Responding to Terror

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Responding to Terror’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 11/22/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1Tc1oJs

Who’s Behind Terror?

We live in an incredible scary world. Jesus warned His disciples that in the last days, terror would increase. I have never been one to dwell on end-time prophecy, and attempt to predict exactly when this world will end. However, when one so much as turns on the news, it is abundantly clear and apparent that terror is increasing.

What should our response to terror be? Prayer. Terror is not new. The tactics have changed, and the instruments being used have never been seen before. However, Satan has always been the author of all terror. His goal has always been to scare us – God’s people – into backing down from using the authority of Heaven to pray God’s Kingdom reality over this earth.

On Friday, November 13th, 2015, 129 people were killed in a terror attach in Paris, France.  On Friday, November 20th, 2015,  another 21 people were killed at a hotel in Mali, in Western Africa. ISIS claimed responsibility for the first attack; Al Qaeda clamed responsibility for the second. At the end of the day, Satan is behind it all.

It has never been more important to pray for New York City. In a news conference after the attacks, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton noted that there had been over 20 terrorist attack attempts thwarted already this year in New York City. Our city remains one of the most prominent targets for terror in the world.

The only way our cities will stay safe is if we pray. God has clearly given us authority in Scripture to pray for protection over our cities. Psalm 115 says that, “…the heavens are the Lord’s; but the earth He has given to the children of men” (Ps 115:15-16). It is our responsibility to pray for protection over our cities. If we don’t do it, who will?

Who Protects You?

We build our lives around security. We desire protection and consistency. In response to terror, we huddle around the things we can control. We revert to our instincts and surround ourselves with as much predictability as possible. I’ve talked to many people this week who plan to take the subway less often in response to terrorist threats in New York City. I’ve talked to others who plan to avoid rush hour traffic, and stay out of public places.

While I understand the attempts to stay safe, we must acknowledge that those attempts are misguided. Any security built in anything or anyone but God is false security.

As God’s people, we must trust in Him – and no one else – for protection. In 2 Chronicles 16, we see God remind King Asa, the King of Judah, that any attempt to build security apart from God’s protection and provision isn’t really secure at all. The King of Israel had declared war against Judah. In response, King Asa had turned to Syria for protection.

God sent His prophet Hanani to rebuke the king:

And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” – 2 Chron 16:7-9

King Asa had put his trust in man, instead of God. God very clearly reminded King Asa that if he had relied on God, Judah’s protection would have been guaranteed. However, because he had relied on man for protection, Judah would be overrun.

Some of the greatest calamities in human history have occurred when God’s people put their trust in man instead of God. Others came about because God’s people became so discouraged that they were no longer willing to pray.

Protection, Peace and Prudence

The greatest successes in history come about when God’s people are willing to pray – without fear, and without reservation! This morning, we are going to make a commitment to be those men and women of prayer. I believe God is asking us to pray for three things in New York City: protection, peace, and prudence. We see all three demonstrated as God’s people pray for His cities throughout Scripture.

1) Protection

God visits Abraham in Genesis 18. The Lord promises His servant a son, and then leaves to destroy a wicked city called Sodom. Before He takes action, however, he stops to clue Abraham in on everything He is about to do:

And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.” – Genesis 18:20-21

Abraham could have resigned to let Sodom accept the fate the city deserved. He could have convinced himself that God’s will was to let the entire city perish. But he knew better. He knew that God desires that none should perish (2 Pet 3:9), and that all would come to know God’s goodness.

So, Abraham stood in the gap and asked God for the city:

Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” – Genesis 18:22-25

Abraham reminded God of His promise for peace for His people. He asked God to stay His hand for the sake of the righteous in the city. Abraham asked God to protect the people of Sodom with boldness: not because they deserved protection, but because he knew it was God’s will to save every man and woman.

So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.” – Genesis 18:26

Sodom was saved because Abraham was willing to pray. He stood in the gap and refused to allow calamity to strike God’s people, no matter how sinful they were. God was waiting for someone to cry out for Sodom to be saved! Abraham was the only one willing to lift up his voice and ask God for their protection.

The conversation continues throughout the rest of Genesis 18. If God would save the city for the sake of fifty righteous, would He save it for the sake of forty-five? He would (v 28). What about forty? He would (v 29). Thirty? God would still save the city (v 30). Twenty? Done (v 31).

Abraham continued to explore the depths of God’s mercy. Finally, he asked the question he really wanted to have answered:

“Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And [God] said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place. – Gen 18:32-33

If Abraham had not been willing to stand in the gap for the people of Sodom, the entire city would have been destroyed. God is looking for righteous men and women to cry out and ask that New York City would stay protected from harm. Are you willing to accept that call?

2) Peace

In the year 587 BC, Jerusalem fell to Babylon. Men and women from Jerusalem were carried captive to Babylon. While in captivity, they craved a word of hope from God. When the message finally arrived through Jeremiah, its’ form was a little different than what they had come to expect:

Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. – Jer 29:5-7

Maybe you are living in New York City because you want to be living here. Maybe not. But whether you want to be here or not, your mandate is to pray for the peace of the city.

Whenever terror strikes, our knee-jerk reaction is to move somewhere “safe.” Scores of people moved out of New York City after 9/11. Your reaction to the attacks in Paris might be the same. However, the truth is this: either God is protecting you, or He isn’t. If He’s protecting you, His covering will follow you wherever you go. If He’s not protecting you, there’s nowhere safe! Deuteronomy 28 promises, “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country” (Deut 28:3). So, if you’re going to trust God for peace, trust Him right here in the greatest city in the world!

Unless you pray for the peace of New York City, you will not find peace in your life; but when you pray for the peace of this city, that peace will spill over into every area of your life. Are you ready to accept the call to pray for peace in New York City?

3) Prudence

Prudence is cautious wisdom: the mental faculties required to deal with matters calmly and effectively. The primary way we can increase the wisdom to deal with terror in our cities is by praying for our leaders.

Paul reminded Timothy to pray for every man and woman in authority:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. – 1 Tim 2:1-2

His reminder still stands to this day. Every ruler makes mistakes. Every policymaker makes misguided decisions. Our response to a decision with which we do not agree is often to pull away and complain – to withdraw and convince ourselves that matters are out of our hands. If we withdraw and fail to pray, however, we open the door to more misguided decisions.

The only way the civilian and Law Enforcement leaders of our city will make wise decisions is if we support them with our prayers. Are you willing to support our policymakers every day with your prayers?

