me. It drives me to pray. Desperately.

Dr. J. Edwin Orr was the professor of the history of awakenings at Fuller Theological Seminary. Billy Graham said that he was one of the greatest authorities on religious revivals. At the end of his life he said, “After studying prayer and spiritual awakenings for 60 years I’ve reached this conclusion…whenever God is ready to do something new with His people, He always sets them praying.”

Maybe this means God is about to do something new. Oh how I long for this. So I find myself praying not only for awakening, but for God to incite his people to pray for awakening. Renowned commentator, Matthew Henry, said the following:

When God is about to give His people the expected good, He pours out a Spirit of prayer, and it is a good sign that He is coming toward them in mercy. Then when you see the expected end approaching, ‘then you shall call upon Me’ (Jer. 29:11-12). Note: Promises are given not to supersede, but to quicken and encourage prayer; and when deliverance is coming we must by prayer go forth to meet it. When Daniel understood the 70 years were near expiring, then he set his face with more fervency than ever to seek the Lord (Dan. 9:2-3).

Therefore, my most important job as a pastor could be to beckon people to pray that God will send sweeping revival. Even more important than preaching. R.A. Torrey said, “There have been revivals without much preaching, but there has never been a mighty revival without mighty prayer.”

So I will pray. And I will plead with others to pray.

Friday, January 28, 2011

How Does Awakening Come?

Oh how my heart longs for God to do something big. There have been a few times that I have seen him move unusually. I know that there are places in the world where he is at work mightily even now. But here...while there are small victories that can be found—victories for which I am extremely thankful—for the most part it seems our nation is, in the words of Robert Bork, “slouching toward Gomorrah.”

So many scriptural references could be seen as speaking to our time. Are we experiencing a great “falling away” and our love growing cold (2Thes. 2:3, Matt. 24:10-12, 1Tim. 4:1)? Are we being “given over” by God “in the lusts of [our] hearts to impurity,” “dishonorable passions,” and “debased mind[s]” only to “receive the due penalty for [our] errors” (Rom 1:18-28)? Truly we resemble the last verses of Romans 1, as we are “filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (vv.29-32). We also look a lot like what’s described in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

Wow. It’s easy to be doom and gloom, isn’t it? I know some preachers who seem to enjoy it. But I refuse. We should look at the world like Christ did: aware of the evil (and angry about it), yet determined to bring light.

First, we don’t know when Jesus is coming back. He could come tomorrow. But he could wait. And until he comes, the four horsemen in Revelation 6 (the expanding church, war, famine, and death) continue to ride through human history. Don’t forget, Christ has given us a commission: Go make disciples of all nations...I am with you always, even to the end. I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail.

The book of Acts shows us how God’s Spirit can use unexpected people and sweep through cities and regions...even to rulers of nations. History shows how God’s truth can change empires. Our own nation’s history is marked by awakenings which made us who we are. In our case, we are great because of these spiritual revivals. They gave us our form of government, our morality, and our work ethic. That means God did. Because we can’t engineer awakening. God gives awakening.

Now we’re in a downward drift. We’re long overdue for another awakening. If we can’t engineer it, what are we to do? There’s only one thing. Pray.

I’ve been praying for awakening for over 20 years. For the last year-and-a-half, I’ve been praying harder and more desperately. And more regularly. I think even the desire to pray comes from God. “God give me more desire to pray. God give others a desire to pray.” That became my prayer. It still is.

The pastors of 12 evangelical churches in Knoxville have decided to offer a simple way for people to pray. On the last Monday of each month this year at noon, a different church will open the doors for silent prayer for awakening.

So Monday is an opportunity. We’re first. I’m praying for God to give people a desire to pray. That’s how awakening comes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pat Davis' Chili Recipe

As I wrote in a previous post, I didn't have the best chili in the MANday Night Chili Cook-off (in my opinion). I tasted several guys' chili entries which were REALLY good. Of those I tasted, the one to me that was the best hands-down, was Pat Davis' chili. I happened to taste it along with mine and just knew I had not won. But (lucky for me) Pat made it with venison and Italian sausage, which caused it to fall into the "non-traditional" category. And it took first prize.

I asked Pat for his recipe and he graciously gave it to me, along with permission to share it on my blog. Listen: Y'ALL HAVE GOT TO TRY THIS! It is the best chili I've ever put in my mouth (he told me that he didn't really measure stuff when he cooked it, so I'm sure the measurements are approximate)! Thanks Pat! And congrats!!

Pat Davis’ "Camp Chili"
MANday Night Winner (Non-traditional category)

Use an extra large pot.
Brown 1 lb. of Italian sausage (use a slotted spoon to put into extra large pot). Brown 1 lb. ground venison or beef in pan drippings from sausage. Salt to taste. Drain and put in pot.

