Friday, July 31, 2009

Short one today or maybe I should say challenge of the day. How can I expect to hear from God if I don't spend time listening? Yeah, I pray and meditate, but amount of actual clock time that I put in? Not thinking it is enough. I look at prayer like the lottery - I want to win $1,000,000 with only a $2 investment: I want to hear a lot from God but I don't want to spend the time listening. Not going to happen - won't reap the benefit if I don't put forth the effort.

Now comes the hard part - changing my behavior patterns of life to give me more margin to do what I know that I need to do. How quickly I am convicted of something and then fall right back into my old patterns.... I am a sin filled man.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Prayer confuses me sometimes. I believe that most of this springs from my belief that God is sovereign and that He is good. Using these two beliefs as my foundation, I tend to approach prayer from an ?it is going to be what it is going to be? perspective. I don?t say this out of bitterness, but out of a trust in the goodness and love of God - He can do whatever He pleases and He is going to do what is best for me because He loves me.

I was studying in Colossians last night and was confronted with a prayer request of Paul (4:3). He asked the church in Colossae to pray that a door would be opened to him so that he could preach the gospel to other people. As I read through the letter again, several prayers sprung up. In the early part of the letter, Paul prayed that the Colossians would be filled with the knowledge of God?s will (1:9). Paul reported in the closing of this letter, that Epaphras, their spiritual father, diligently prayed for them that they would stand firm, mature and trust (4:12).

I have begun to explore this hypothesis: what if our requests to God are to be centered around maturity of believers and expansion of the kingdom? This would be consistent with our mission in life to reach and teach. I am beginning to explore what the prayers of New Testament are and see if they fit into this hypothesis.

I do know that the scripture teaches prayer is also for asking. In the prayer that Jesus taught the disciples, he told them to pray ?give us this day our daily bread?. (However, in the Sermon on the Mount he did indicate that we were not to worry about food, clothes or shelter because God know our physical needs and will take care of them. What if the prayer that Jesus taught was more about acknowledging that God gave the bread then it is requesting that He give it ? some Greek person will have to look that one up and report to me ? out of my league!)

Something to think about.....

Monday, July 27, 2009

OK, I am spoiled; spoiled rotten. I am not saying this from a positive or "cute" perspective; this is a real negative on my character; something that has shamed me as God has put me in the middle of a situation.

I was talking to a friend in Vinnitsya, Ukraine. She was making $300 a month working for the city government as Director of International Affairs (a typical for an employee in Ukraine). She was told by her boss that she could make more money by accepting "favors" from people (basically bribes). As a Christian, she told him that she could not accept bribes because it was not right (which did not go over well with her fellow employees). Because of the poor world economy, her wages recently cut in half......

Here it becomes complicated. She has been living in a "flat" (apartment) that she had to move out of (a LONG story...). She has been searching for months to find one, but has not been able to find one that she can afford. Apartments are kind of hard to find - well, really impossible to find. We have been praying for her and she finally found one!

What she found is an apartment that will probably fit in 1/4 to 1/2 of most of our houses or apartments. Things are small and cramped and everything is on top of everything. Hard to find; hard to live in from my perspective - she was ECSTATIC about finding somewhere she could live; praising God for what He had supplied. She kept repeating over and over again how good God was to her.

This is where I was shamed. I was rejoicing with her, but wondered what I would do if I had to move into something like this: probably not be very happy. I realized that I am spoiled with the goodness that God has blessed me with. It also is challenging me to look at the things that I am doing and determine what I REALLY need, what I want and where I am just plain spoiled. I am asking God to help me re-orientate my thoughts and life to move me away from being spoiled to using the resources He has given me to further His kingdom. Ask yourself this question and evaluate how God would have you change your life habits. Put yourself in situations where you can rub shoulders with people like my friend who is praising God in the midst of her situation (it really puts life in perspective).

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I was helping move my mom to Mary Free Bed this AM and there was a steady stream of nurses and physical therapists that came in to say goodbye. They all wanted to keep in contact with her and know where she is at in her recovery process (impact #1). One gal commented that it was the bright spot of her day when mom went to PT (impact #2). Her nurse and her had a good cry just before they wheeled mom out of the room; their friendship had made a mutual impact on their emotions and lives (impact #3). The ambulance guy commented as he observing all this “wow, she must be a favorite around here” (impact #4).