God Is Searching for Your Prayers

God is always looking to answer our prayers. The Psalmist said that God “inclines His ear” to us (Ps 116:2). But God cannot answer the prayers we don’t pray. In Scripture, God reminds us of the calamity that can strike when we forget to pray:

So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. – Ezek 22:30

We cannot be discouraged. We cannot forget to pray. God has put us in New York City to pray for this place. He has placed us here for such a time as this.

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Equally Yoked

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Equally Yoked’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 11/15/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1ORjm68

This Sunday is the third and final message in our series titled, ‘Real People, Real Problems.’ The intent of the past three Sundays has been to equip our members with practical tools to deal with the issues they encounter on a daily basis. First, we covered how to share the Gospel with skeptics. Then, we went over time management. Finally, we are looking at the importance of reserving romantic interest for people whose passion for Jesus Christ is the same as ours.

Equally Yoked

If you’ve ever been to a Christian marriage seminar or relationship workshop, you’ve probably heard the term “equally yoked.” You probably know that it’s good to only date other Christians. Reality, however, often makes this difficult. “How do I meet other Christians? “ you might wonder. “What if I’m not interested in any of the single people at my church?” is a logical question.

My heart especially goes out to single Christian females. There is a crisis of Biblical manhood in today’s church. Young men who boldly accept Jesus Christ, and live out their lives in light of the truth of the Gospel, are few and far between. But they do exist!

Today I want to examine the importance of being equally yoked. If we’re going to strive to think, talk and act in a certain way, it’s wise to understand why we seek that direction in the first place.

Paul unveils the term, ‘equally yoked,’ in his second letter to the Church at Corinth. He strongly exhorts every believer in Jesus Christ to make it a priority to date, and marry, another believer:

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” – 2 Cor 6:14-18

Paul uses the term ‘yoke’ on purpose. A yoke is a wooden harness that is put around the necks of two animals, typically oxen. The yoke has two-fold purpose: 1) it binds the animals together so their movement can be more productive, and 2) it connects to a cart or plow so that as they move, they can pull together.

In order for a yoke to be effective, the two animals have to be the same size. It would be unproductive for an ox to be yoked to a donkey, for example. The ox would move forward with strength and speed, pushing his side of the yoke aggressively. The donkey, however, would lag behind as a result of his smaller size. The end result? Lack of forward motion. The two animals would move around in a circle, with the stronger member of the pair pulling all the weight. The load they are trying to carry together would go nowhere. It would actually be more beneficial to ditch the yoke and let the ox carry the weight himself! Very little is accomplished by an uneven pair.

When it comes to romantic relationships, the outcome can be exactly the same. If both male and female are not strong in the things of the Lord, the relationship will go nowhere. The load – the burden Jesus Christ has given us to share the Good News – will not be moved, and nothing will be accomplished. The “stronger” member of the couple will end up doing all the work, and pulling all the weight, while the “weaker” member flounders. Round and round they will go, perpetually moving in a circle.

The Old Testament is full of examples where the people of Israel yoke themselves to unbelievers. The result is always disastrous. Whenever God’s people marry into families that worship other gods, the idol worship rubs off onto His people. Romantic relationships with those who worship idols instead of God is one of the primary causes of sin in the Old Testament. Time and again, we see unrepentant Gentiles lead some (or even all) of the Jewish people into sin.

In Old Testament history, the men of Israel would frequently find themselves attracted to the women of a foreign land. They would marry into their families, and worship their gods. We even see this happen to King Solomon:

For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. – 1 Kings 11:4

The Bible calls Solomon the wisest king to have ever lived, except for Jesus Christ. If even the wisest man to walk the earth was pulled into sin because he was unequally yoked, how much more careful do we have to be!

Fellas, I’m going to just come out and say it: the men are the primary culprits here. What happened to all the single young men in the church? We’ve lost our passion for God, and fallen subject to lust for idols. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a young woman who is on fire for God fall in love with a man who claims to be a Christian. Then, several months into dating, she finds out his commitment to Jesus Christ is surface level. Before you know it, neither one is coming to church. Unfortunately, the romantic relationship usually wins out, and it’s not long before we stop seeing that couple in church.

For the single women who are waiting for their God-given husband: do not give up hope! God has the perfect man for you. He might not be sitting in the same church as you, but he is out there somewhere. Please don’t give up hope. God is good, and He delivers on His promises.

We see the importance of having a strong, Christian man as the leader of the household in Scripture:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word… – Ephesians 5:22-26

On the surface, it seems like wives have the tougher job. We look at that passage, and we get scared by the word submit. The reality, however, is that the husband has the most difficult job of all! While wives have to submit, husbands have to die! Husbands are commanded to die for their wives, just as Jesus Christ died for the church!

If the man in any Christian relationship is not willing to step up to the plate and be a bold, faithful leader of his household, then he is not living up to God’s design. It is the husband who must shoulder the burden of spiritually guiding his whole family. It is the husband who is ultimately responsible to make sure his children know the Gospel. It is the husband who must give his wife the space and time required so that she can grow in intimacy with God.

Ladies: do you really want to waste time with a man who doesn’t live up to that standard?

I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of waiting until marriage to have sex in any relationship. God designed sex for the covenant relationship. When we share intimacy with our marriage partner, we are sending a clear message: I am willing to be naked in front of you, and give you everything I have to give.

The man has to be the one willing to put a stop to sexual intimacy before marriage. He needs to be the leader when it comes to setting healthy boundaries, and sticking to them. Too often, the woman in a young Christian couple has to fight against a man who wants to test physical boundaries before the marriage ceremony has taken place. This is not God’s original intention for our relationships! The man is supposed to strengthen his future wife – not weaken her!

Are You A Consumer?

In the United States, we’ve adopted a consumer mindset when it comes to dating. We tentatively enter into emotional and physical intimacy with someone of the opposite sex, but we run at the first sign of discomfort. If things get difficult, we leave. If we no longer get exactly what we want, we flee.

But God didn’t design us to be consumers; He designed us to be in covenant. He designed us to view dating as a very serious decision: an expression that we are interested in potentially marrying a person. He designed us to view marriage as a permanent commitment: to honor someone for the rest of our lives, and to give everything we have – physically, socially, emotionally, and financially – to that person.

Imagine if God looked at you with a consumer mindset! What if every time you did something that made Him unhappy, He could turn around and walk away? What if the best hope I could give you as a pastor was that if you try your best, God might like you? That wouldn’t be much of a relationship, would it?!

