Wednesday, August 27, 2014

River of the Spirit of God

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.  John 7:37-39

 I appreciate Oswald Chamber’s perspective on these verses from “My Utmost for His Highest:”

 A river reaches places which its source never knows. And Jesus said that, if we have received His fullness, “rivers of living water” will flow out of us, reaching in blessing even “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8) regardless of how small the visible effects of our lives may appear to be. We have nothing to do with the outflow— “This is the work of God, that you believe. . .” (John 6:29). God rarely allows a person to see how great a blessing he is to others.
 A river is victoriously persistent, overcoming all barriers. For a while it goes steadily on its course, but then comes to an obstacle. And for a while it is blocked, yet it soon makes a pathway around the obstacle. Or a river will drop out of sight for miles, only later to emerge again even broader and greater than ever. Do you see God using the lives of others, but an obstacle has come into your life and you do not seem to be of any use to God? Then keep paying attention to the Source, and God will either take you around the obstacle or remove it.
The river of the Spirit of God overcomes all obstacles. Never focus your eyes on the obstacle or the difficulty. The obstacle will be a matter of total indifference to the river that will flow steadily through you if you will simply remember to stay focused on the Source.
Never allow anything to come between you and Jesus Christ— not emotion nor experience— nothing must keep you from the one great sovereign Source.

Think of the healing and far-reaching rivers developing and nourishing themselves in our souls! God has been opening up wonderful truths to our minds, and every point He has opened up is another indication of the wider power of the river that He will flow through us. If you believe in Jesus, you will find that God has developed and nourished in you mighty, rushing rivers of blessing for others.

Sometimes I feel like I am so ill-equipped to be used by God…I am rather shy, I have my own struggles and baggage to deal with, and I’m really, really busy (or at least think I am).  But this is focusing on me instead of the Source, Jesus Christ.  It is very freeing to know that God is pleased to use flawed people to accomplish His work.   I simply need to keep my eyes on the Source and He will accomplish more than I can imagine through me. 

Jesus Christ wants to use us to accomplish His work, but more than that, He wants us…He desires a relationship so intimate that our wills are tuned to His and our ears are sensitive to hear His whisper.  As God’s flawed people, His Church, let us press into Him, to get to know Him more deeply, to learn to listen for His still voice, to feel His pleasure in belonging to Him.
- Tom Ganzevoort

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Courage in Waiting

Psalms 27:14
Wait on the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait thou on the Lord.

  “Be strong and of good courage.” – These words are often used to encourage hurting souls that are facing some great task or trial.  Is waiting on the Lord something so difficult to do, that we need to be reminded to be strong and to let our heart take courage? Absolutely!

When our soul eyes are open to the pain and suffering surrounding us, and we yearn to “do” something about it, yet God is calling us to wait, to sit at His feet in silence and simply wait. Really?!  That takes strength.  To rest in His presence and listen, while we are in the midst of suffering, injustice, or some trial.  Something within us just wants to take action and start fixing the problem or fight the injustice, or alleviate the pain.

And we also have the tendency to do this in our prayer life.  When we start to pray, we jump right in asking Him to fix this or take care of that.  It takes courage to be in the midst of the battle going around us and to wait on the Lord.  To be still, to listen, to wait. We can exhaust ourselves by feeling like we need to say all the right things, and ask Him to fix this situation and change this or that, and to not forget to pray for all the people on our mental list.  In going about prayer this way, we are relying on our own strength and our own thoughts.  Be still before Him, listen to what He wants You to pray for or about.

And we who are so unaccustomed to waiting in general as our culture is not one that likes to wait, are also unfamiliar with how to wait on the Lord.  We are tempted to fear that we are not doing it right, that our faith is too weak, or our desire is not strong enough.  We don’t feel like our prayers are making a difference.  Remember, we are not waiting on ourselves, how we feel, we are waiting on God.

So, be strong as you rest in Him, take courage as you sit at His feet in the midst of the chaos.  He is God, the One we wait on.

Chaos all around
Assaulting all my senses.
This is not the way it’s supposed to be,
I don’t like it.
Hurting souls surround.
I hear their silent weeping.
Head tilts up to You, my questioning eyes plead,
I don’t like it.
Gentle whisper heard,
“There is healing in the waiting.”
Waiting, waiting, feels so useless waiting.
I don’t like it.
But trust in You, I shall.
Letting go the need for understanding.
Trusting while I wait in chaos, even though,
I don’t like it.

Give us Your strength.  May we take courage in the waiting.  May we rest in You.  And as we do so, draw us closer to You.  May we not rely on our own feelings, and our need to understand how and what to pray for, but may we simply and faithfully come to You each day.  Let us be still, let us listen. In Jesus Name, Amen
- Sue Parrott

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Unpacking for our Spiritual Journey

People pack for journeys, but come to places where the things they carry are not worth their weight:  The Oregon Trail was littered with possessions of desperate pioneers.  Ship crews toss valuable cargo overboard in storms to lighten their loads.  And Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton, told his men to purge themselves of personal possessions, as every ounce would weigh against their survival. He then ripped Psalm 23 from his Bible, placed his Bible in the snow, and walked away. 

