Monday, February 28, 2011

Personal Destiny

Change is inevitable in life. Interestingly it often comes slowly, however; there are those events that change our lives in an instant.

This week we'll be talking about where or how we think God is leading us, what our personal vision is. Obtaining a God-given destiny is not a competition, but the fulfillment of His personal promise to each one of us.

For those of us that are middle-aged or older, we have enough history to look back and see God at work in the different seasons of our lives. That length of experience can be good, or it an actually cause us to be jaded about life. Think about the woman who had the issue of blood (Matthew 9:20) or the man born blind (John 9:1). God changed their life in an instant. Even the twelve were going along in life and then Jesus showed up; it was radical.

Conversely, there are Bible characters that spent years after an encounter with God, seemingly doing nothing; like Moses for example. Even Paul spent years in Arabia after his conversion (Galatians 1) before the big stuff started happening.

For those of you who are regular readers of Kingdom Bloggers or Fire & Grace, you know that I have struggled with this very concept. As Christians, I believe that we all do. I have heard the following verse preached many times; especially as part of corporate church visions.

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.

As I was teaching my class a few weeks ago, I realized that not only had I given up on desiring spiritual gifts, and in fact, even using the ones I already had, but worse, I did not have a personal vision. It was a meditative ride home to say the least. Alone with my own thoughts, soft instrumental music playing, I thought about all the failures. Why is it that I continue to forget my own redemption and that the mind is the battleground of the Devil?

I am what God has made me, and He's pretty happy with the results - snap out of it David!

I decided to start to pray and meditate on my own destiny. In fact that is how my new book came about. I had to remind myself of the ways in which God touched my life in so many different ways over the decades. I needed to remind myself of what I am no longer because I have experienced Jesus - the real Jesus!

My personal vision is to be there for my family, and I pray for them twice each day. I am part of a local church body, and I pray an hour or so each week about how I can serve them (not what they can do or me). I have decided that he destiny that God is creating here, will in fact be different from all the rest because I have a promise. (I have had it all along.) Regardless of what life looks like, God is on my team, and there is work to be done before I achieve glory.

I used to think that there was some grand plan that I needed to figure out in life, but there isn't. Sure, God has spoken certain goals for my life through prophetic people, but that is not the plan, nor the vision. Who among us that has been saved for 10+ years doesn't have some sort of idea where God would like to use us?

The answer to David's destiny, is this:

John 5:19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

As a son of the Most High, all I have to do is learn to see what the Father is doing, and then do it. It takes a lot of pressure off, and I can start right now. I only need to do the next God thing. Whew!

How about you, are you seeing the little step that reach to a rich destiny in the Kingdom?

Friday, February 25, 2011

God said to...that's all I need to know.

My wife often accuses me of being full of useless information. There are nights we watch Jeopardy together, and I breeze through certain categories (although struggle in others).  But what good does all that knowledge really do without the wisdom to apply it in practical matters?

The same can be said about Biblical knowledge. I know many very smart people who can quote Scripture with amazing recall. But without the wisdom to give that knowledge direction, or put it into action, God can't really use the effort in the Kingdom.

Of course, a message of knowledge comes directly from the Holy Spirit, a spiritual gift from God. I believe when God provides a message of knowledge, He most always includes a message of wisdom at some point too. The Bible is full of examples where God gives a message of wisdom: Noah, Abraham to leave Mesopotamia, Moses, and Joshua to cross the Jordan River to name but a few.

But we see more often God giving a message of knowledge (information) combined with a message of wisdom (direction): Moses told to speak to Pharaoh on the banks of the Nile River in Exodus 7:14-15 is a great example of this, or Peter being told by the Spirit three men were looking for him (information) and for him to go to them and go with them (direction) in Acts 10:19-20.

I literally crave such gifts from God.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 (NIV)

As a husband, father and teacher at church, I pray regularly for the type of wisdom James speaks of in his Epistle. I need God's daily guidance and direction to better perform my responsibilities in a manner pleasing to Him, and I know He blesses me with that guidance because I take the time to listen after the request.

But the spiritual gift of a message of wisdom is on a completely different level. I find it intriguing that in most every case mentioned in the Bible where God provides a message of knowledge and/or a message of wisdom,  the recipient is initially shocked, denies or even rebukes the message. Hopefully, the hesitation comes from a state of humility and being overcome by the awe of God speaking directly to the person through the Spirit.

