Open my eyes…

“Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law.” Psalm 119:18, (NIV).

When I walk into my garage from the outside and the lights are out I am blinded by the darkness as I walk in.  If I stand there for several minutes in the dark my eyes will adjust to the darkness so I can begin to see my way to the door into the house.  In life, I don’t want to live so that I am accustomed to the darkness around me.  I want to be a light in the world I live in.

The Bible tells us, “Without a vision people perish…”  (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).   I’ve desired nothing less than to see the Lord in my daily life.  During times of struggle, it can be hard to see him.  When I take my eyes off of Him, I stand there in my circumstance and get used to the darkness that surrounds me.  Yet, my desire is to continue to seek Him in those dark times.  A famous poetic quartet once stated, “In the dark you need a light do you want to make it right… So, freely surrender!” (Freely Surrender, Stryper).

The Psalmist knows he can’t see without the help of the Lord and he looks to God’s law for his light.  He realizes without his eyes open he will not see the wonder of God’s love found in His law.  “Open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law.” Margaret Feinberg writes, “God invites us to look up, open our eyes to the wonder all around us, and seize every opportunity to encounter him.”  (Wonderstruck).  There is not a better place to look for God than in the Bible.  Take the time to read it and you just may be surprised how He speak with you.

Make this your pray today.  Father, open my eyes that I might see wonderful things in your law. In the wonderful name of Jesus, Amen.

Walk Steadily on the Road

You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. (Psalm 119:1, The Message).

Has God revealed something to you?  Is there something God has spoken to you that hasn’t come into being?  Do you have a desire in your heart that you can’t seem to explain to others?  Yet, you know God understands! What’s keeping you from pursuing that desire with all your heart?  Maybe you have given up on God, thinking, “That’s not what He really said for me to do.”  The Psalmist says here you are blessed if you stay the course.

Maybe there is something God called you to and circumstances blocked your path.  Where are you now?  Are you still on the road? Maybe you are still on the road but have settled for selling lemonade instead of walking steadily.  After-all, you heard once when life throws you lemons you should make lemonade.  Or have you given up altogether and decided to cut your own path?

I was listening to Steven Furtick’s message, “Don’t Stop on 6.”  It’s a message on Joshua and the people of Israel as they were headed for the Promised Land.  On the road, they encountered many obstacles and problems.  Jericho was one of those problems in their path.  God told Joshua to lead the people around Jericho.  Literally, they marched in circles around Jericho.  For 6 days they made one lap each day around the city.  What if they had given up on day 6?  What if they had given up on lap 6 of day 7?

It doesn’t matter where you are in life.  If you are a college student struggling to understand God’s plan, or if you are in your 40’s/50’s wishing you had made other choices. Blessed are those who stay the course! Don’t give up.  Don’t quit. Has God given you a dream – a passion – something you can’t let go of… yet you haven’t arrived? Don’t stop here!  Keep pressing on.  Let Him take you deeper in His Word.  Deeper with those He has put in and around your life.  God’s purposes are much greater on the road He reveals over the path either one of us could carve out on our own.

In Matthew 7:14, Jesus said, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  (NIV).

Josiah was eight years old when he became king. He ruled for thirty-one years in Jerusalem. He behaved well before God. He kept straight on the path blazed by his ancestor David, not one step to the left or right. (2 Chronicles 34:1, The Message).

Our lives aren’t meant to be a sprint to the finish line but rather a long distance endurance race.  Don’t allow the mountain in front of you to keep you from finishing the race strong!  Take it one step at a time.  Keep your focus on your footing and keep on walking steadily.

I picked up a journal recently I was writing in 2009.  The interesting thing for me is that I am still praying about the same thing today that I was then.  I’m even praying over the same passage of Scripture.  My initial reaction was, “Wow, I can’t believe that!”  I thought for a moment why continue… but that thought process quickly changed.  What if Israel had stopped on 6.  I’m not stopping either.

Day 7 is on it’s way if we keep walking steadily!

