Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Effective Pastor

The following words introduce every new Anglican priest to his ministry: "Therefore always remember how great a treasure is committed to your charge. For they are the sheep of Christ, which he bought with his death, and for whom he shed his blood. The Church and Congregation whom you must serve, is his bride, and his body. And if it shall happen that the same Church, or any member thereof, takes any hurt or hindrance by reason of your negligence, you know the greatness of the fault, and also the grievous judgment that will ensue. For this reason consider the purpose of your ministry towards the children of God, towards the bride and Body of Christ; and see that you never cease your labor, your care and diligence, until you have done all that lies in you, according to your bounden duty, to bring all such as are or shall be committed to your charge, into that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among you, either for error in religion, or for immorality in life." (from the ACNA Ordinal)  These words are at the heart of my ministry.  Whenever I lose my way in the pastorate, I return to them.

But how can any man fulfill such a calling?  As St. Paul says: "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2:16)  Certainly no one is capable in themselves.  No one is able in their own strength.  

But even a man dependent on the Holy Spirit must make decisions with his time: "What activities will I devote myself to... in order to care for Christ's flock?" While certainly we are called to preach the Word, to teach it, to rebuke, exhort and correct with the Scriptures, today I want to talk about the pastor in prayer.  

There is always the temptation, as a pastor, to want to meet with everyone in the Church: to see how they're doing, to try to counsel and help everyone.  But this is impossible, even in a small church.  And this compulsion to meet with everyone (at least with me) is probably unhealthy anyway.

The reality a pastor can touch everyone in his church through prayer.  We reach more in prayer than in person.  A pastor can strengthen the flock through prayer.  Prayer is our most effective means of counseling, and wrestling in prayer the most serious work a pastor can do.

One of my mentors once said that we should talk to God about our parishioners more than we talk TO them about God, and certainly more than we talk to anyone about them.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Prayer of Confession: Why We Confess, Why It Matters

By almost anyone’s reckoning confession of sin, often expressed as a request for forgiveness, should be a regular part of prayer.   Jesus included it in his model for prayer.  There are several psalms that are songs of confession.  The ancient Church developed a special type of priestly visitation dedicated to confession.  The historic English Prayer Books include confession in every prayer service.  The famous “ACTS” acrostic for prayer includes confession (“C” is not for “cookie," but “confession”).  So, why does confession appear so prominently in Christian prayers?  What can we learn about how to incorporate confession into our prayers from the biblical and historic examples we have?

Prayers of confession exist because all of us are sinners.  You, me, us, them: we all sin.  And in confessing our sins to God, we are doing three things: 

1) We’re acknowledging a particular thought, word, or deed as contrary to God’s character, will, and commands. 
2) We’re resolving to turn away from that sin forever (this is called repentance).
3) We’re asking God to forgive us, not because of any action we do to 'regain' his good graces, but only according to his promises made through Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9-2:2).

The current prayer of confession in the Book of Common Prayer (p. 360) lays out these aspects of confession rather nicely: 

1) Acknowledging sin: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you, in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone.  We have not loved you with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbor as ourself…”  God’s commands are summed up here in “Loving God” and “Loving our neighbor.”  All of God’s commands are given for human flourishing and God’s glory.  Sin, therefore, brings death and takes away life.  Sin diminishes human flourishing, and it is an attack on God's glory, on Goodness Himself.  When we are acknowledging our sin before God, we will not be able to name all our sins (Indeed, God doesn't reveal all our sins to us at once... or we might despair). But it is common practice to have a period of silence before beginning this prayer in order for each person praying it stop and consider the previous day(s), in order to confess specific sins to the Lord.  It is VERY important that our standard for sin be nothing but the Word of God, the Bible.  Often, tender consciences will want to confess things that the Bible does not call sin.  And just as often, hard hearts will refuse to acknowledge as sin those thoughts, words, and actions which God clearly condemns.  For the hard heart, the objective commands of God expressed give a guide for confession.  God’s law acts like a chisel to break the stony heart.  For tender consciences, the law of God is truth that gives freedom.