I know without doubt such a spiritual gift would bring me to my knees in complete humiliation...yet further evidence my prayer request for wisdom are being answered.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

What'd He do that for?!

Amazement. That's what I feel whenever I think about all God does for all of humanity; does for me. I am so unworthy yet He chose to save me, give me His Holy Spirit to live inside of me, and then He even gives me gifts so that I can take part in His work. Unbelievable.

When we talk about spiritual gifts, it's ALL about God. It's not to any of our credit what gifting God has given us, but is all to His glory. It's GOD who GAVE us these gifts, it's all about His supreme goodness to us, and though us.

Repeatedly in my life God has chosen to gift and use me in the areas of Mercy, Encouragement, and Leadership. Always He has used these gifts through me to shower His love on the people in my life; at home, at church, at work, and everywhere else that I go.

Routinely I'm drawn to what some people may call "down and outers". Unshowered, "rag tag" type folks on the street will almost always stop and talk to me. I get to tell them how God loves them and wants to bring them to Himself and bless them. I get to give them food and/or money. I get to show them respect and listen to what they have to say. I know that some people struggle with feeling judgmental toward these type of people, or even feeling just plain uncomfortable. But God in me doesn't leave room for those type feelings. In my jobs I've almost always worked in settings that served the disenfranchised (mentally ill, developmentally disabled, severely chemically addicted, etc.); I think that's because God's made me motivated by mercy.

On a regular basis clerks in stores, or at my yearly work physical location, or bank tellers, etc. will just start telling me their woes and I get to love on them. Speak words of encouragement over their troubles. Often this is only for a few brief moments, and then I'll go on my way praying for them silently. Every great once in a while I get to actually pray God's blessing over them.

Throughout my life God has given me opportunities at my school, work, or church to have a special word of hope and encouragement for someone. Often I'll write it down on a card and mail it to them. I never cease to be amazed at how blessed people are by these cards (although why I'm amazed is rather silly since it's God who is leading me and it is He who is giving me the words of encouragement to speak to their hearts).

I can remember one really cool work experience where God blessed both myself and others by letting me use these words of encouragement that He speaks to my heart for others. It was when I was an administrator of a secured psychiatric facility and I'd been there less than 8 months. That particular facility had struggled keeping a director of nursing, and in the entire nursing department, for the prior several years. We were having a luncheon to honor the licensed nurses, there were only perhaps 9 of them. I felt impressed to set it up so that as we finished the dinner I called them each up one at a time. When they came up I gave each of them a specific word that characterized them, written on a piece of paper. Then I spoke about that nurse in relation to that word. The Lord gave me those words, even though I did not say that at work. He loved those nurses through me, and boy did they respond. Their hearts were open and they ate it up! Our world is tough and people respond to mercy that chooses to not focus on their faults and to words of encouragement.

Frequently through the years God's blessed me with opportunities through the church or in the community to facilitate small groups. Some of these groups have been Bible study oriented, some recovery oriented, some of a purely social nature. It seems like during those groups He's almost always using my mouth to speak words of mercy and encouragement to the participants.

It's been said that one simple way to tell what gifts God has given to you, is to look at what He's doing though you. From as early on as elementary school, I've routinely ended up in charge of things. Now this would seem normal if I was outgoing and driven, but I'm not. I'm what Meyer Friedman and his colleagues would have classified as a Type B Personality; laid back, wants things to be so that "everybody can win", not particularly motivated by the classic signs of success. I'm even on the shy side. But, even when I try to stay back and let other people be in charge, I almost always end up in the driver's seat of things.

I believe that's because there are few people who are willing to step forward and lead. I also believe that it's because God's given me the gift of leadership. So in our local church I get to serve by joining together with a few other women who, together, we seek God for what He wants to do through and for the women in our local congregation. Together by God's leading this team makes the decisions about what directions women's ministry is going to take, what we're going to be doing, what needs to be going on. Then each of us steps out in various areas to make that vision real on the nuts and bolts level.