His blessings are beautiful…

Last Sunday I sat on the deck early for prayer and coffee.  I began to read over one of the passages I was going to use in the message I was speaking at church.  As I read, Matthew 6:25-34, I could hear all of the birds in the trees throughout my backyard.  The incredible sound began to overtake my attention.  For a few moments all I could think about were all of those birds.  Jesus said,

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 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? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

God takes care of the needs of those birds I could hear singing.  He cares for our needs as well.  I say “His blessings are beautiful…” because God deeply cares for all of our needs.  Lent this year was such a powerful time.  One of the great blessings that came my way when I wasn’t looking was my pastor and Expedition Church.  This all came about shortly after the beginning of Lent.  We ran into each other at a restaurant on a Friday night.  I visited on Sunday…  3 months later, give or take a few days, I am speaking on a Sunday morning.  I know more opportunities will arise and God will continue to pour into me so I can in turn give to others.  That’s what is so beautiful about serving God.  He gives to His people – His people have a choice to do with what He has given.  To hold on to it or to share it.  It’s when we share what God has given us with others that our lives really are fulfilled.

Do you want to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in your life?  I encourage you to seek the Kingdom of God first and His righteousness.  Trust Him.  As you trust Him, be obedient to the words of Jesus in the Book of Matthew,

  19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Overwhelmed with the presence of God

It has been awhile since I have posted here.  I realize that it is a technical mistake to not continually post – especially if one wants to keep those following as a follower.  I appreciate those who have messaged me or spoke with me in some way that I needed to write.  That’s always so encouraging… thank you!

So, why have I not been writing? It began at the start of Lent.  After reading, Wonderstruck, about Margaret Feinberg‘s experience around Lent, I decided that this year I would take those days leading up to Easter to focus.  And focus is what I did! I sat down to write several times but each time I felt like my focus was being divided.

Matthew 6:33 was the basis for my focus.  I began praying around these words of Jesus, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”  I researched the Bible and prayed with the focus of God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.  As I began praying, I realized how self-centered my prayer life had become.  My praying over the years had become about the later part of Matthew 6:33, “…and all these things will be given to you as well.”  I realized I had been seeking “things” rather than seeking God.  My relationship had become about the physical over the spiritual-love-life that God so desires to have with His people.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied withgetting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (Matthew 6:30-33, The Message).

At the beginning of Lent, there was a lot of things that came up against me and my family.  I was beginning to wonder if what I had began to do was the right thing or not.  I pressed on!  With each obstacle, I spoke to God and prayed with His Kingdom and His righteousness as my focus.  I did not ever pray about the specific issues that came up.  I trusted the words of Jesus to seek first His Kingdom.

I write in a journal most days.  That journal at times becomes a list of stuff I am wanting God to bless me with.  I begin praying about those things and neglect intimately seeking God.  Think with me for a moment about your best friend.  Do you have them in mind? OK, now imagine every time you see them instead of talking with them you ask them for something.  Not ever once inquiring about their life or thinking about their needs, etc.  All you want out of them is something they can give you.  How long do you think you are going to have that relationship if it is only based on you asking them of something?  It’s not going to be much of a relationship is it?

If all we have are lists of things we are praying about – where is the relationship with God? 

During Lent, I came to realize my past “comfort” was found in praying over my problems rather than finding real comfort from the Holy Spirit.  Because the Holy Spirit is at work around us, all of the time, God knows what we need.  We don’t have to “worry” our prayers before God over those things.  He truly desires for us to live in freedom rather than fear.  I found freedom this year in knowing God.  I am so thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.  I am thankful for this time of Lent.  I am thankful for a renewed passion for love I have for God.  I am thankful for all the Holy Spirit has done in the past couple of months.  I am amazed and so blessed.  I can honestly say with great passion and grace I have been Wonderstruck by God.

Surrender

Waving the white flag of surrender today…

I want to give up all of my past, my hopes, my plans, my dreams, my future… everything!  I want to lay it all down and surrender. 

Before they ever landed in a prison for their faith they made a decision to surrender to Jesus Christ.  Maybe that’s one reason why they could sing praises in the midst of their situation.  They had already surrendered to Jesus long before they surrendered to those who imprisoned them.