God honors you with a covenant relationship, so that you can honor your spouse in the same way. He promises to never leave or forsake you (Deut 31:6), so that you can make the same promise to your spouse. He teaches us to serve by laying down our lives, just as Jesus Christ laid down His life for the church!

The Marriage Crisis in the United States

There is a marriage crisis in the United States. The effects of our consumer mentality are catching up to us. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), as many as fifty percent of married couples in the United States divorce.[1]

Unfortunately, statistics in the church are no better than the general population. The divorce rate for Christians is the same, at about fifty percent. In fact, some studies prove that Christian couples are actually more likely to get divorced than couples who don’t have Jesus at the center of their marriages. In 1999, the Barna Research Group found that born again Christians are actually more likely than others to experience divorce! [2]

That’s terrifying, isn’t it? Even if you are born again, your chances of divorce are half!

There is, however, an answer. You can drop your chances of divorce substantially by doing one simple thing: by making the commitment with your spouse to do one simple activity that can completely change your life.

The difference is prayer. You’ve probably heard the expression: Families that pray together, stay together. It’s not just folklore; it’s fact. In 1997, a Gallup Poll showed the divorce rate for Christian couples who pray together regularly is 1 out of 1,152. [3]

That’s less than one tenth of a percent!

Here is the point. If you and your spouse don’t pray together, you might as well flip a coin to determine if you’re going to get a divorce. But if you pray together every day, you’ll stay together for the rest of your lives!

The Importance of Prayer

Prayer with my wife is my favorite part of being married. The Holy Spirit loves to take advantage of situations where two or more believers are gathered together to worship God:

Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. – Matt 18:19-20

Whenever my wife and I are together, it is DONE! Jesus promises that when we get together and pray in His name, that He is in our midst. God promises that when my wife and I agree in prayer, whatever we ask for is complete: it is, “…done for [us] by [Our] Father in heaven” (v 19). Don’t you want your marriage to look the same way?

My wife and I both dated people who weren’t Christians before God introduced us to each other. We know what it’s like to do relationships the wrong way. If you’re testing the waters and considering abandoning your commitment to wait for the right man or woman, accept my plea: DON’T DO IT! Believe us when we say that the right way is worth it!

Paul’s instructions to be equally yoked are not emphasized in Scripture by accident. God doesn’t ask us to hold out for a strong Christians spouse just to torture us: He does it for our benefit. If we rush into a serious relationship with the wrong person, the results can be excruciatingly painful; but when we hold out for the fullness of God’s promise, we will find everything He has set aside for us to enjoy.

What If…

So what if you’re already married, and your spouse has not said yes to Jesus Christ? Scripture has encouragement for you too:

But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? – 1 Cor 7:12-16

I meet many women who were already married before giving their lives to Christ. If the husband doesn’t accept the same invitation for salvation, the woman can be “stuck” in an uncomfortable situation. The believer’s responsibility is to honor the sanctity of marriage, while waiting for God’s Holy Spirit to do the hard work required on her husband’s heart.

No one comes to God unless the Holy Spirit draws him (Jn 6:44). It is your responsibility to share the Gospel with your spouse: to plant the seed. It is the Holy Spirit’s joy to save his soul: to water and cultivate that seed.

We had a beautiful testimony in our church recently. One of our members met a man on the bus who had never been to church. He shared the Gospel with that man, and gave him an invitation to service.

The man was a husband and a father. He still had no interest in church, even after that conversation. However, he passed the invitation along to his wife and daughter. The daughter started attending first. She fell head over heels in love with Jesus. She was baptized: first in water, and then in the Holy Spirit. The mom was next. She started coming to church with her daughter, and has given her life to Christ.

Several weeks ago, God did the impossible. As this mother and her daughter came to service, they brought someone in tow: the husband finally came! Because of the changes he saw in the lives of his immediate family members, he was ready to make a decision for Jesus.

That miracle came about because of one thing: prayer. As we pray according to God’s will, God honors our prayers. So whether you’re already in a relationship, or believing for the perfect relationship to start, pray without ceasing!

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[1] http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce/

[2] http://www.smalleymarriage.com/resources/qa.php?catID=28&resID=14

[3] http://www.smalleymarriage.com/resources/qa.php?catID=28&resID=14

Manage Your Time Wisely

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Manage Your Time Wisely’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 11/8/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1MZa1ZE

This is the second Sunday in our series, ‘Real People, Real Problems.’ Last week, we talked about sharing Jesus with skeptics: having a real Gospel conversation with those “difficult” people in your life who just won’t hear what you have to say. This week, we’ll be talking about supernatural time management: allowing God to manage your schedule, so that other people don’t walk into your life and take over your time commitments. Next week, we’ll be talking about being equally yoked: the wonderful world that is opened up when you date someone who is a believer.

Time Is Money

You’ve heard the phrase “time is money.” The truth is, time is much more than money. I would argue that time, not money, is our most valuable resource. Even if you spend all the money you have, you can always make more. You can always budget wisely, and find new ways to save.

Time, on the other hand, is the one thing that continuously slips away. No matter what we do, we can’t go back in time. Our lives are finite. Moses begged God, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). James described life as, “…a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas 4:14). We are here today, and gone tomorrow. Our time is infinitely important.

So why don’t we guard our time the same way we protect our money? There are whole industries built around money management: how to become wealthy, how to grow wealth, and how to maintain the wealth you already have. We spend so much time thinking about money, but not much at all thinking about time!

We would be outraged if someone stole our wallet, yet we barely get upset when someone takes our time. If someone gives us money as a gift, we love it! Yet we place only a fraction of the value on a gift of someone’s time.

This discussion on time management might be the most important discussion your ever have. If you’re like me, you constantly have way too much stuff to do, and you don’t have time to get anywhere close to finishing all of it. I believe that if we honor God if our time, He will simplify our lives. When we ask Him to manage our time for us, we will be relaxed, refreshed, and full of life! When we ask God to come in and take over, He will give us wisdom to manage our time better than we ever thought possible.

If we don’t manage our time wisely, we will find ourselves on the fast path to burnout. If we continue to take on responsibilities without stopping to plan how to fit them into our days, we will drive ourselves crazy. It’s time to ask for God to give us discernment and help us manage our time.