In my work, repeatedly through the years God's given me a vision of ways to accomplish the mission of the business, and I've been able to implement methods that bring both monetary and service success. Repeatedly through the years I've been blessed to invest in the leaders that report to me and help them develop their skills and gifts and provide them with opportunities to grow and gain recognition.

One of my all time most encouraging experiences with regard to leadership was something my oldest son, who graduated this past spring from USMA WestPoint, told me. He said that God has blessed him many times in many situations with opportunities to learn about leadership but that no one has ever taught him more about leadership than I have. That's a God thing!

You may notice as you're reading this that as I'm talking about spiritual gifts I'm not just talking about formal ministry in the church. I'm talking about day to day life at work and where ever I go. That's because I don't think life can be divided up; God works in my life where ever I am. Certainly the Bible indicates that spiritual gifts are given by God to be used in the body of Christ, which also means in the local gathering of that body. But because He's gifted us, those gifts are used wherever we are at if we will be open. Sometimes in the past I've missed out on using the gifts He's given me because I've been looking for formal "ministry" opportunities. But I've learned that all of life is the "opportunity".

Today I'm just trying to learn to be open and hear His voice and step out as He brings opportunities my way.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Desire

When I started seminary in South Dakota they made us pay money to take a whole battery of tests, including a spiritual gifts inventory.  I’ve taken them before.  Often these tests determine that I am “pastoral.”  I also found out that I was an INFP on the Myers-Briggs.  However, last summer when I took it again, I was an ESTJ.  Go figure? 

I like taking these types of tests.  I don’t treat them as the end all clue to my uniqueness but they are fun to take.  I wish sometimes though that the Holy Spirit would administer a test and tell you the results.  Surely, that test would be accurate.  Surely, you could plan your life’s work and mission around such a test. 

If you read my blogs at all, you’ve probably picked up that I have a fair amount of frustration.  I am an excellent teacher, love to teach, but have no class to teach.  The spiritual gift test is right, I am pastoral, but I have no sheep to pastor.  I am an excellent preacher, but I have no place to preach.  I am a good writer – for that at least I have the blogs.  I am an excellent administrator but I have no place to administrate.  I’m frustrated.

I’ve been told to be patient.  I’ve been told to wait on God.  I’ve been told God’s timing is perfect.  All those wonderful things I’ve been told are true and correct.  But like the woman who desperately wants a child and her biological clock is ticking, remembering my age is like a blaring alarm going off in my head.  I am getting old.  As I woke up this a.m. I had aches and pains.  How much longer can I wait? 

My husband has said to me several times in the last few days, I don’t know whether to pray for a job for you or not.  Sometimes I think you want one and other times I’m not sure.  I replied with no one will hire me because I’m too old.  If my experience is truth, I’m right about this.  I then said to him, I just want to feel like I matter.  I want to feel like the gifts that I have and the intelligence God gave me, are useful.  In other words, I want to take this love I have for people, this pastoral gift and use it to bless people. 

A few months ago I had the opportunity to minister to a wonderful group of women.  I told my story and shared my life with them.  Then I prayed with them.  For 3 more hours, one after another they came to me one by one.  I prayed, I prophesied, I gave them the jewelry off my neck, I cried, we hugged.  It was a wonderful evening.  I said to a friend that I loved each one of those women as they came for prayer.  God gave me gentle and affirming words.  Even when there was a correction in the word, I delivered it as gently and affirming as possible.  My friend, said: “That’s the pastoral gift in you.” 

I think my greatest gift, if you want to call it a gift, is to be real.  I take it as a great compliment when people say to me “your real.”  I’m being real on Kingdom Bloggers today.  I’m frustrated.  I think of a song I heard as a kid:

"I've a yearning in my heart that cannot be denied, It's a longing that has never yet been satisfied.  I want the world to know the One who loves them so, Like a flame it's burning deep inside.  To be used of God, to sing, to speak, to pray; to be used of God to show someone the way.  I long so much to feel the touch of His consuming fire; to be used of God is my desire." 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Loving Others With Our Gifts

I have been teaching a class about the gifts that God gives us to be more effective in ministry. The Bible has all sorts of lists and mentions a number of gifts singly as well. The most well known lists are 1 Corinthians 12:8-11, Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:11. If you were to read 1 Corinthians chapter 12, 13 and 14 as though they were one long chapter (which it is), you 'd begin to see why we need these gifts, and the love of Christ to encourage others.