It is sometimes hard to understand how God is going to redeem this situation. I often under my breath murmur the word “unfair”. But through the eyes of faith I believe that God is at work, God will redeem and that in some way He will heal this planet because of the testimony and faithfulness of my mom and dad. It really stinks to have to go through this and it makes me long for heaven and God’s fullness even more, but I know that in the midst of a sin-cursed world, the light of God is shining in people’s hearts because of the light of God in my mom and dad’s eyes. They have chosen to believe and trust; they have chosen not to become bitter and angry.

I know that this goes without saying, but keep praying for both mom and dad (those who have journeyed with me through this). Your prayers are aiding them in keeping the faith and in being a testimony to those around her that see her every day. Thanks for being a part of their life and bearing this burden with our family. Only God knows the shear volume of tears, the prayers and the groanings that have been given up for mom and dad. I know that He hears us and I know that He is moved.


Monday, July 06, 2009

This one will be a bit on the theoretical side, but it has been rattling around in my head so here goes.....

I am constantly struggling with living a missional life - keeping in front of me the reason for my existence; fulfilling the Great Commission that Jesus gave us just before He physically left this planet (go and make disciples). I have come to believe that I am so influenced by my history that I operate within a set of church cultural norms instead of really being able to listen to the Spirit about what methods and means I should use to accomplish this mission.

Now don't get excited; I am not going to suggest something wild and crazy doctrinal position that defies the logic and principles of the scripture. By most accords, I am, and will stay, doctrinally conservative. However, means and methods are not doctrines. I believe that it is what I am challenged with. The means and methods that we use seem to be bound in history (because the examples in scriptures are varied and commands are not specifically about the methods).

History is not bad; it informs us of the future. However, the purpose in what we are doing has to be more than just "this is what we have been doing for years". All of these means and methods have had their place in history. They were started with Godly direction and purposes. Somewhere along the line it seems that the principle behind the method have been lost and the practices have been maintained as a matter of course.

What if we started with a clean white board and asked the question - "What methods do we need to employ to create more and better disciples in today's culture?" I don't know if we are afraid to do this because we are afraid of the answers or we simply have not thought in this vein before. My challenge is to think through this and let the Spirit guide me.

PS There are current movements that are interested in re-establishing house churches. Not a bad thing, but it seems to me that it still misses the point. it is a return to another method, not a return to principles of obedience to the charge Jesus gave us (this is not true in all cases for sure, but it seems like there are elements of this movement that are simply looking to recapture a small church look and feel and still are not asking the foundational question).

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

We were talking this morning about the process of sanctification; becoming more like Christ. Paul speaks of us being changed from glory to glory, of being washed by the water of the Word, of us being renewed - several different ways of illustrating the sanctification process. From a pragmatic sense, sanctification takes a few steps:

1. I recognize that I have a problem area of sin (someone else generally points this out!).
2. I really believe that it is a problem that needs to be changed.
3. I begin the sanctification process by confession of that sin.
As the Spirit begins His work, I:
4. I feel remorse AFTER I commit the sin, confess it and ask for forgiveness from God and others.
5. I feel remorse WHILE I am committing the sin, confess it and ask for forgiveness from God and others.
6. I know when I am ABOUT to commit the sin, I still commit it and then confess it and ask for forgiveness from God and others.
7. I know when I am ABOUT to commit the sin, I still commit it "80%" of the time, but I do see victory "20%" of the time. I still confess it and ask for forgiveness from God and others.
8. As I continue to be sanctified, the percentage of time that I commit the sin goes down. I still have to confess it and ask for forgiveness from God and others.
9. I begin to obey naturally and find victory over the sin through the power and work of the Holy Spirit.

This is a simplification of a complex process! The reason I wrote this is because sometimes I feel guilty about my sin - that I am not more holy - which causes me to believe that I am never going to change (maybe my expectation of the pace of change is too great). I read in Colossians 1 and believe that I have been reconciled to God and am holy, blameless and without accusation before Him. However, sometimes my heart and my head don't match up. At these times, I need to focus on what God thinks of me; not what I think of me> I need to understand that, through His Spirit, He is helping me gradually change from who I was to who I am. Understanding this releases me from the guilt of my sin (that I know is from Satan).

In my areas of sin, it took me a long time to develop the sinful behaviors; it is going to take a long time to remove it's scars! Thank God for His patience, His Word and His Spirit.