Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Why do I Doubt God

There is a tea house atop one of the world's most daunting trails to reach it.  I can only imagine someone being led to embark on that trail by a friend without them telling them how long the trail was or what surprise awaited them at the top.  "Just trust me it will be worth it!", might not be enough to get some to go the distance.  I think this is really the issue between us and God.  His promise is not enough for us because we struggle to really trust Him.  We need way more details.  Like how long is this going to take?  How safe is it?  What exactly is up there..."Oh really, well what flavors do the serve?"  We fundamentally struggle to trust anyone but ourselves and that is why we think we need way more than the beautiful promise of Romans 8:28.  Actually it is not a promise....It is something we KNOW already!

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I find that if everything does not go my way right away, then I don't believe that God is really going to work this out for my good.  Yet so many times, God has to bring me to the point of it being out of my hands before He is willing to step into the situations of my life.  I can't imagine how much despair and a sense of everything being wrong that the disciples and followers of Christ must have felt seeing Jesus arrested, then beaten, then seeing the sentencing of execution, then actually seeing Him nailed on the cross.  I can only imagine how hard it would have been to believe that God was in complete control and that the greatest work God had ever done was being done right in front of their eyes.

I just have a hard time admitting how little faith I have, and slow to recognize how little I have sought for God to give me the gift of greater faith and trust in Him.  To my shame I am all too often content with little faith and a much too small view of God.  So here is to all those out there like me that long to draw in a full breath of Christ's trust in His Father and see our fears fade like distant thunder.  If you are seeing things go different than you would have ever written the script, take heart it is in these moments when He takes us down paths that none of us would choose that He does what none of us can, so we can taste what we have never tasted before.  Tea Anyone?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Praying prayers that are scary

I was trying to explain something the other evening and it has been still clinking around in my head like a rock in a tin can.  It rattles around in there but won't quite come out.  The thought is this: What do prayers of real faith actually look like?  Do you only pray prayers that feel safe or is there an element of risk, yet you press in harder?  I often find myself praying in such a way that I "leave room for God to answer however He wants"  It sounds spiritual and holy, yet often all I have done is leave room for Me to save face.  I don't want to send a prayer up that gets shot down and comes crashing back moments after it is sent up.

I get the point that Jesus asked if there was any way for this cup to pass from Him, but not His will be done.  He yielded to the Fathers will.  That was still a daring prayer knowing what was about to happen immediately after he finished praying.  I see many times of Jesus engaging with much bolder prayers than I would ever pray and with a much greater quickness of answer than I could imagine.

To tell the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the dead to rise would bring me to a crisis of belief to utter such words over a person in any of those conditions even if I sensed the Lord wanted me to.

Back in December I was challenged by a friend that prayed for a need in our church to be met today.  He kept asking for it to be done...Today....Today Lord!  I didn't know what to think about it.  Was it brash and arrogant, or was it a greater picture of what faith really looks like.  Well it was Christmas Eve and as many of you know one of the needs of the church was to have paved parking places for some of the members who are a little less sure footed to have a safer exiting of their cars than the rock parking lot we had could provide.  Well, that very day a whole crew of pavers pulled into the parking lot unsolicited to meet up with the owner of the company and it worked out that they poured the first section of our parking lot on Christmas Eve.  Today was answered on a day I was not really believing God was going to do anything significant.

The passage we read in our Life Group this past Sunday was Mark 5:35-43
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

It struck me how bold Christ was to speak such words believing the Father was going to do just that, at just that moment.  He put all of the people out of the house that was covered with grief!  I have trouble praying prayers for healing when death seems more eminent than life and I don't even fathom praying for the dead to come back to life.  Yet Jesus just speaks the words, Little girl I say to you, Arise, not affected one bit by the reality that had dried up everyone else's faith in that moment.  If it is impossible to please God without faith, then I pray that God would help me to pray more of those white-nuckled, God pleasing prayers that leave me no out but to rely on Him and trust in Him completely.  May we see God do things that resemble more of what we read in the early church in Acts.  May we see God inhabit the prayers of his people.  May I see the Lord teach me to pray with more faith....Today

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dying to Live

Alicia got a head cold and was running out of gas as she reached the finish line.  So I had the privilege of helping to write the last post out of 31 posts putting a wrapper on the Dying to Live series.  If you haven't read any of the series I guarantee you that you will be blessed by looking closely at the richness of Christ's relationship with His Father.