It is also very important in acknowledging sin before God (and others, we’ll get to that in a moment), that we recognize our sins of omission and sins of commission.  We sin by actively breaking God’s commands (commission) and/or by passively disobeying (omission).  Thus, not helping an old lady across the street can be as much a sin as beating her and taking her purse. 

2) Repenting:  “...We are truly sorry and we humbly repent… that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your Name.”  We see here that repentance involves turning from sin, and turning to obedience.  Here, we can do no more than to resolve before God to discontinue our sin, but living out repentance will require God’s help.  True repentance, that is truly turning from a sin and turning to obedience, is a gift of God.  That’s why we pray for repentance.  We resolve to do it, and we ask God for help to do so.  

If sin gives us cancer of the soul like smoking gives us cancer in the body, then repentance is like quitting smoking.  Easier said than done, but it is never done without first being said, that is, without first being resolved. And it is insanity to acknowledge to God that sin is killing us and offending God, and yet have no intention of turning from it.  Like cancer patients smoking on the curb of the hospital, we are only fooling ourselves if we confess and yet do not repent.  Confession and asking forgiveness without repentance is just disingenuous.  In fact, those whose lives are not characterized by repentance are not Christians.  Everyone is a sinner, but only Christians are repentant sinners. 

3) Ask forgiveness: “...For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us…”  All sin is against God.  Some sins are directly against Him (whenever we break Commandments 1-4), but even sins that are not “directly” against God (e.g. murder or unrighteous anger, or sexual immorality) are against God.  We may sin against our fellow man, against ourselves (1 Cor 6:8) or against creation itself (Rev 11:18), but all those sins are really against God because God owns all things, whether it is your neighbor, yourself, or anything else in creation.  Indeed, all of our sins are chiefly against God and then secondarily against others.  Thus David says in his classic prayer of confession: "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge" (Psalms 51:4).  Because all sin is against God, we ask for his forgiveness.  If all sins are not against God, it makes no sense to confess them to Him.  We only ask forgiveness of those we have offended.  

The great (and frankly almost unbelievable promise of God) is that when we confess, we will forgiven.  God desires NOT the death of sinners, but that they repent: "As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die?..." (Ezekiel 33:11)  "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:1–2) "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." (1 Timothy 1:15)  I pray that God would grant you the faith to believe you're forgiven, not because you "feel" forgiven but because God says it is so in his word, for those who lean on Christ's mercy.  

When we sin against our fellow man, it is imperative we confess our sins to those whom we have offended and ask their forgiveness as well.  Indeed, we are commanded in Scripture to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16): this includes not only sins against each other but sins against God.  If you’ve never met with a faithful priest for the Rite of Confession (a.k.a. the Rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent), let me recommend you give your pastor or priest a call.  If I’m your priest, let me tell you this: nothing, nothing at all surprises or shocks me anymore.  Most pastors have had every kind of sin confessed to them in God’s name, and I'm not exception.  It brings great freedom to confess and hear the good news of forgiveness from the lips of a faithful man of God. 

Here are some personal questions we should ask ourselves concerning confession:
- Do I confess my sins to God regularly?
- Do I confess my sins to a mature brother or sister in Christ regularly? 
- Am I making God’s Word my standard for confession? or my own personal proclivities?
- Do I confess my sins only when I get 'caught'?  
- Do I see my sin as primarily against God and his glory and goodness? 
- Do I need to ask forgiveness from a friend, family member, or neighbor for sinning against them?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Praying Without Ceasing

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are told that we should "pray without ceasing."  But what does that mean?  How can we possibly expect to pray non-stop throughout the day if we are also supposed to do our work and be present among other people?

If you've never read Brother Lawrence's classic work "Practicing the Presence of God," I highly recommend you take some time to read it.  This book, more than any other, teaches on the subject and gives some good guidance for normal people.

However, the book about Brother Lawrence book is medieval, and lacks a larger biblical context.

Pastor John Piper offers some good thoughts on how we can pray without ceasing. And rather than re-create the wheel, let me just post what he says here.  It is worth the read.

