Friday, April 30, 2010

The need for silence

Often I find that I crave silence and time set aside to simply "be" with God in prayer. The other morning I took some much needed time and carved out an intentional hour to spend praying, reading my Bible, and journaling. Needless to say the hour seemed too short, yet also extremely refreshing. Amy & I found a devotional that quickly became one of our favorites, it's called The Message//REMIX: An uncommon Devotional. It is a devotional based off of Eugene Peterson's Message BIble, however it mixes the contemporary interpretation of the scripture with the ancient practice of Lexio Divina. Lexio Divina has the participant read a scripture, sit with it a while, find a word or phrase that God highlights for them, and then listen to how God is asking us to apply that to our life. I find this to be a very refreshing way to engage the scripture and thus have enjoyed the Solo devotional.
The passage that I looked at the other morning was Mark 6:30-8:30. The passage includes Jesus feeding both the five thousand and the four thousand as well as performing many healings and miraculous signs. As i spent time sitting with the passage, reading over it multiple times, the biggest thing that stuck out for me was that a handful of times Jesus either takes time to get away from everyone or at least tries to. Jesus seeks out the silence, the quiet place, where He can rest and pray. As i've read the Gospels i've noticed the need Jesus often has to get away and pray, especially following large events. How can we, who are only humans, not recognize our need to get away to the quiet place to rest and pray?
We live in a world that constantly pushes us to engage with what is going on around us and to ignore this God given need for solitude and prayer. I know that this has been a constant struggle for me over the past couple of years. I allow my to do list, my task with work, people to talk to, tv shows to watch, and places to see to take priority over times of silence and prayer. I believe this will always be a constant struggle, one of the ways we must be "in the world, but not of the world" and I will continue to fight the pressure I feel from society to live a busy and chaotic life so I may find Christ in the silence.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blogging and Prayer

I believe that blogging and my prayer life have many similarities, which comes as quite a surprise to me. Both are something i enjoy doing, yet commit too little time to actually partaking in. I have found these past couple weeks i have not spent as much time in prayer as my soul needs. When i sit back and think about it i feel a deep longing in my soul to take more intentional time and sit with the Lord, allowing myself the luxury of just "being" with God and listening to Him. However the Internet, the TV, relationships, work,e-mail,exercise,and a lengthy to do list manage to push this time of prayer further and further down on my list. I feel the same is true for my blogs. I view my blogs as a space to clear my mind a little bit by writing down what i am going through, thinking about, or what has challenged me lately. Almost daily i find myself saying "today i will blog", but rarely has this actually been the reality. This strikes me as amusing since no one actually reads my blog it shouldn't matter what i write or when i write in it, but i personally feel that i must commit to taking the time to write something that is of actual merit. The same is true for my prayer life, i often allow myself to be discouraged to take the time to pray because i feel i can not give God the proper attention or focus He deserves. In turn i end up neglecting Him completely, which i realize is worse then if i were to spend even just five minutes with the Lord. These are both things i intend to work on over the next few weeks, the blogging for my own personal enjoyment and sanity, and my prayer life because the health of my relationship with Christ depends on it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Life is a rollercoaster

I believe that at times in our lives God throws us twist and turns to make sure we are paying attention and not getting too comfortable. This last week was one of those weeks for me and my wife in which we found ourselves paying more attention to what God was doing in our lives. My week consisted of finding out that i have been accepted into the graduate school program i applied to and then two days later finding out that i have been laid off from my job. My emotions throughout all of this have varied across the spectrum from popping a bottle of champagne to celebrate to sitting in my bosses office fighting back tears of frustration and sadness. The only thing that sustained me through all of this is the continued assurance that God is indeed in control of my life and has a plan that is far greater than i can imagine.

It is interesting to me that time and time again God can pull through and provide, we praise Him and tell all of our friends that we always knew God would provide, when in reality we had doubts about how everything would truly work out. I had an opportunity to teach on the Exodus of the Israelites the other week and was baffled at how they continue to question God even in the midst of His provisions. God has performed many miraculous plagues in Egypt as He pushes Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, but the Israelites continue to question God provisions even in the midst of everything. When things get more difficult for them they wonder if perhaps they would have been better off continuing their lives as slaves. God doesn’t let this happen though, because He has made a promise to bring them out of Egypt and deliver the Israelites into the promise land and our God is one who is true to His word.