Dying to Live

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Painted Bars

In trying to explain what happened to me in Uganda to someone that didn't go, I put into words what I had been struggling to wrap my mind around all along.  How was it that we felt so much more set free in Uganda than we did in America.  Every one of us felt such a strong sense of being set free, that we didn't really want to come back.  I write those words and can hardly believe them myself.  I missed my children and family as we were away 2 weeks at that point.  What was it that was drawing us back like a bug to a light.  I think it is this, we are set free in Christ Jesus our Lord from the prison of sin and self.  But rather than live a life of faith and trust in Christ for our daily sustenance, we prefer control and comfort instead thinking these bars will keep us safe and secure.  We prefer to go back into the prison that we have been set free from.  We take out our paint brush and paint the bars until we can hardly tell they are there.  The problem is we can't paint the outside of the bars.  When you travel so far out of the jail cell and look back, you can see every black iron bar that held you back from truly resting in Christ for your everything and resting in intimacy with Him.

We call this cell our comfort zone, yet we are held in it by fear.  By Fear we are kept in this zone we call comfort.  There is a reason none who had been set free wanted to step back into the jail cell.  We could finally see it for what it was, bars of fear and doubt that held us back from enjoying freedom in Christ. 

Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Rest...less or Rest...Lest

I have spent the last 10 days going non-stop here in Africa.  Today was the first day that there was scheduled time to slow down and decompress.  The team prepared to go white water rafting this morning on the White Nile and I was excited about going, but instead was awakened by the Lord impressing on my restless heart, Rest Lest.  I wasn't sure what the Lord desired to teach me, but I knew I needed to pass on the rafting and seek time alone with the Lord.  It was actually surprising how brief the moments were the last 10 days that I have had alone with the Lord.  All of our time had been rich in the Lord, but it was always together with others.
It has been an incredible trip filled with seeing God do miraculous things on a near daily basis.  It has been a trip that has been most humbling and rewarding to me, having the opportunity to be used to bless Morris's church in Mbale by pointing them to the beauty of the holiness of Christ, being used to share the gospel and see lives changed by the power of Christ, and having the high honor of getting to preach the first Sunday in the church we planted a sermon pointing to a foundation of grace for our lives and the church.  Through all of this I have seen God working on each team member and through each team member, but I felt as though God had not done any major overhauling on my heart this trip.  I longed for God to break up any hard places in my heart.

Hosea 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

There was finally a break through, light penetrating though a tiny pinhole in my heart.  There had been a recurring theme popping up that we should "Rest In God", but the impact never went to the depth I believe I needed or rather God desired.  I spent the morning reading Ecclesiastes and even taking a nap with prayers on my heart and scripture in my thoughts.  It was ok, because I had time to rest.  In time the Lord opened my eyes to see that I am usually resting on my own strength, resting on my own understanding, resting or better said, "TRUSTING" in my own abilities.  When I do this, I am the one who receives the glory and yet I was created by God with the chief end to bring glory to Him.  When I trust in and rely on myself I am actually robbing God of glory.  It is as if I am marching into the treasury of heaven and robbing from God's treasuries of glory.  Satan desired God's glory, Adam and Eve desired it, and so do I.  Ouch!

I will be flushing out more that God began opening my eyes to in the days ahead, but to start the journey into better understanding "Rest in God...Lest we rob Him of glory" lets look at some verses to set our course.

1Cor 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1Peter 4:10-11 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:  whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Rev 1:5-6 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom of priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Eph 3:21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Rev 7:12 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Rom 11:34-36 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?  Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

The early church founders understood this when they coined the Latin phrase Soli Deo Gloria - Solely To God Be Glory!

This challenges me and convicts me that I am untroubled by my robbing from God.  Add it to the list of 10 commandments that I break daily.  The more I seek the Lord the more I relate to Paul's words in Romans 7, "who can save me from this wretched body of death?  Thanks be to the Lord Jesus Christ."