What does it mean to pray without ceasing?

I think it means three things. First, it means that there is a spirit of dependence that should permeate all we do. This is the very spirit and essence of prayer. So, even when we are not speaking consciously to God, there is a deep, abiding dependence on him that is woven into the heart of faith. In that sense, we "pray" or have the spirit of prayer continuously.

Second - and I think this is what Paul has in mind most immediately - praying without ceasing means praying repeatedly and often. I base this on the use of the word "without ceasing" (adialeiptos) in Romans 1:9, where Paul says, "For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you." Now we can be sure that Paul did not mention the Romans every minute of his prayers. He prayed about many other things. But he mentioned them over and over and often. So "without ceasing" doesn't mean that verbally or mentally we have to be speaking prayers every minute of the day. But we should pray over and over and often. Our default mental state should be: "O God . . ."

Third, I think praying without ceasing means not giving up on prayer. Don't ever come to a point in your life where you cease to pray at all. Don't abandon the God of hope and say, "There's no use praying." Go on praying. Don't cease.

So the key to delight in the Word of God is to pray continually - that is, to lean on God all the time. Never give up looking to him for help, and come to him repeatedly during the day and often. Make the default mental state a Godward longing.

I think it would be good to notice here that in real life some discipline in regular prayer times helps keep this kind of spontaneity alive. In other words, if you want to have a vital hour-by-hour spontaneous walk with God you must also have a disciplined regular meeting with God. Daniel had some remarkable communion with God when it was critically needed. But look what it grew out of. The decree was passed that no one could pray except to the king, under penalty of death. But notice what Daniel does, according to Daniel 6:10. "Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously." The point here is that Daniel lived a life that combined discipline (three times a day) with spontaneous encounters with God. So it will be with us: if we hope to pray without ceasing day and night - enjoying a continual coming and communion with God - we will need to develop disciplined times of prayer. Nobody maintains pure spontaneity in this fallen world. (See Psalm 119:62; 55:17.)

For the rest of Dr. Piper's sermon on this text, go to this link.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Prayer in the Noise

The appointed Psalm for this Wednesday is Psalm 38.  In the Bost house, it was read aloud in the living room: me and the boys praying the Morning Office “together.”  I put together in quotes because their participation today was intermittent at best.   Our youngest loves his lines from the Easter greeting:  “He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!”  But beyond that, this morning prayer time was mostly Daddy offering prayers to God amidst the chaos and the wailing and gnashing of teeth.

But Psalm 38 is the psalm for this type of prayer.  We tend to think of prayer as a quiet and contemplative act (and indeed, it often is), but many of the psalms are prayers for those in turmoil.  And for many of us, there are no quiet times of the day to pray. So, if you’re in a stage of life without much quiet (either filled with literal noise or with the noise of the soul), let me offer a few reflections from Psalm 38.  

It is a prayer for those ….

  • Who are painfully aware of their sin and weaknesses:  In years past, this Psalm was for when my inner sins were too great for me to bear.  These seasons of realization are a mercy from God.  So it was this morning:  "O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath! For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation; there is no health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness, I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; all the day I go about mourning. For my sides are filled with burning, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart." (Psalms 38:1–8) 

  • Who battle with anger at the evils of this world:  This is a psalm, a prayer, for times when the world out there, especially as I see it on the news or on social media, seems so corrupt and twisted.  Because I’m a passionate person, this causes anger to rise up within me, and I often struggle to quell it.  This psalm gives me words to express my heart and gives me something to do with anger:  "But I am like a deaf man; I do not hear, like a mute man who does not open his mouth. I have become like a man who does not hear, and in whose mouth are no rebukes. But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer." (Psalms 38:13–15)

  • Who struggle with loneliness in a crowd:   In the loneliness of life, this Psalm gives me words to say to the One who is always near: "My heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me. My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague, and my nearest kin stand far off…. O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you. Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation!" (Psalms 38:10-11, 8-9, 21-22)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Do You Know How Important the Lord's Prayer Is?