In Hebrews we’re encouraged to lighten our load in the same way:

“… Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a NIV) 

God is telling us to cast off spiritual clutter, things that hinder and entangle us, and make room for him and his will. Yet we’ve grown accustom to our loads – things that are, at best, distractions and, at worst, secret stowaways sucking the life from us. Sometimes we’re simply ignorant of these hindrances, sometimes we’re reluctant to part ways with our comfortable traveling companions, and sometimes we're unable to free ourselves of weights that have deep, barbed hooks buried deep in our souls.  Whatever the case may be, if we humble ourselves before God, pray and seek him, he will enable us to "throw off" these loads.  And let's not forget that he's given us the gift of each other.  Let's come alongside one another -- let's love, pray for and encourage each other on this spiritual trek.  By the grace of God working through us, let's lighten each other's loads.

Father, you are a God of love and mercy and grace.   Will you give us eyes to see what hinders and entangles us? Let our way be littered with things that have no value compared to the beauty of your love and grace.  Help us to love each other and minister your grace to each other.  In the name of Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, we pray.  Amen.
- Carol Ganzevoort

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What is the Point of Everything?

“For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!”    Isaiah 64:4

I have a question for you.  What is the point of everything?  Have you ever thought about that?  Why did God create?  More importantly, why did he create us?  Take as much time as you need in your quietness to consider that one for a moment….

The only thing that makes sense is Love.  God wanted relationship.  It’s why we were created in his image.  He certainly didn’t need gardeners.  He didn’t need help with the landscaping.  Have you ever considered that your only reason for existence in the eyes of God is so you can be in a deep and meaningful relationship with him?

So think about this.  If he didn’t need gardeners when he created man, why would we think that he needs us for anything now?  The only thing that made sense then, is the only thing that makes sense now.  He desires to walk in the cool of the day with you, to gaze on the beauty of his creation along with you, to join with you as you meditate on his splendor, to enjoy you and be enjoyed by you.  That’s what I pray that you will discover in this period of waiting on him.  He desires you.  Have him, and be had by him.

I know some of you have heard me speak before of the “bridal paradigm” in our relationship with him.  In my life with Jill for over 25 years, it’s when we are walking hand in hand, lounging on the couch, or just enjoying being together and she asks me to do something for her.  It doesn’t really matter what it is.  I want to do anything for her in that moment.  It is no mistake that all throughout the scriptures our relationship with God is framed in bridal language.  We, the church, are his bride.  In the context of that relationship, what do you ask of him?  Do you see him that way?  Can you lean into him and tenderly ask the big things of him, trusting that he would move heaven and earth to give you the desires of your heart?  Do you know him well enough to know the desires of his?

That is what awaits us in the mystery of prayer in the Holy Spirit.  There is more passion, power, and extravagance than any of us can possibly imagine when we begin to consider the possibilities of giving ourselves completely to him, and only to him, as his beloved bride.

When we become extravagant lovers of God, we will never again have to wonder if his presence still resides among us and within us in great power.

“Lord Jesus, lover of our souls, we lift our hearts to you because we desire to become lovers of God.  To speak face to face with you and to know your thoughts.  To abide in your love, and your love in us.  To know with confidence that we were made for you.  Father, bring into our consciousness how desperately you love us.  Help us to walk powerfully in that assurance.  Teach us the language of your love in our prayers, and help us to fall headlong into a real, empowered and passionate relationship with you.  Fill us with desire for you and for the church which causes us to become all that you have destined us to be.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

- Doug Bishop

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why Pray?

To be honest, I have wrestled a lot with this thing called prayer.

*Why does God want me to pray when He knows what I need even better than I know myself?

*What good does my prayer even do?  Who am I to change God’s mind or challenge Him on His ideas?

*How do I know that I am praying in “God’s Will”?  Can anyone really know the will of God?

These and other questions have done battle in my mind as I’ve tried to work out this idea of prayer.  Why does prayer come so naturally to some people?

But as I’ve grappled with this, I have come to realize that it’s not really about my questions but more about my heart.  For a long time I allowed my questions to hinder my pursuit of prayer.

Prayer is a conversation with my Heavenly Father.  Prayer is pouring out my heart to Him.  It’s declaring my frailness and His strength, my simplemindedness and His wisdom, my need and His provision.

Prayer is a place of humility . . .  Prayer admits that we NEED God, that we are DEPENDENT on Him, that we CANNOT do it without Him.
But there’s something inside of me that thinks I need to try and solve this problem on my own and then if all else fails, I will turn to God and seek His help.  Could my struggle with prayer be more about my pride and hesitancy to humble myself before Him?

Just as a loyal citizen kneels before their king to declare their submission to his decisions, laws and judgments, we proclaim the same thing when we pray.  Turning to God in prayer for guidance and help declares that, “He is God and we are not.”  It’s our way of surrendering to His Ways, His Work and His Will for our lives.

. . . If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7.14

Pride will overthrow prayer every time but humbleness opens the heavens!

What will your journey be?  Where will God lead you?  Where will He lead our church?

I’m watching with eyes wide open, expectantly waiting!

- Kristi Huseby