Let’s Be Honest

The first key to time management is being blunt and honest about how long something is actually going to take. Did you know that when we estimate how long something will take, we are usually way off? We add endless stress to our lives because refuse to be realistic about how long things take, and what we have time to do.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky discovered a phenomenon called “planning fallacy.”[1] They found that when we estimate how long it will personally take us to do something, we have an optimism bias: we drastically underestimate how long something will take. On other other hand, when we estimate how long it will take for someone else to do something, we have a pessimism bias: we drastically overestimate how long something will take.

How many times have you seen this play out in your own life? This week, I had to fix the shower in our apartment. I knew exactly what I needed to do: switch out a set of springs in the shower dial to fix a dripping shower head, and then re-seal all the edges of the shower with caulk. Before I tackled the project, I turned to my wife and said: “This shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.” I would learn to eat my words.

What was happening here? I was overly optimistic. I thought I was so proficient, and so smart, that I could finish the job in a fraction of the time I knew it would really take. The repairs ended up taking four hours, stretched over multiple nights this week. I had fixed the shower before, and I knew how long it would take. But I refused to accept reality.

We see this principle playing out on a larger scale all the time. Have you ever heard of the Sydney Opera House? It was originally scheduled to be completed in 1963. After many rounds of planning and multiple revisions, a scaled-down version was finally completed over a decade behind schedule, in 1973. The final cost? $102 million dollars, versus original estimates of only $7 million![2]

If you’re a New Yorker, you know about planning fallacy because you’ve heard the MTA talk about the 2nd Avenue subway line. When I moved to New York, I remember real estate brokers trying to convince me that I should consider living in the Upper East Side because property values were going to explode when the 2nd Ave subway was completed.

Guess what? That was almost eight years ago, and the darn thing still isn’t done. I know people who moved to the Upper East Side in the 80’s, and guess what? Realtors told them exactly the same thing. With a little research, you can find out that the 2nd Ave subway line was originally proposed in 1919! In other words, it has taken almost a century to complete the project! This is planning fallacy at its finest.

What’s the point? I’m willing to bet that being too busy is a significant source of stress in your life. Your schedule fills up, yet people keep asking for more. Instead of learning to say “NO,” we keep adding to our schedules until they’re over-packed, and we convince ourselves that we will somehow have enough time to get everything done.

I know that being too busy is the number one source of stress in my life. If we’re just honest about how long things will take, we will save so much unnecessary headache. What’s more, we will start to be on time!

Don’t unnecessarily complicate your life. When your schedule’s full, it’s full! Learn to gently say no to people when they ask you to do more than you have time to do. At the end of the day, God is the only One who really has the right to come in and adjust your schedule; no one else does!

Let God Dictate Your Schedule

God should be the only One who can come in and upend your schedule any day of the week. If He says it’s time to drop everything and take care of His to-do list, we had better listen. I believe that when we allow God to set our schedule for us, it becomes much easier to manage our time wisely!

I am a man of routine. Every morning, I start my days the same way: in prayer. I get a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and I put them down on a table in front of me. Then, I sit, kneel, or stand, and ask God to fill up that paper with His plans.

It never takes long: by the end of my prayer session, I have a full list of people to call, people to text, and people to e-mail. I have a strong sense of what my priorities should be every day. I honor God by allowing Him to set my schedule for me.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t follow routine. I have to be in the office by a certain time. I have more meetings, agendas, and appointments to keep than you could ever count. But I give God room to move. I invite His Holy Spirit into my day, and I clearly announce for all of Heaven and all of Hell to hear, that if God needs me to rearrange my schedule to take care of Kingdom business, then that’s what I’m going to do!

There is power in praying in advance. We see Jesus rise up early to pray throughout Scripture. He made time at the beginning of the day to let God set His schedule. That way, when someone came and asked Him for healing, He wasn’t surprised. When a demon-possessed person approached Him for deliverance, He was available. Jesus allowed God to show him exactly what was going to happen, well in advance:

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. “ – Jn 5:19

You’ll never be taken by surprise if God shows you what’s coming in advance. You’ll never be pressed for time if God sets your schedule. My personal prayer every single day is, “Lord, extend my time. Give me the time to do everything I need to do with excellence. On top of that, give me the grace to be busy, yet completely unaffected by the busyness.”

Jesus had way too much to do, in way too little time. Can you imagine if God came to you and said, “Go and save the world. You have thirty-three years to do it, and you can only show them who you are for the last three.” How unfair is that!

Jesus had grace to be busy, yet remain stress-free. His schedule was always full, yet He always experienced the anointing of God over His life. No matter how busy He got, He always made time to stop for the one. No matter who needed help, when they asked Him, He was there.

Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. – Matt 8:5-10,13

How would you have responded if the centurion came and asked you for prayer? I know my first response would probably be, “I just don’t have time. I have way too much to do; but if you leave your name and your prayer request, I’ll pass it along to the intercessory team at my church!”

Jesus made time. I would argue that nobody caught Him by surprise. He knew what was coming, well in advance, and He made time to do the things that would leave the most significant and lasting proof that He Is the Son of God!

It’s also important to notice that Jesus didn’t have to go and physically pray for the centurion’s servant. The pattern we often exhibit is this: 1) we say no, and 2) we feel bad and over-compensate.

If the centurion had asked you for prayer, we might have said “No, I don’t have time. I’ve got work.” But then, hours later, we would start to feel bad. We would call up that person who asked for help, and we would over-compensate. We would offer to move heaven and earth to help that person however we could. We endlessly complicate our schedule because we offer more than we have to give.

The centurion told Jesus that He didn’t have to make the trip Himself. He told Jesus that he understood authority: if Jesus simply said the word, his servant would be healed. Jesus listened! He didn’t insist on making the trip, simply because He had offered. He refused to add unnecessary items to His schedule. The servant was still healed, and Jesus was free to move forward and accomplish His mission.

This week, God spoke to me about something that was going to happen in advance. He told me to leave a huge chunk of extra time in my schedule on Wednesday. I didn’t understand why! I had a line of people waiting to meet with me, and I could have really benefited from packing everything I possibly could into my schedule. But I listened, and I left the whole day free.

Wouldn’t you know that something came up, and I had to spend the entire afternoon dealing with an unexpected issue? God warned me in advance, and I listened. As a result, a day that could have been jam-packed to the brim was calm and relaxed.

Who’s In Charge of Your Schedule?

If God sets our schedule, it means nobody else gets to. There will be plenty of people in your life who try and monopolize your time. It is your responsibility to know God’s agenda for you, and to stick to it.