It is hard to overstate the importance of the Lord’s Prayer to the Christian life.  While the Lord’s Prayer does not contain everything that can possibly be prayed (the Psalms offer a more comprehensive guide), it is our Lord’s chief teaching on the subject and has formed Christian practice of prayer throughout the centuries.  

The Didache (70-110 AD), an early 2nd century summation of Christian teaching, states that Christians should pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day.  

Theologian William White Jr. has this to say of the influence of the Lord’s prayer:  “Without a doubt this is the most widely-known passage from the Bible and has been included in the Christian catechisms and liturgies of almost everybody since the days of the Apostolic Fathers. So familiar is it that it is usually known by its first line, Latin: Pater noster, German: Unser Vater, Dutch: Onze Vader, and so on through the manifold tongues of mankind.”  

Martin Luther’s comments on the Lord’s Prayer give us a tender picture of a man who prayed it with all his heart… along with a warning for those of us who pray it regularly: “For to this day I drink of the Lord’s Prayer like a child; [and I] drink and eat like an old man; I can never get enough of it.  To me it is the best of all prayers, even above the Psalms, though I love them very much.  Indeed, it will be found that the true Master composed and taught it; and it is a thousand pities that such a prayer of such a Master should be babbled and gabbled without any reverence throughout all the world.  Many people repeat the Lord’s Prayer perhaps several thousand times  a year and if they prayed it this way for a thousand years they would still not have [truly] tasted nor [really] prayed a single jot or tittle of it.  In short, the Lord’s Prayer… is the greatest martyr on earth, for everybody tortures it and abuses it while few cherish and use it joyfully as it should be used.”

What Should You Say to God?

Prayer is a common aspect of human life.  This has been true throughout human history in every culture and is true in our own day as well.  According to a 2010 Pew Research poll 55% of Americans claim to pray every day. If that's true, then every other person you met today prayed. 

But does God care what we pray about? Are there some things we should say to God in prayer and other things we should not say? What kind of prayers does God want to hear?  Or can we say anything to Him?

Consider human relationships for a second:
  • What should every husband say to this wife? Wife to a husband?
  • Are there things every father should say to their son/daughter?
  • Are there things that every child should say to their parent?
Clearly each of these relationships carries with them obligations.  A parent who does not tell their child they love them is failing as a parent.  A husband who doesn't tell his wife: "You're beautiful," is probably failing as well.

But in our day, it is unusual to think that are words that we should say to God.  It is common today to hear people say that we should talk to God about whatever is on our hearts.  While there is some truth to this ("….Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7) "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us." (Psalms 62:8)), God calls us to pray more than simply whatever comes to our minds (as if the best prayers were streams of consciousness prayers).  He also calls us to pray more than just what we are anxious about. 

If you heard that Jesus was going to be giving a seminar on how to pray, what would you expect him to talk about? Well, God in wisdom and power, has preserved and inspired records from both Matthew and Luke of Jesus's teaching on prayer for us.  What does Jesus say about how we should pray?  In this post we'll just look at one aspect of Jesus teaching on prayer.  In future posts, we'll flush out other areas of his doctrine of prayer. 

For now, let's look at Matthew 6:9a and Luke 11:1-2a:  "Pray then like this..." and "Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say..."

As we will see in future posts, the way of praying that Jesus teaches his disciples does indeed include prayer for all our needs and anxieties.  But note what Jesus does NOT say when he is teaching on prayer or when the disciples ask to be taught to pray.  He does not say: "Hey guys, just pray whatever it is that's on your heart.  That's totally cool." No.  Jesus gives them both a pattern ("like this") and a form ("in this way") for prayer.   If the disciples, when they asked to learn how to pray, were told by Jesus to pray the Lord's Prayer, shouldn't we, who also want to learn to pray, learn the Lord's Prayer and what it means?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Praying is a Battle

In previous posts, we looked at how praying is "scary" and "easy."  Prayer is easy because any child can do it, and praying can be scary because it forces us to be vulnerable before God and others.  When you put the simplicity of prayer together with the fear it often induces, you end up experiencing the great challenge of prayer:  it is something that should be easy, but isn't.  Since it is so easy, it shouldn't be scary, but it is.  These tensions and conflicts lie within prayer itself.  We are sinful creatures, weak creatures, crying out to a Holy God, an all-powerful God.  We need to draw near to God, it is our joy to draw near.  And yet, we all, like Adam and Eve, hide from him, and we all, like the prodigal son, run from him as well.  Sometimes, trying to draw near to God in prayer feels like trying to push together the ends of two magnets with the same polarity.