In a plastic boil mix herbs.
Garlic powder 2 tbls
Black pepper 1 tbls
Chili powder 4 tbls
Basil 1 tbls
Oregano 1 tbls
Onion powder 2 tbls
Paprika 3 tbls
Coriander2 tbls
Cinnamon ½ tsp
Nutmeg ½ tsp
Ginger ½ tsp
Salt to taste

Dice up:
3 or 4 Jalapeno peppers
3 or 4 Serrano peppers
2 Poblano peppers
4 Banana peppers
2 Anaheim peppers
4 sticks of celery
2 large onions
3 cloves garlic

Put all chopped veggies and herbs into pot with 2 large cans tomato sauce, 1 large can tomato paste, 6 cans red kidney beans, ½ cup dark brown sugar, 3 bottles O’Doul’s amber non-alcoholic beer. Simmer for 4 hours, stirring frequently.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Try Number Six...WINS!!

Ok, so I ham it up every year with the other guys in order to stir up the competitive spirit in the MANday Night guys for the Chili cook-off. The way to do this is to be purposely and jocularly braggadocious! It’s fun, and everyone loves giving me a hard time when I fail to win. The very first cook-off (of sorts) that we had was between three of our elders, and ended in a three-way tie. I know. That’s what I thought too. What a lame result. A tie for first was the same as a tie for last! A few years later we resurrected the chili contest idea for MANday Night. I boasted shamelessly to work up some competition and it worked! A huge crowd of guys showed up, and the meal was good and cheap. We were on to something. I got 5th place out of 10 entries.

But deep down inside, I determined to really try to win the next year. When it came, I got 5th place again! Now I was mad. The next year I went all out and spent way too much money and half a day cooking. I went with grilled and diced sirloin steak instead of mere hamburger, dried (not canned) beans, several kinds of fresh peppers, other fresh vegetables, and some Italian sausage. I got 3rd out of 15 contestants. That’s better, yet not good enough. But I had gotten way too serious. So the next year (last year) I “simplified” and went with what I liked. It resulted in a second place finish (which is another way of saying first loser!). So this year I stuck with it and just made a couple of small changes. I cooked it on Sunday night, and ate it for lunch Monday to test it. Bingo. I emailed all the guys bragging that I thought I had a winner.

The competition came. What’s funny? When they called out my number, I first thought it was a joke and they were pulling my leg. Then I saw Larry’s face and knew I really won. Awesome! I don’t know what could be better: Super Bowl, Olympic Gold, World Series, Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, the Heisman, what could compare?!

All joking aside, while the judges were doing their thing in the office area, like everyone else I was trying out all the chili. For my first helping, I got a little of mine and some of Pat Davis’. His was so good, mine tasted dull by comparison. “I’ve lost,” I thought. But while complementing Pat, he told me his was in the “non-traditional” category. I had a chance, but I was convinced that my entry didn’t have what it took. I tried some of John White’s, Phil Breedlove’s, Adzima’s, Ben Sparks’, and some others. Dadgum...they were all great.

Truth is, we have some really good cooks among the men in our church! Past winners of the contest will forever be remembered in the hall of chili fame! Some of these are “Two Time” Andy Adzima (who has been a great sport and participant with me in the playful boasting), Chris Owens (who’s wife, Katie gave birth to their first child on the very day of the Chili cook-off! Coincidence?...I don’t think so! They should have named her “Pepper” or something more appropriate), and Todd Branson (who I talked in to entering the contest last year...who then showed up LATE...and then BEAT me!). And now I get the privilege of joining their exalted ranks!!!

So I now make this announcement: I am retiring as MANday Night Traditional Chili Cook-off Champion. I will go out like John Elway at the top of my game, not Brett Favre. And (for those of you who have asked) here’s my recipe—what I had called “6th Try Chili” has just been renamed, “Chad’s Championship Chili.” :)

Chad’s Championship Chili

3 lbs ground beef
1/2 tsp tiger seasoning
1 jar Tobasco chili starter (original medium)
1 can Bush’s chili hot beans
1 can Bush’s chili medium beans
1 can Bush’s black beans
1 can Bush’s dark red kidney beans
1 can Rotel (regular original)
1 heaping teaspoon jarred garlic
1 heaping tsp dried minced onions
1 tsp cocoa powder
3 tbls cooking sherry
2 heaping tbls brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tbls Texas Pete hot sauce
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
a healthy dash cumin
2 tbls chili powder
1 bayleaf
3 green Serrano peppers, de-seeded and diced

Brown ground beef in Tiger seasoning and drain the fat. Add all other ingredients (except the peppers). Then de-seed and dice 3 green Serrano peppers. Sauté them in extra virgin olive oil until slightly blackened. Add to the rest of the chili.
Add water as needed, bring to a boil, then turn low and simmer for 12 hours (it’s good after just two hours, but if you can simmer longer, it’s worth the time!).