Jesus had people stopping Him for help all the time. If you want to get a feel for how busy Jesus was on a constant basis, just take a look at Mark 5. The chapter starts with Jesus delivering a man from demonic oppression. As soon as He was finished, a religious ruler named Jairus came up and asked Him to come heal his daughter. Jesus said sure! No problem! Then, while He was on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter, the woman with the issue of blood stopped Him for healing!

Jesus was so busy, yet He always made time to stop for the one. However, even He knew His limits. Even Jesus knew when someone was trying to sidetrack Him from God’s agenda.

At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him. Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.” But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.” And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons. – Mark 1:32-39

Simon interrupted Jesus while he was praying. “Everyone is looking for You!” There were more people who needed healing and deliverance. There were more people who needed prayer. There were people who undoubtedly wanted to sit and talk with Jesus, taking as much time as He would give them.

But Jesus knew His mission. His role was to preach the Gospel. He refused to be detained, and insisted on moving forward. He commanded the disciples to come with Him into the next town so that He could fulfill the mission that mattered most: the mission to preach the Gospel and save souls.

God knows you’re busy. He will send you people – friends, family, and co-workers – who need help. God will put people in your path so you can help them by meeting needs that would otherwise go unmet, and sharing the Gospel with them.

But Satan knows you are busy too. The enemy will send people into your life to serve as time-consuming distractors. Satan will send people to detain you from what God really wants you to be doing with your time.

Wisdom and discernment means knowing the difference. Think about the people in your life who monopolize your time. Are you being nice in allowing them to do it, or are you being irresponsible? There will always be more people to help. Our responsibility is to know our calling, and our destiny, so that we know if we should stop, or keep it moving. We should never allow someone else to set our schedule, and detain us from what God would have us do.

So, what has God called you to do? Are you ready to go out and do it by using your time wisely, with no apologies? Be realistic about how long things are going to take. Let God dictate your schedule; and remember that if God does, other people don’t

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_fallacy

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_fallacy#cite_note-:0-11

Sharing Jesus with Skeptics

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Sharing Jesus with Skeptics’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 11/1/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1l9eQ66

Your Life’s Purpose

The primary goals in the life of every Christian should be the same: 1) to experience genuine relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and 2) to co-labor with God to expand His Kingdom by sharing the Gospel everywhere possible. Your life might look a little different from mine: you might have a few more kids, and I might have a different calling. But our primary purpose is the same.

Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He left His disciples with final instructions:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. – Matt 28:18-20

We know this passage as the Great Commission. Now that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, it is our responsibility to be His hands and feet. Now that He is no longer physically walking the earth to preach the Gospel, it is our job to raise our hands and say, “I’ll do it! Send me.”

Sharing the Gospel shouldn’t feel like being in a pressure cooker. The weight of the world isn’t on your shoulders as you co-labor to share the Gospel. Jesus already took the weight of the world on His shoulders and brought it to the Cross, so that our responsibilities in life could be stress-free.

It isn’t your job to save everyone in the world. Jesus already died for that. However, it is your job to talk to the people God has put into your sphere of influence. Your family, friends, and co-workers are all in your life for a reason. You have a specific skill set that makes you different from everyone else around you. You have been through experiences in life that make you perfectly and uniquely qualified to share the Gospel in a way no one else can. It is simply your job to open your mouth, and let God speak through you. If you plant the seed, He will water it. When you step out in faith, God will cause the people you know to start asking questions about Jesus.

To be clear, whenever I talk about sharing the Gospel, I mean speaking. There is a quote often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi that goes something like, “Preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words.” I don’t agree with that approach. Sharing the Gospel requires that you open your mouth. So let’ s not hide behind that quote, and use it as an excuse to be luke-warm witnessers. We need to get serious about opening our mouths and sharing the Good News; because if we don’t do it, nobody else will!

Last year, my uncle lay dying in his hospital bed in Wisconsin. He had been a smoker his entire adult life, and it had finally caught up with him: cancer was creeping over his lungs. We prayed for perfect healing. He was my mom’s little brother, and he wasn’t supposed to die this young. More important than healing, we prayed for his salvation.

I had never talked with my uncle about God. He lived in Wisconsin, and we lived in New York. Whenever we saw him, we talked about his passions in life: hunting, the Green Bay Packers, and Wisconsin cheese. As his health deteriorated, my brother and I scheduled a trip to go and visit him. We knew we had to talk to him about Jesus: he had reached out to us for a reason, and this was our chance. It was going to be super awkward, and incredibly uncomfortable. But he was in our lives for exactly this purpose.

We showed up to visit him, and the usual conversations started. The Packers were off to a 2-2 start, which was much worse than usual. Uncle Jon hadn’t even been hunting this year because of his health, and he couldn’t really keep down cheese because he was in a hospital bed. But then we drew a hard line. I pulled out my Bible, and we read to him. We asked if he knew Jesus, and if he had ever prayed to be saved. We prayed with him, and left the Bible on his nightstand, with almost a dozen key verses outlined.

After he died, I got the Bible back. He had used it. He had written in it, and left me notes in the margins. The Bible was a bitter-sweet gift to receive after he passed away, but it revealed that he had taken our conversation to heart. Our conversations about the Packers were over, for now; but we knew they would pick back up again in Heaven.

Even if the entire purpose of my life was to introduce my Uncle Jon to Jesus, so that he might be saved, that would be enough. I believe God is looking for us to take responsibility to spiritually steward the people in our lives: to introduce them to Jesus Christ, and teach them how to stand on their own two feet and learn Biblical truth.

Responding to Your Call

When God called Isaiah to be a prophet, Isaiah responded enthusiastically:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go, and tell this people… – Is 6:6-9

We love to read that passage, and think of adventure. “If God asks me to go to China,” we say, “I’ll go!” “If He asks me to quit my job and start a business, I’ll do it!” But look at what Isaiah was really responding to. God put an entire nation on Isaiah’s heart. “I have equipped you,” God was saying. “Now you go and talk to them.”

God was encouraging Isaiah to take responsibility for people. Isaiah knew that as long as he made the introduction, God would take care of the rest. Some people would say yes to God, and others would say no. But Isaiah had to do his part. So do you and I!

Witnessing – sharing the Gospel – can be hard. It can be scary because we all have a fear of rejection. We think, if someone says no, it reflects poorly on us. Witnessing can be awkward. What if your best friend doesn’t like you any more because you always talk about Jesus?