I have a friend whose will-power is legendary.  He seems to be able to make himself do literally anything.  As a result, he is able to work long hours and manage many complex areas of responsibility outside of work as well.  (I often envy this ability!) But there are two things that he cannot consistently make himself do by his own will:  pray daily and get his family to church on time.  He actually does both of these things rather well, in my opinion, but for him, these are the two most difficult tasks in his life.  

Why is this?  Have you ever felt this way: that praying, though so simple, seems like the most difficult thing in the world to do? I know I have.  Why is it a battle to pray?

  • We can't see God. The most obvious reason that prayer is difficult is because we are having a conversation with Someone whom we can't see, and who does not talk back to us very often (at least not in an audible voice).  This makes prayer a kind of talking unlike any other.  And just as it takes doctors years to adapt to talking in medical terms, and just as it takes children years to understand how to talk on the phone, so talking in this manner (to One unseen) takes time and practice.  If we never talk to God, we'll never learn how.

  • Relational focus is more difficult than other kinds. Regardless of who we are talking to, the relational focus required for conversation takes energy.   This is doubly true of a conversation with God, one that is outside the normal way we talk with people.  But, just like other areas of life, this capacity in us can be strengthened with use, by God's grace. Martin Luther, for example, would pray for hours a day, even with his busy schedule (he managed 11 monasteries, pastored a church, wrote copious amounts of material, and taught university classes).  Monks and many other modern day mystics (some of whom are just normal people like you and me) can spend hours in prayer as well.  

  • Unseen spiritual forces work against us. I can't prove it, but it seems like something unseens is working against me when I pray.  I can wake up at 5am to go to an appointment, I can wake up at 5am to read… even to read the Bible.  But when it comes to waking up to pray: the snooze button seems glued to my fingers, and the bed more comfortable than ever.  Often, even when I get to my place of prayer, I find it a battle to focus.  While I have a few "tricks up my sleeve" to help me focus (ask me if you'd like to know), I believe there are unseen spiritual forces at work trying to keep me from prayer.  Many many other Christians I know have felt this same thing.  

  • We are sinful. The biggest reason praying is a battle is because of sinful nature.  There is a part of us still that does not want to be near and obey God.  St. Paul says it best: "So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:21–25)

  • We sin. Because we have a sinful nature in us, we sin.  These sins are often "things left undone," including prayer.  It is a sin to live a life of prayerlessness. 

Given these things: how can we win the battle?  How can we become people "of prayer"?  Here's a few short principles that help me.

  • Pray often.  I find the more I pray, the better I am able to do it.  When I've gone through a season of prayerlessness, it is really tough to get back on the wagon.  "For physical training is of some value, but [training in] godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:8)

  • Be confident in God's powerful help.  One of my life-verses goes like this: "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." (Philippians 2:12–13)  The ONLY hope we have to obey Him is His POWER working in us.  ""I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5–6) (See also Galatians 5:16ff; Col 1:28-29; Ps 32:8-9; 2 Pe 1:3).  And Jesus is the ONLY hope we have an against any unseens spiritual forces that work against us in times of prayer. "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world." (1 John 4:4)  See also Ephesians 6:10ff for a great study on this! 

