Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Patience in Waiting

Psalm 37: 7
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him…

Patience… We often will find ourselves admitting to our impatience with people, or circumstances or even with ourselves for how slowly we are progressing in our faith journey, but if we really truly reflect on our impatience, I think we would find that at times, it is with God that we are impatient.

He is not changing this person, or making these circumstances go away, alleviating the pain… He is not answering our prayers in the way, or in the timing of how we would like it.

Our lives are filled with waiting.  We must learn to live our lives within the waiting.  To learn to be content in all circumstances, joyous times and times filled with sorrow.  Times of waiting in the noise and times of waiting in the silence.

And Scripture is filled with stories of waiting.  Moses, Elijah, Abraham, Noah…and David to name a very few.  I would say that pretty much every account of a life in the Bible has some form of waiting in it because that is what life consists of.

David was anointed king as a young man, but how many years did he wait to become king?  And his waiting was not a peaceful waiting.  His life was full of trials, yet I love his writing.

 For instance in Psalm 13 it starts out:

How long, O Lord?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?...

But he goes on and ends his Psalm with:
But I trust in your unfailing love, my heart rejoices in your salvation.
 I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.

In the very end of the Scriptures, the last words in Revelations attests to what we wait for.
Rev. 22:20  He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.

 Yes, our life is a life of waiting…learn to live your life within the waiting.  A life for the One in whom we wait for…

I Wait
The empty of my heart impels me forward.
I seek you at the water’s edge.
I listen for your footsteps next to mine
In the quiet of the forest.
I close my eyes and lift my face towards the sun,
yearning for your warm caress on cheek. 
Or spread my fingers to drops of rain
To feel your touch.
I sing out loud in Your house filled with worshipers
With the beat of Your music inside my soul.
Or sit alone in an empty room,
with silent liquid prayers spilling down my face.
I wait… I wait for that day
When I will see You, I will hear You, I will feel You.
The yearning will be satisfied.
The empty will be whole.
Your fire will consume me with white hot heat.
This body will no longer capture me,
with joyful song my soul released,
Forever to be with Thee.
Teach us to wait patiently for You, both in short periods of time for a specific answer to prayer, as well as a continuous life practice.  Help us to grasp that this world is going to be full of trials and tribulations, and that what we wait for and long for within our souls will not be completely satisfied until we are reunited with You. Give us Your joy and peace that surpasses all understanding as we wait for You.
In Jesus Name,

- Sue Parrott

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Committed Hearts

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. -2 Chronicles 16:9a (NIV)

It’s incredible to think that at this moment, God is searching the earth for hearts that are fully committed to him so that He can be reinforcing them with His strength!  After reflecting on this verse, I had to ask God, “How do I get one of those – one of those fully committed hearts that You find so attractive?”  Indulge me as I share some thoughts that came to me and scripture I found as I meditated on this:

God can give me a fully committed (undivided) heart.

Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;

give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever. (Psalm 86:11-12)

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19)

Gaining a fully committed heart will require God to clean out what’s hidden there. This may be painful for me, but God is not surprised by the condition of my heart and he desires to deal with it.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8-9)

Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…. (Joel 2:13)

Whatever’s in my heart, God wants me to pour it out before him. (This includes any disappointment or anger I may be harboring against him.)

Arise, cry out in the night,
as the watches of the night begin;
pour out your heart like water
in the presence of the Lord. Lamentations 2:19a

God is incredibly gentle. He has a way of dealing with my sin and at the same time covering me with his grace.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

God is incredibly gracious. If I take one step toward him, he takes 10 steps toward me – the same way the prodigal’s father ran to meet his son who returned home with a humble heart.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)

God promises that if we seek him, we’ll find him.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

There are things I can do (things like praying, fasting, mediating, obeying and waiting on God) to position my heart so that God can change it.

Let's pray!

Father, create in us hearts that are fully committed to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 - CJ Ganzevoort

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Audacity

“It is absolutely imperative at the outset that you come to terms with this simple yet life-changing truth:  God is for you.  If you don’t believe that, then you’ll pray small timid prayers; if you do believe it, then you’ll pray big audacious prayers.  And one way or another, your small timid prayers or big audacious prayers will change the trajectory of your life and turn you into two totally different people.  Prayers are prophecies.  They are the best predictors of your spiritual future.  Who you become is determined by how you pray.  Ultimately, the transcript of your prayers becomes the script of your life.”
                                                                                              Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker

How would your life be different if you suddenly realized that you had the incredible power of God, the same power that resurrected him from the grave, at your disposal?  What would our prayer lives look like if we all became smitten, bold, and obedient to the call we have for all of us to follow the example of Jesus like the apostle Paul did?  He had a vision for the church that was impossibly….visionary!  He was consumed by it.