Surrender.  “To give (oneself) up into the power of another especially as a prisoner.”  Surrender doesn’t come too easy for me.  I seem to want to continue to fight on my own terms.  I pray a pretty good game. But if my prayer life is just a game then what good is it?  At times, my prayer-life seems to be lacking surrender… total commitment.  When I pray for myself and/or for others I seem to interject my own selfish twist.

An example we have to follow is found in Matthew 26:39-42 is of Jesus praying with total surrender.

39Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?”

40-41When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, “Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don’t wander into temptation without even knowing you’re in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire.”

42He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, “My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I’m ready. Do it your way.” (The Message).

I typically pray, “If there is any way, get me out of this…” Then find myself asleep like the disciples.

It’s not just in prayer but throughout life we are faced with decisions and choices we must make.  Our choice: To live a life surrendered to the will of God or to live for ourselves.

 Oh, the city’s afire
A passionate flame
It knows me by name
Oh, the city’s desire
To take me for more and more
It’s in the street, getting under my feet
It’s in the air, it’s everywhere
I look for you
It’s in the things I do and say
If I wanna live I gotta
Die to myself someday (“Surrender” lyrics by U2)

The Posture of Prayer

I watched Little House on the Prairie last night.  It happened to be an episode I had never seen before.  The Ingles have a son, James. James was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He walked into a store and was shot walking into a robbery.  All the doctors, friends, and family of Charles Ingles told him to give up there was not any hope for his son.  Charles believed there was hope.  Everyone else thought he was crazy and that his faith was going to let him down.

He took off with his son and camped with his son to meet with God.  Charles built an altar and prayed there for his son.  He did something radical.  And in the eyes of others what he was doing was weird, strange, and crazy.  Yet, he believed God was going to restore the health of his son. So he assumed a posture of prayer by faith that God was going to do something miraculous.

Prayer is much more than ourselves.  Prayer is so much more than the desires of our hearts.  I know for me that way too often prayer becomes more about me than it is about  God.  There are times in life when circumstances can seem so desperate.  Those are the times the prayers I seem to speak that tend to be more about me than God.

Jesus was matter-of-fact: “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say, ‘Go jump in the lake’—no shuffling or shilly-shallying—and it’s as good as done. That’s why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you’ll get God’s everything. And when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.”  (Mark 11:22-25, The Message).

In the TV show, Charles took a radical posture of prayer.  One that others laughed and mocked with their own lack of faith and pity.  This has made me consider my own posture of prayer.  In this life of faith, have I made prayer and my walk of faith after Jesus Christ a place of safety and a refuge for me?  Have I resigned myself to the four walls of my living room and chosen to keep Jesus to myself here?

I believe there is more to this life than what I am living today.  No, I’m not a teenager or a young single college student any longer with the world ahead of me.  I have a family.  I have bills to pay and responsibilities that must be taken care of.  Yet, I believe there is so much more than the safe place I now call home.  There is a mission, a purpose, and a plan for me – in the world I live.  I don’t want to be like the one who buried his talent we read about in Matthew 25:14-28.  I want the Father to be pleased with what I have done with the gifts he has given me to use for His purposes.

Ignoring Internal Reservations

This year I have been asked to take on two different teams and my response to both was, “Yes, I will take it on.”  (The teams were with different organizations.) I had reservations prior to agreeing to work with both.  At the time,  it seemed the opportunities out-weighed the reservations.  In both cases, shortly after I started the small reservations I had internally became great stumbling blocks.  The result was that both began to affect other areas of my life and eat away at real passions I have.

A few things I learned as a result or saying, “Yes.”, when I should have responded with, “No.”:

  • Listen to the quiet internal reservations and investigate them.
  • Ignoring the reservations can bring on unwanted stress later.
  • Lost momentum. (Personally and for the team).
  • Risk of losing credibility if the reservations aren’t dealt with first.

Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 10:5 have been very helpful to me as I have moved forward with stepping away from both teams.  I’m realizing how important it is to take every thought captive

We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. (The Message).

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV).

I have come to understand the importance of taking every thought captive and submitting them to the obedience of Christ.  There is freedom found in Jesus when we trust in him and allow him to shape our lives with his life.  I read in My Utmost for His Highest , “When the inspiration of God does come, it comes with such miraculous power that we are able to arise from the dead and do the impossible thing.” (Oswald Chambers)