  • Be confident in God's love for you even when you fail to pray.  Romans 2:4 illumines one of the great truths about obedience to God: "...God's kindness leads you toward repentance..." (Romans 2:4)  It is because God loves us that we can come back to him even after we've strayed.  And we know He loves us because we know the gospel.  Think about it: If you know someone is going to bite your head off, are you going to admit faults to them?  NO!  We only have courage to admit our weaknesses and faults to those who love us.  Similarly, if you know God loves you (because the gospel tells you so!), when you fall into periods of prayerlessness, you can repent with confidence.  He is ready to receive you back!  His love for you was never based on your goodness and obedience anyway, but on the obedience of Jesus.  "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Helping the Widow and the Orphan in Lent

Giving to the poor and those in need is probably the most overlooked historic Lenten discipline. This, despite the fact that the appointed Scriptures for Ash Wednesday clearly tell us otherwise: "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?" (Isaiah 58:6–7) Here we see, yet again, that much of what God calls us to in Lent is really just the normal Christian life.  These are things we should be about year round: prayer, the Word, fasting and caring for the poor and oppressed.  (Let me recommend you read the book of Amos in the Old Testament to drive this point home, or perhaps Luke 6:20-49).  

I have been praying for some time that the Lord would give me opportunity to help those in need, and I think God gave me one avenue to help this Lent.... and I want to share it with you.  

A close friend of mine has been involved with a ministry to Christians and to the poor in Pakistan for sometime.  Right now, they have a specific need they are asking for help with. This ministry has been closely investigated and vetted by my friend and his family, and I trust their judgment.  Here is the letter I received from them: 

Dear Friends,

You may know that for the past several years our family has been in partnership with a Pastor in Pakistan, Asif Raza. Over this time we have supported his ministry in a mostly Muslim region and have seen a tremendous amount of fruit.

Since his graduation from seminary a few years ago, he has worked with the believers in his community to establish:

• A vocational training center for widows. Each woman enrolled can learn to become a seamstress and receive a quality sewing machine upon graduation. The Gospel is preached daily during the opening of class and many widows have professed faith and been baptized.

A Christian school. Children attending the True Vine English Medium School receive a quality education, including foundational Biblical studies. Pastor Raza has also opened the doors to over 50 orphans from the area. These children can receive education and frequently receive lunch – sometimes their only meal of the day – through the school. Widows in the vocational school training center make uniforms for the school children as part of their project work.

A small dairy farm. This is one of many ways Pastor Raza has been diligent over the past few years in seeking ways to raise his own support. Soon he will also have chickens on the farm. He is never idle!

• All of this is in addition to Pastor Raza’s regular responsibilities of teaching and preaching...

Until now, our family and a few others have supported this ministry with our own tithes and offerings. As God has blessed this ministry, it is continuing to grow and experience new needs that are beyond our financial capacity.

This is why I’m writing today. Pastor Raza asked if we would stand with him in prayer, believing for the finances to purchase some machinery and materials that will enable widows from the training center to begin selling their own items. I wanted to go a step beyond praying for this request and cast the nets out to you, our believing friends and family. Would you consider partnering with us in this, both prayerfully and financially?

US Dollars go a long way in Pakistan. For about $600, we can supply most of the machines and materials these widows need to begin generating their own support through a small local business. What the $600 doesn't cover has been donated by several of the widows in the training center, who have agreed to forego the award of a sewing machine – which is normally given to every woman who completes the training curriculum! Their willingness to sacrifice when they have so little to begin with has touched our family deeply. As such, Amy and I have agreed to match donations to this project up to the $600 goal.

Our family has created a 501(c)3 educational charity to support this cause, so donations are tax-deductible. 100% of donations go directly to support Pastor Raza and his ministry.

Following are some pictures of the widows at the Sewing Center, the children at the True Vine School, and of Pastor Raza and Daud (an associate pastor who is in Bible School) working together.

If you partner with us in this, you will no doubt become the recipient of Pastor Raza’s frequent and delightful email updates. Donations may be sent directly to our 501(c)3 at:

An Interrupted Life Foundation (AILF) 
4300 Steven Drive
Edmond Ok, 73013

Please contact us with any questions.

Looking forward to working with you for Kingdom growth! 

Best Regards,

James & Amy Gattis -