Witnessing can be time consuming. We love to think like evangelists. When we think of sharing the Gospel, we assume God is calling us to talk with people on the subway, share the Good News on the street by preaching out in the open, or stopp random people in the grocery store to tell them about Jesus. If we only have the courage to start a random conversation, then BAM – that person will be won to the Lord.

But it isn’t always that simple. Sharing the Gospel requires patience. It requires delicately repeating the same conversation many times, and in many different ways. There are some people with whom I have been sharing the Gospel for years. Witnessing can take time; but it’s worth it in the end.

This morning, I want to talk about winning those “difficult” people to the Lord. Think about the most skeptical person in your life. Maybe you’ve invited them to church a dozen times. You’ve been super smooth, had them over for Christmas dinner, and thrown in a quick explanation of the crèche and the Christmas Story over egg nog. But no matter what you do, they won’t say yes. What can you do?

Keys to Soul-Winning

There are three simple keys to effectively sharing the Gospel: 1) refusing to lecture, 2) living your life as an example, and 3) prayer. A solid foundation in all three areas can make the most potentially awkward conversations about Jesus simple (dare I say fun?).

1) Refusing to lecture.

God has been playing a fun game with me lately. Whenever I am feeling really good about myself, and my pride starts to rise, He reminds me where I came from. A memory will pop into my head about something stupid I did in my drinking days (i.e. college), someone I offended, or a relationship I abused and mishandled. It’s been quite a humbling exercise. The point is this: remembering what God has saved us from helps us keep perspective.

Whenever you witness to someone, try and remember that you were once in their shoes. Paul reminded Titus of this reality:

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:1-7

We were once just like them; but the kindness and the love of God appeared.

Romans 2:4 says that the, “…goodness of God leads [us] to repentance.” Souls are not won for Christ with clever speech, or illustrations. When we showcase God’s goodness, people cannot help but run to Him. Judgment will get us nowhere: that is why it is so valuable to keep our life in perspective, and remember just what God has saved us from. You and I were destined for eternity in Hell: but God rescued us from our sin!

Fear does not win people to the Lord. Several years ago there was a conservative Christian group that used to set up camp in the subway station at Union Square.[1] They drew posters with pictures of hellfire and the devil’s face. They would scream at people as they walked by. “Repent or go to Hell!” “Change your life NOW or you will not be saved!”

Theologically, their stance was correct. Practically, however, their approach was equally incorrect. The content of the message was true; but the process they used to deliver that message was severely misguided.

This group had forgotten Paul’s words to Titus: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another” (Titus 3:3, above). If, as we witness, we forget that we were once in need of a Savior too, all is lost.

A lecturer tells people what is right. A counselor, on the other hand, allows people to draw their own conclusions. Our most effective approach in witnessing is always refusing to lecture, and allowing (and encouraging) people to find Truth in Scripture themselves.

If you’re a parent, you know that telling your kids exactly what to do will only result in one thing: rebellion! My wife and I have a 16-month-old son. When he started walking a few months ago, the first thing he wanted to do was poke his finger in the light socket. We pointed at the outlet, and told him firmly, “Don’t touch this.” You know what he did, as soon as we pulled our fingers away? He touched the outlet.

Our son, relatively speaking, is emotionally immature. He doesn’t know how to resist his urges to do certain things. Your friends and family members who don’t know Jesus are spiritually immature in exactly the same way. The more you tell them what not to do, the less they’ll understand. But if you take the time to step back and allow them to realize how and why they should live their lives differently, change will happen quickly.

When you counsel someone – allowing them to discover the Gospel without having it jammed down their throat, the change is permanent. You have to make accepting Jesus seem like their idea. If they’re just accepting Jesus because you tell them to, the change will be short-lived. If, on the other hand, they’re accepting Jesus because they want to, the change will be life-long!

The Gospel is effective when we share from a place of relationship. Building relationship with our loved ones is so much more important than giving advice. Our most common mistake is that we intervene too soon, or too often. An intervention that is too early, or too frequent, will do more harm than good.

2) Living Your Life As an Example.

When you are a Christian, people examine you with a magnifying glass. They want to see if knowing Jesus really make a difference in the way you live your daily life! After all, why should they accept the investment you’re trying to sell them if it doesn’t really pay dividends?

I remember hearing about a couple in pastoral counseling several years ago. The husband was a Christian: he had accepted Jesus as outlined in Romans 10:9. His wife was not. They came to counseling because he “couldn’t” continue to be married to someone who wasn’t a Christian, and she had no desire to accept Jesus.

They quickly discovered that the husband preached Jesus without apology, but his life wasn’t a reflection of that relationship. The husband preached forgiveness; but he was quick to judge, and slow to forgive. He preached kindness, but he was anything but gentle. He preached understanding, but he frequently lashed out at his wife without apology.

What was happening here? The husband wasn’t living his life as an example. He wanted his wife to accept Jesus, but she didn’t see the point. His life didn’t bear Gospel fruit, so she wouldn’t accept the seed.

For some people in your life, you are the only Jesus they will ever see. They won’t accept an invitation to church until they see a demonstration of why they should as they watch you live your life. The husband needed to apologize. Then, he needed to make a decision to lead by example.

3) Prayer.

This might seem obvious, but if we are going to win people to the Lord, we have to pray! We should pray for lost people in our lives daily. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with frustrated Christians whose family members won’t accept Jesus, only to find out that they have never prayed for those very same people.

First, we should pray for our friends and family members whom we want to accept Jesus. Jesus clearly stated that, ultimately, the impetus for joining the Kingdom of Heaven comes from the King:

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him… - John 6:44

No one can accept Jesus unless the Father draws him. We can say and do all the right things; but if the Holy Spirit is not tugging on someone’s heart, they will not come to know God. We should pray every day for our loved ones to be pulled by the Holy Spirit into a desire to know God: that they would be drawn into the Kingdom by our Father of Heaven.

Then, we can pray to be ready. God will fill your friends and family members with a desire to know Him as you pray for them. Then, He will fill your mouth with exactly the right words to speak at the moment they open their hearts to Jesus.

God’s desire is that we would put ourselves in uncomfortable situations, and trust that He will tell us exactly what to do. Here is what Jesus told His disciples:

And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. – Mk 13:10-11

We can have confidence to inject ourselves into any situation or conversation, knowing that God’s Holy Spirit will fill us with the words to speak. It is up to God to prepare hearts. It is up to us to plant a seed by sharing the Gospel with words. Then, it is up to His Holy Spirit to cultivate the seed that has been planted: to transform our friends and family members into radical followers of Jesus Christ.