Eventually Pharaoh gives in and allows the Israelites to leave Egypt. The Israelites are overjoyed at their newfound freedom, but it doesn’t take long before they once again begin to question Gods provisions in their lives. They soon find themselves backed up against the Red Sea with Pharaoh and his army chasing after them and they cry out to Moses criticizing him for bringing them out of Egypt to die. Their doubt is astonishing! God has protected them from every single plague, brought them out of the captivity they lived in in Egypt, allowed them to take all the wealth from the Egyptians, and yet when faced with the unknown they doubt and question God. God stays true to His word and protects them once again from Pharaoh by parting the Red Sea and allowing them to walk across on dry ground, but i question when the Israelites will learn that God is always faithful? When will we learn that God will always be faithful?

Like the Israelites we too often find ourselves doubting and questioning God when difficult times arise. It is so crucial to the development of our faith that we work at recognizing Gods provisions in our lives in order that we may trust Him in all areas of our lives. We need to allow ourselves the freedom to believe that despite what the world says about providing for ourselves or taking care of me, we as Christians must turn to God to provide for our needs and take care of us in all situations. I have found that this past week God has given me the perfect opportunity to begin living into his provisions. With the changes in my job as well as the acceptance to Grad school it is time that i just feet first into the Red Sea trusting that God will provide and allow me to walk on dry ground.

The importance of prayer

“Prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted. And if an infinitely wise Being listens to the request of finite and foolish creatures, of course He will sometimes grant and sometimes refuse them.”

C.S. Lewis

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the discipline of prayer. On a daily basis it becomes crucial for us to set aside time to converse with God, share our lives with Him, and allow Him into every area of one’s life. Prayer is such an interesting topic that I believe no one has truly figured out. It is a mysterious experience, one that is unique to each and every individual, depending largely on the depth of their relationship with God. I find that prayer is the single most rejuvenating and refreshing experience that I can continually rely on to keep me following Christ in my life. However, at the same time I find prayer to be sometimes a difficult thing to actually do.

Why is it that there is this tug-a-war that occurs deep within me? I know the amazing benefits of prayer, yet I neglect to enter into prayer as often as I desire or need too. When I take the time to sit down and not just give God all of my request like a to do list, but actually clear space to hear Him speak into my life, I find it very rewarding. I know that if in the next hour I close my computer, turn off my iPod, and welcome Christ to speak into my life He will without a doubt speak to me. What an amazing gift and blessing to be able to be in relationship with God, the creator of everything! So why do I so often choose to not close my computer, turn off the television, turn off the music, seclude myself, and just sit and listen to God?

So far I don’t fully know why I often don’t make space for listening to God in my daily life, however I do know that at least part of the reason is it can be scary. I will admit that often I like the control I have over my life and there is a fear that if I commit more time to prayer I will have to release this control. When I truly listen to Christ speaking into my life it will open up a world of possibilities, some of which can be frightening. What if God ask me to do something I am not ready for or am uncomfortable doing? Look at Moses in the Exodus story, God speaks to him and he tries to tell God he isn’t the right person. Moses eventually allows God to lead him and while Moses becomes one of the most influential leaders ever he also endures many sacrifices and risk everything in order to lead the Israelites.

I know that God is calling me to be a leader and I am still trying to figure out how God is preparing to use me in the years to come. I am scared sometimes that I will not be ready or it won’t be all I expect it to be and I think for this reason I sometimes subconsciously “protect” myself by putting up walls between God and myself. However I believe that it is time for those walls to come down, it is time to clear space in my life daily to listen to Gods voice, and allow him to mold me. It is still scary and there are many unknowns regarding where or what God may call me and my family to do, but one thing is certain, God will provide!

God always provides

This week has been a very interesting week filled with a wide range of emotions. I was informed on Monday that my job is once again in jeopardy as my church faces a budget deficit of around $80,000. It was about this time last year that i was looking at a 20 percent pay/time cut, which seems a little bit ironic that once again i am faced with the same difficult possibilities. I remember last year it made it tough to plan for spring/summer activities, not knowing if i would even be here long enough to see these plans become a reality. I went home on Tuesday and took some time to think about the implications of once again being cut or let go and felt all the same feelings creeping up regarding a lack of desire to plan.