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Relational Bank Accounts

Confession Time, pull up a chair. Two things that really upset me as a parent: the first is when one of my children tell me all kinds of horrible things that someone else has done to them and it is all the other child's fault.  Given the info the only way to respond is to be upset with the other child.  You confront the other child only to be blindsided by the fact that there is a major part of the story that has been left out.  Namely the part the original child did to start the whole incident. Just really irks me when I feel lied to

The second thing that I hate is when you tell your children to do something and the moment you step out of the room, they totally stop doing what you have instructed and begin doing something totally off task, (like playing the Wii).  You step back into the room later and they quickly jump to working on what it was you wanted like they have been slaving away the whole time. 1

Well both happened today while Alicia and I were going to get our immunizations to travel to Uganda.  After several phone calls to help resolve arguments and fights, I was good and irritated by the time we got back home.  I was determined to make sure this never happened again.  I really wanted to make them pay.  That thought about paying popped into my head.  I thought I've got to think of a way to not ring their necks, and connect the consequences to the offense with creativity.  A thought I think was inspired by Kevin Lehman's "Have a new kid by Friday" book.

I decided to do something that would shut all the bickering up quickly and create a high pucker factor.  I said, "Go get all of your money and bring it in here."  All of our kids have more money than I do, so I knew they would all have a full piggy bank.  While they were getting the money, I decide to bring home the point that they are emptying their relational bank accounts by making them pay one another for each they they did wrong to each other.  1 dollar for disrespect and 2 dollars for hitting/inflicting pain.

When we began they all were put out with one another and everything was an argument.  They told me every event that happened and I made them pay.  Some incredible lessons came out of it.  They all felt they had been wronged worse, but when the final money was paid it was almost equal.  It is really interesting how skewed our perspective of our offenses really is.  Everyone's is worse than our own, yet we tend to even things out much more than we really think.  We really do see the speck in other's, but fail to see the plank in our own.  Funny I was wrestling with this passage in my studies right after this.  You can listen to the sermon here

Once money got involved they were much more motivated to treat each other with respect, but we should value the relationships that are eternal more than pieces of paper.  We really do struggle with our love of money over relationships from an early age.  The fact my kids had to learn this from me was pretty convicting.

The power of accounts to level out, for good or bad.  It really was funny watching the handing over of cash for every wrong action cause real frustration with the one having to pay.  It seemed so unfair.  But before long it was coming right back to them.  It was almost perfectly balanced with A LOT of dollars being passed back and forth.  I had no idea it would end up this way.

After doing this exercise everything seemed to be resolved between each other.  They didn't realize how much they had done until they had to pay for each thing.  Seeing their own offenses humbled them and made the hurtfulness of others diminish.  They didn't even seem upset any more at all with all the things that had them so upset just minutes before.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Calluses of the Heart

I often ponder the question, "How would my life look different if I was sensitive to everything God wanted to do in me and through me?"  I find that God does some of the most profound things in my life with such delicate and gentle promptings that I almost missed it.  It causes me to shudder to think the number of times when I go through my day and never sense the gentle touch and leading of the Holy Spirit in my life.  Or the sheer number of days that I don't want to be bothered because I am so focused on doing important things.  Many times the things of God seem to come as interruptions even, only to see what incredible beauty I almost missed.

It is a callused heart that forever resists and doesn't want to obey or even feel the gentle promptings of the Lord.  I forever remember the story from my brother Brian's life that taught all who would hear that sensitivity to the Holy Spirit is a matter of life and death, physically and spiritually.  He had been praying for a time that the Lord would remove the flesh that hinders him sensing the prompting of the Holy Spirit in his life.  He found himself at a party with an audience telling the tales of a recent great hunt.  It was the best part of the story when an odd thought popped into his head, "Where is Bryson."  He knew it was the Lord, but he sure hated to miss delivering the most impressive part of the story.  He decided to obey even though his wife was watching their son.  Well Bryson had jumped into the swimming pool without anyone seeing it happen and was on the bottom of the pool looking up for help.  Bryan saw him and jumped in saving his life.  He was holding his breath and no harm done other than the addition of a few more grey hairs on Brian's head.