God has surrounded you with friends and family so that you can preach the Gospel to them. At some point, even though they feel Him tugging at their heart, a conversation will be required. We must trust God’s Holy Spirit to make us ready for those conversations; and when the moment arrives, we must take the plunge and preach the Gospel without apology, and without compromise.

When I first moved to New York City, I was anything but saved. I had grown up in the church, but I had fallen away from God when I went off to college. I spent my college years drinking, partying, and basically doing whatever I wanted. Deep down, I knew my lifestyle wouldn’t make me happy. But I didn’t care, because I was immature.

As year after year passed, I became desperate. I knew I was missing a relationship with God. I longed for purpose and meaning in my life, but I was scared to come back to church. Would God accept me? Would He have the patience required to help me make changes in my life?

As I struggled to come back to church, my brother was praying for me. We talked every week, and I saw how Jesus had changed his life. He used to drink and party, just like me; but he gave up that lifestyle to become a disciple of Jesus. I wanted what he had, but I didn’t know how to ask.

I talked with him on the phone one Sunday. I was hung over: waking up slowly after a long night out. He was on his way home from church. Then he said something so simple that would change my life forever. “Stop messing around. You keep saying you want to go to church, so just do it. Stop making excuses. Find a church you like, and get involved.”

This was tough, brotherly live; and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I gave my life to Jesus soon after, and I’ve been walking with Him ever since. God has used me to have simple conversations with many people that have resulted in transformed lives. He gets all the glory; and I get the reward of eternal life in Heaven with my friends and family.

Pray. Refuse to lecture. Live your life as an example. Trust that when God brings someone to you who needs Jesus, He has already prepared you to show them the way.

- by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


[1] For non-New Yorkers, this is one of the busiest transportation hubs in New York City, and the 4th busiest subway stop according to the MTA. The MTA estimates that 110,000 people pass through the Union Square station every single day (http://web.mta.info/nyct/facts/ridership/ridership_sub.htm).

Guatemala Missions Trip 2015: Day Seven

275_p1_06_1679 LQToday was our last full day in Guatemala. We got up before sunrise to pack our bags and eat breakfast. As we dragged our suitcases through wet grass, we stopped to catch a glimpse of the sun peeking over the mountains of Nebaj one last time. Guatemala has been an amazing home for the past week!

We reached Antigua after almost 7 hours on our bus. The journey back to civilization was certainly not without its surprises. Shortly after lunch, we heard a loud pop towards the back of the bus. One of our rear tires had exploded! Juanito, our driver, decided to finish the last leg of the journey on the compromised tire. Finally, we pulled into Antigua safe and sound.

Antigua used to be the capital of Guatemala. There are three active volcanoes that surround this bustling city of 35,000 people. You can spend a full day touring the ruins of ancient Spanish Baroque churches, or taking in views of the gorgeous countryside. But we were here for a different reason: shopping!

All of us are excited to get home to our loved ones tomorrow, and none of us wants to show up empty handed! We spent the afternoon buying toys for our kids, bags and shirts for our spouses, and Guatemalan coffee for our loved ones. Mission accomplished! We boarded the bus, and headed to our hotel. Tomorrow, we come home.

Mike had good news for us today. The pastors’ conference was such a success that Domingo wanted to immediately set dates in stone to do it again next year. We will be heading back to Guatemala from October 5th, 2016, through October 12th, 2016! Who wants to join us, CityLight?!

We can’t wait to come home tomorrow. Thank you for your prayers. We love you, CityLight! See you soon!

Text by Michael White. Photos courtesy of Tim Maggio. #citylightnyc

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Guatemala Missions Trip 2015: Day Six

275_p1_07_1879 LQToday was our last full day in Nebaj. After breakfast, we headed off to work at Domingo’s house. Domingo is a local pastor who oversees thirteen churches in and around Nebaj. Although he has a stoic face and calm demeanor, his warm smile conveys the love of God the moment you start conversation. Domingo is a man who has truly given his life for the Gospel.

Domingo, his wife, and their five children share a beautiful home on the outskirts of Nebaj. We spent the morning running buckets of stone and sand up a narrow, steep staircase. Domingo recently donated the land behind his home to the local youth group. A team would be using the sand and gravel we delivered to mix and pour cement for a rec center floor.

We took turns imagining the soccer games that would take place in what used to be Domingo’s back yard. Land is the most prized possession in Nebaj, and this space would be the first of its kind for the local youth. After a full day, we collapsed into the chairs in Domingo’s dining room. He fed us a delicious, traditional meal before sending us on our way.

Tonight, we had a special treat. Benito, the Mr.-Fix-It on the McComb property, had learned to play a set of Andean flutes over a decade ago. Since then, he has recruited his whole family to travel and play music with him. We sat and listened to some of the most beautiful music we have ever heard as the flames from the McComb’s outdoor fireplace danced behind us. We snuck off to bed after the band finished, full and satisfied after a hard day’s work.

Text by Michael White. Photos courtesy of Tim Maggio. #citylightnyc

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Guatemala Missions Trip 2015: Day Five

275_p1_07_1689 LQDespite grim weather forecasts, we managed to squeak out yet another day of sunshine. We had an early breakfast and loaded our bus to head to Pulay village. We swerved through mile after mile of cornfield, wondering how ancient Mayan architects had packed so many plants into the steep mountainsides. We asked our guide if we were looking at corn, or at sugar cane. “Corn,” he responded in Spanish, smiling in obvious amusement at our city-slicker lack of basic agricultural knowledge.

When we first started visiting the villages around Nebaj with Mike and Terri McComb several years ago, we were often building the first church the townspeople had ever seen. Now, we are running into a new problem: the original churches are running out of space! The church we visited today was at full capacity: every service was standing room only. The pastor, along with a team from his church, would be building a new church around the old one. Instead of having space for 100 people, they would now have space for multiples of their current size. What a blessing to see such growth in such a short period of time!

Our team mixed concrete to pour the cornerstone of the new, bigger structure. We hadn’t even finished mixing when Mike called us in to pray with him over the hole in the ground where we would pour the concrete. Mike reflected that we could build all the churches we wanted out of concrete and stone; but if prayer wasn’t the foundation, there was no point. This church had been growing because of prayer, and it will keep growing because of prayer. We finished praying, the pastor thanked us for our help, and then we started to pour concrete as the din of children’s music floated through the air.