“…I am focusing all my energies on this one thing;  Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize…”  Phillipians 4:13-14

“…I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him….As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead…”   Philippians 3:8-10

What is consuming your thoughts today?  Or more importantly who?  Is Christ anywhere in there? Do you pray big audacious prayers?  No?  Do you not think that God has big audacious plans for you and for the church?  Yes?  Are they your plans, or God’s?  Ouch.

There is a book written by Jim Collins that business types love to quote called “Good to Great”.  In it, Collins stresses the importance of setting “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals”, or BHAG’s.  These are, according to Collins, needed to motivate individuals or companies onward and upward toward the seemingly impossible.  Without these goals, the business peaks, then declines, and eventually dies.

Well in the church, how about we actually pray for the impossible?  How about we pray about things that are absolutely humanly impossible regardless of how much skill, money, fortune, education or manpower we have?  Do you believe that God answers our Big Hairy Audacious Prayers?  Our very own  BHAP’s?  I’m beginning to.  And the boldness that comes from knowing him is just the kind of thing that should lead us to believe that he is the God of amazing results when we put our confidence fully in him.  He works, not only within our human experience, but he works outside of it, beyond anything that we could possibly comprehend.  And he does it all on behalf of those who love him.  There is no natural law to restrain or control him.  And Paul actually teaches strange things like “…beyond all we could ask or think…”, or “…wrestling not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities”.

How can we expect to succeed in such things if we keep bringing our peashooter smart-sounding prayers to a spiritual tank battle?  Want to change the world?  Become a man or woman of constant prayer.  Become one of the embers that God is scraping together with so many others and getting ready to set ablaze.  Become one of the “quiet uprising of the broken”.   All of this begins by….you guessed it….waiting.  He will direct our prayers, and if we’re not listening and quiet, our prayers will be timid.  The key to understanding this is by waiting.  Don’t hear me wrong here, read your Bible, fast often, meet with your small group, come to church, but wait on the Lord while you’re doing these things.  Call out to him constantly, asking for the mind of Christ in all things. 
 “I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him.  This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand…”   Ephesians 1:19-20a

“God help us today to begin to consider your call on our lives to make you our everything.  We can’t do that without you.  In the power of your Spirit that resides in us, gently begin to break down anything within us and among us in the church which limits, crowds out, or rejects the fullness of the love and power that you have made available to us today.  Help us to walk in that confidence together in the body.  Cause us to believe.  Drive out our fears and pride and unbelief.  Place on our minds and in our hearts the things that matter to you so we can begin to pray with great purpose and become witnesses to your amazing work among us.  Thank you Father.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”

- Doug Bishop

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Wild and Crazy Faith

 What would cause someone to go against the tide of social influence?  What would make them stand up against a vast amount of their peers and refuse to go along with what they believe? 

 Peer pressure is a powerful force and few can stand against it.  However, there were two men in the Bible who did just that . . .

Caleb and Joshua were chosen, along with ten other men, to explore the Promised Land and give a report to Moses and the people. 

When they returned ten of the spies were against conquering the land.  This is what they said, “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there.  All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”  (Numbers 13:32-33 NLV)

Caleb and Joshua disagreed!  This is what Caleb said “Let’s go at once to take the land, we can certainly conquer it!” (Numbers 13:30 NLV) 

“But all the people began to cry and weep.  Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron.”(Numbers 14:1-2 NLV)

What is amazing is Joshua and Caleb’s response to all of this.  By this time, you would think that they would have given in to this incredible amount of pressure but they didn’t. 

Look what they said, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land!  And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey.  Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” (Number 14:7-9 NLV) 

What caused Caleb and Joshua to stand against the tide of social influence?  When everyone else was trembling in fear because of the vast fortified cities and the giants in the land, they were ready to march ahead. 

They knew their God!

They had seen over and over again God’s mighty work on their behalf.  They had witnessed His constant faithfulness and they believed!

 They saw the Promised Land through different eyes.  They understood that the God who created the Universe, who hung the stars in space and formed the land would stand with them, go before them and they had nothing to fear!

 In the eyes of the Israelites, Caleb and Joshua had an outlandish faith!  Their faith was wild and crazy and completely illogical.  But this wild and crazy faith was rooted in an amazing, outlandish God who had proven Himself over and over to them.

What kind of faith do we have?  How big is our God?  Do we trust Him when things seem impossible, when we can’t see what He is doing?  Are we viewing our life through earthly lenses or through heavenly ones?  Do we believe we have an outlandish God? 

The only way to develop this kind of faith is to KNOW our God.  So let’s get into His Word and down on our knees. 

“This is what the Lord says:  “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches.  But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone; that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love . . .” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 NLV)
- Kristi Huseby