God was good and gracious that day to Brian and our entire family, but what incredible truths poured out of that encounter with God.  The Holy Spirit is God and is not to be put off, told to "Check back with me later.", or even questioned, "Are you sure Lord."  To obey the Holy Spirit's prompting is to allow God to reign as Lord of our lives and to do anything else is disobedience.  It also produces the most incredible view on life as you literally see the miraculous works of God before your eyes on a regular basis.

I recently had an encounter with the Lord that left me humbled by the goodness of God and the blinding hardness of my heart.  I continue to trust in my eyes more than I do in the Lord.  I think I see things so clearly only to be so very wrong.  Yet, again and again, I trust my eyes, my understanding, and my wisdom, instead of just trusting in the sufficiency of Christ.  Oh the calluses on this heart of mine.

I meet with a group of guys at Whataburger on Thursday mornings.  We have developed a whole group of friends that we call our Whataburger buddies.  On this occasion it was Edna and Tiffany who were showing up for their shift that would start at 6am.  Our group has prayed for each of these ladies over a dozen times when they would come by with our food or coffee.  I caught Tiffany in the parking lot finishing her cigarette just before going in.  I thought it might be a chance to encourage her to quit smoking by using the book of psalms.  Every time you have an urge to smoke, open up your bible and read whatever psalm you turn to.  Let your craving for nicotine fuel a craving for the Lord, and watch nicotine's hold diminish and God's hold on your life explode.  I also had the opportunity to ask her what she needed prayer for in addition to help quitting smoking.  She gave her usual vague answer about prayer for friends and family.  I then asked her a question that popped into my mind.  It cut through all of the smoke and vague generalities to the heart of the issue she had been struggling with so much that it startled her.  Edna walked up at that time and I prayed for both of them in the parking lot.

As we entered the restaurant Tiffany was still looking at me and asking how I could know exactly what she was dealing with.  All I could tell her was that, "God knows what her struggles are and has the answers if she would just trust in Him."  About that time I see a "big 'ol boy" sitting with a rather scowl look on his face as he sat waiting for his order.  A gentle thought brushed past me that prompted me to pray for him.  Like I had done so many times before.  But this guy was a big dude and didn't look all that happy.  I hung around the counter and drinks as I tried to convince God not to have me get totally shot down in front of my friends and whataburger buddies that I had just so impressed with my godliness.  I reasoned I was just being carried away with the moment, that God had no intention of blessing that big guy.  I thought it would just make him uncomfortable, and me along with him.

Finally, I had to step out in obedience, even if I was suddenly a big chicken.  I said, "Hi!" and introduced myself and asked him how he was doing.  Trying to figure out how to do this prayer thing that had suddenly gotten very hard to do.  That is when he asked me if we came here regularly and what church we were with.  He shared how he grew up in a small church, but was feeling lost in the very large church he was attending since coming to the area.  I then asked him the question that had kicked me out of my comfort zone in the first place.  "Well is there any way that we can pray for you this morning?"  His response, "Yeah, actually I could really use your prayers this morning!"  Standing where you would place your order, My friend Tyson and I prayed for our new friend Philip as God continued to soften this calloused heart.

An incredible update to this whole story.  It was in May when God showed Tiffany that He knew exactly what she was dealing with.  Last Thursday when she came over to our table I asked her how we could pray for her.  She didn't give the simple friends and family answer, but rather hung in thought as she struggled to answer the question.  She finally said, "Man, that is a tough question."  I don't know why I asked her it, but I just felt a nudge or quirky idea pop in my head.  I then asked her," If you were at the end of your life and stood before God and He asked you why He should let you into heaven, what would you tell Him?"  "Oh man that's even harder to answer!  I guess I give my life to Him and ask Him for the forgiveness of my sins"  A great conversation ensued in just how to do that now and not wait til the end of her life.  She prayed to receive Christ as her Lord and Savior standing at the end of our table.

What joy God has brought to her life and each of ours when we trust and obey!

Jeremiah 3:25
Let us lie down in our shame, and let our dishonor cover us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.
Jeremiah 4:3-4
"Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns, circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts,

My prayer: "Dear Father, forgive me for being so slow of heart to trust you and so hard of heart to think I always know better than you.  Train my heart to be sensitive to your still, calm, gentle voice, and give me the grace to have the faith to trust in you above all things.  Amen!

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