Our kids’ ministry team was inside, singing to a packed house. David Glickstein and Robert Vazquez interrupted the scheduled ministry to perform an improvised version of “Jesus Loves Me,” beatbox and all. The kids waved their hands to the beat, singing along with joy. The kids packed the entire church space on their own; it was easy to see why a new building was a necessity. As the team finished their rendition of David and Goliath and brought their performance to a close, we got ready to pass out 200 school bags to the kids of Pulay village. We took a photo to commemorate all God was doing, enjoyed a meal in the pastor’s home, and headed back to camp.

It was refreshing to see Pastor Guillermo and his congregation at Palabra en Accion Church tonight. God was generous with words of knowledge: we prayed for relationships, marriages, and emotional intimacy for the families in the church. We left feeling full of love, and full of life. When we expect the supernatural, God honors our expectations.

See you tomorrow. We love you CityLight!

Text by Michael White. Photos courtesy of Tim Maggio. #citylightnyc

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Guatemala Missions Trip 2015: Day Four

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We could not be blessed with more beautiful weather.  October is rainy season in Guatemala, and sunshine has filled each day so far.  Today we completed the pastors’ conference with the final two teaching sessions.  Cheers rose up from the crowd when the local overseer asked those in attendance if they wanted another conference in the future.  A prayer session capped the conference, with those hungry for more of God’s presence and power in their ministry pressing up to the altar.  Our team was touched as the local pastors asked to pray for us, and did so in the most heartfelt manner.

After nearly two straight days of a very full schedule, this afternoon was a half-day of rest.  Most of the team visited central Nebaj, where booths filling a street make up the market.  We managed to find an open ice cream shop, so you all can relax your fears of us losing a lot of weight while we’re down here working, shoveling dirt and hauling gravel for concrete.

Terri met us here in Nebaj today for the first time on this trip.  She treated us to stories about Santa Rosa, a town God put on her heart to help.  Years ago, Mike McComb tried to bring a medical team to this small village.  When he found the town seemingly deserted after a ten-hour hike up the mountain, Mike asked his Ixil cook to talk to a townswoman in Santa Rosa.  Maria came down ashen, and assured Mike they needed to leave, right away.  Their lives had been threatened in a very real way.

Two years ago, the Lord began putting Santa Rosa on Terri’s heart.  As we sat by the fire with s’mores, Terri told us about how much better those in Santa Rosa are doing now, and about how faces that were the picture of perpetual sadness now regularly light up with joy.  Mike and Terri found some forgotten leftover bags of school supplies that CityLight had purchased for a previous trip in some boxes in a closet.  There were exactly the right number to bless each child in Santa Rosa.  This will be the first Christmas present any child in that town has ever received.

Tomorrow we’re heading out to a village to help expand an overflowing church.  At night, we’re excited to attend service at Palabra en Accion.

We love you CityLight.  More tomorrow.

Text by Josh Feldman. Photos by Tim Maggio. #citylightnyc

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Guatemala Missions Trip 2015: Day Three

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Today was an early morning.  The pastor’s conference started at 8am, so the breakfast bell rang about an hour after sunrise.  Pastors from around the region heard teaching on our righteousness in Christ, the authority of the believer and healing.  Local overseers asked Pastor Mike and Pastor Bojan to preach on the Kingdom of God, and at the end of each session nearly half the room came to the front to receive impartation.  One pastor received a word that he would have a healing ministry.

Outside the church, the construction team dug down four inches of dirt in a large yard so the church can pour concrete to expand.

At night, a “Noche de Gloria” service dedicated to healing attracted many of the local church members, as well as the pastors who stayed for praise, worship and prayer.  At the end of an extended session of worship, Pastor Bojan called out several words of knowledge – a man with hip pain, a woman with wrist pain, a man with pain near his kidneys, and a few others.  Initially the congregation stayed in their seats when Pastor Bojan invited those affected up to the altar.  Testimony after testimony then began to unfold.

An infant suffering from malnutrition whose mother said he wouldn’t eat began the night bluish; his mother afraid he was near death.  As the team prayed, he regained the proper color, sat up and began looking around at everyone.  A young woman scheduled for an MRI tomorrow because of her severe back pain reported that she was totally healed, jumping up and down and painlessly walking up and down stairs for the congregation.  The pastor who received the word of knowledge about a healing ministry reported his severe back pain – near his kidneys – was now completely gone.  A woman had a cyst on her wrist disappear in her seat, restoring a full range of motion.  Propelled by her faith, she brought her asthmatic daughter up to the altar while she struggled to breathe.  God moved, and her breathing returned to its proper peaceful state during prayer.  Everyone was relieved she could breathe easier and without struggle.  Many other healings were also reported, particularly of the stomach.

It’s time for a good night’s rest.  We love you CityLight.  More tomorrow.

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Text by Joshua Feldman. Photos courtesy of Tim Maggio. #citylightnyc

Guatemala Missions Trip 2015: Day Two

275_p1_05_1391 275_p1_05_1456Everything is worship when your heart is right.  This morning the team filled two hundred cinch-sacks with school supplies to give out at a village we will visit on Wednesday.  In assembly line fashion, in went rulers, pads, pens, and pencils to give as gifts to children we’ve never met.  Although it took time, with our hearts inclined toward God and His purpose, the smallest task can become meaningful.

This afternoon we toured a church annex that CityLight worked on three years ago.  Compared to most buildings in Nebaj, it’s beautiful.  It houses a kids program and other services for the local community operated by a local church, the first Mike and Terri helped found in Nebaj.

Immediately after the tour, we attended a service at the church.  Phil Wickham’s This is Amazing Grace, sung in Spanish, belted out from the platform where the skilled worship team played.  The church building is also gorgeous, with tile, two floors, and an ornate stage in between the two floors where the band plays.  Two missions videos played during service; this congregation has a heart for the nation of India and the region in general.  Mike mentioned that he hadn’t seen that happen before.  It’s amazing to think that we’ve poured into a part of the body that is now called to reach out and bless others beyond our reach.

During the service, one woman reported that back pain that had plagued her for over a year is now completely gone.  At least seven young people came up to the altar to accept Jesus, including one little boy that one of the team members prayed with.  Tomorrow, we return to this church to pray with them again, and we’re looking forward to reporting what God does.

We love you CityLight.  More tomorrow.

Text by Joshua Feldman. Photos courtesy of Tim Maggio.

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