I have decided though that I will continue to give everything my best, trusting that God is working in this situation somehow. God has been so evidently faithful to my family and I have been surprised daily by his provisions and love for us. A while back I listened to a sermon by Francis Chan in which he said that Christians often want to see our faith refined and strengthened, but when difficult times come we cry out for God to release us. I have been trying to view all of these challenges as a chance to strengthen my relationship with Christ and develop a deeper trust in my Lord. This is not always easy and there are definitely days when i worry about where the money will come from to pay all of our bills. However, I find comfort remembering Christ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, where he tells us not to worry. “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

My hope is that I will take all opportunities in my life to trust in my Lord to care for me and provide for me. I pray that when difficult situations arise i will turn right to God and through these situations learn more about the love my Father has for me.

Spiritual Journey

I just finished writing an essay on my spiritual journey for the Masters of Divinity program i am trying to get into at Denver Seminary. Taking the time to write this essay, twice actually, has been a very good experience for me. I believe that if is worthwhile to take the time to step back and think through what we believe and what has got us there.

For me the process of thinking about my spiritual journey and writing about it has reminded me of my passion for both God as well as the things He has gifted me with. Too often we get so bogged down with our chaotic lives that we forget why we were passionate about something in the first place. For me this has happened in ministry to some extent. Through the frustrations and difficulties that have come with working in the Church i have felt as though i lost some of my passion for these gifts. However as i wrote about why i believe God has gifted me with pastoral leadership skills i found that passion being reignited. God has blessed each and everyone of us with gifts that we are meant to cultivate and use. We should be passionate about these things because they are what God has called us to do.

As i write this today though i know that undoubtedly times will come again when i will face difficulties and the question becomes how to we stay grounded during those times. How do we personally manage to not get get through them, but continue to hold on to the passion Christ has given us? I do not have an answer for this wright now, but i hope that as i continue this journey moving towards seminary i will learn how to better handle the difficulties that life will throw my way without it sucking my passion out of my life.

Living a life passionately for God

As i sit here at Starbucks this morning i find myself thinking a lot about living our lives with passion. Last night i watched an old sermon from Francis Chan (who pastors at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley) titled “Lukewarm & Loving it” from 10/1/06. Chan preaches a very bold sermon on how extremely difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven. He bases this sermon off of two main text, The story of the rich man approaching Jesus asking how he can enter the kingdom of Heaven in Matthew 19:16-26 & the letter to the church in Laodicea in Revelations 3:15-22.

Fran boldly states the obvious, that compared with other countries in the world Americans are extremely wealthy and this in turn makes it difficult for us to enter the kingdom of Heaven. We often find contentment and security in our possessions rather than in God and his provisions. When we have enough money for our lives, retirement, and even for our kids lives it makes it difficult to “need” God. We are often happy having some of God in our lives, but we don’t feel as though we want too much because potentially that could mess up our plans or our comfortable life. Chan goes on to preach about how we, in the American church, live our lives lukewarm too often rather than on fire for God. In Revelations Jesus says that if we are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, He will spit us out of his mouth.

Fran pushes his congregation that once we know about the greatness of God we should be willing to give ANYTHING to follow Him and be near to Him. It shouldn’t matter if we have to sell everything, move, or even lose our family, it doesn’t matter anymore. All that should matter is living our life on fire for God. Now this doesn’t mean that we don’t care for our family or care about what is going on in our surroundings, because if we live our life passionately for Christ He calls us to care for our family. However, Chan is making the point that all these things are earthly possessions and relationships and don’t compare to our relationship with God.

I believe that Chan’s sermon is very challenging and right on the mark. The part i am wrestling with is when we find ourselves living a lukewarm life how do we transition out of this place of comfort. How do we take a relationship with God that has been there, but perhaps a little dull at times, and transition to a relationship of deep passion. What has struck me lately is the fact that I can’t do this. I can not bring about passion for a relationship alone, nor can i rid myself of my desires for comfort or material passions all by my self. In order for us to embark on this transition we desperately need God and His Spirit to intercede on our behalf. This kind of transition will intentionally seeking God out on a daily basis through prayer and time in His word. It will also take a lot of patience and trust as we wait for God to do the real work in our spirit and hearts. God can and will bring about this passion if we desire it and ask for it, the hard part can be waiting for Him to bring it about. I will continue to seek God and ask for this fire for Him, because He means to much to me to sit by and live a lukewarm life. What will you do?


Often times as i sit in a coffee shop i find that my mind begins to think about faith. I sit at my favorite coffee shop and i sip my latte and i think about questions or thoughts i have regarding both my faith and the faith of those around me. This blog was created to be a place to think through questions and thoughts regarding faith and our relationship with Jesus Christ.
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