This week your faithful Kingdom Bloggers are going to talk about the gifts they desire (or use) to love others. The gifts are one of the many evidences of a living God - which is what makes Christianity greater than any other religion.

1 Corinthians 14 Intelligibility in Worship1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.

I got saved many years ago, and I didn't have any church or Christian friends to fellowship with until five years later. I was just saved, and spent my time hoping that God would fill my requests as they floated up to Heaven. Church was pretty much a spectator sport. You listened to the pastor teach and pray, sang a few songs and went home; hopefully feeling uplifted.

One day I had quite an encounter with Jesus (Act 19:3-7). I was on fire for God and I wanted to do something for God - well except preach sermons. My evangelical friends did some street witnessing, and that didn't really grab me either. I was glad there were lists of other things to do. So I chose a few to desire. I like teaching (I was a high school teacher at the time), worship because I had a degree i music, and prophecy.

I was at a meeting and met a guy named Denny Cramer. Here is what he spoke over me that January day back in 1998. I share this because the gifts changed my Christian walk from spectatating to doing. I am also sharing it because for those that either know me personally, or through the hundreds of blogs I have written, know that every thing spoken here has come to pass.

Son, there was a day when I would have called you a reluctant leader. But God would say I have removed all the reluctance from you and I've set you afire recently. I've stirred you and I've stimulated you. And from within your belly says God truths are going to begin to come forth [prophesy]. I have made you a man of the Word, open it my son and I will begin to speak to you out of it. And the prophets says God, the prophets in my Word will become of special importance to you.

I will give you a heart for nations as well, says the Lord. And you will travel from coast to coast. And you will learn what I am doing upon the earth. You’ll pick up this truth and that truth. I see you going to several major conferences. I see several air tickets being purchased. I see you getting on a plane-- flying here, flying there, flying here, flying there.

God says I’m going to equip you. Many men will speak into your life. No longer will you be reluctant in the things of God, no longer will you be conservative. You've  said "Lord I want to stay out of the limelight." God says "sorry I disagree." Get into it, get into it, get into it! I’m going to make you a leader - listen to this - God says "there’s teaching all over you." You can teach and train, teach and train, teach and train. 

God says you need to have a little refocusing done. You've got to much activity going on, you've been out of focus this last year. '97 was a year that you were scattered, and you weren't focused quite like you need to be. God's going to focus you for 1998. YOU’RE NOT GOING TO WASTE TIME OR ENERGY! And God says resources will be no problem. I’m going to touch your finances. God says I’ve a got a financial package for you son - benefits you wouldn't believe. There’s even some writing in you. Writing, writing, writing, writing. And God says I’m going to increase his authority. Says the Lord.

(You understand that reluctance is not disobedience. It has nothing to do with him making a mistake. Some of us a reluctant. Amen.) And God is going to remove that from you and use you in a mighty way, a mighty way, a mighty way, a mighty way.

You’re going through a transition and God is with you. Oh son of God such as I have [prophecy] I give to you in Jesus name. Amen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

God blessed me in a mighty way with His love...again.

This was my very first blog post back in 2008. It was in honor of my Valentine on Monday back still rings true today. I love you Candice with all my heart.

Music is such an important part of most people's lives today. It can lift our spirits, mellow us out, fire us up, drag us down…it pretty much always invokes an emotional response when we listen on one level or another.

Today while driving home from work, I experienced one of those emotions in a major way. You see, I was driving along in my own little private world of thoughts and images, where the sky is always Dodger blue and the mailbox is only filled with birthday cards. Yeah, and you always have ice cream in the freezer that has never been opened before…any way…that's when Josh Groban's tenor voice filled my car with a very familiar song.

When I am down and oh my soul so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdens me
Then I am still and wait here in the silence
Until you come and sit a while with me

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains
You raise me to walk on stormy seas
I am strong when I am on your shoulders
You raise me up to more than I can be...

My eyes filled with tears as I drove along heading directly for the person that embodies that very song for me. She will be waiting for me, glad to see me once again…wait a minute…she? That's a Christian song about Jesus isn't it?

There was a very difficult time in my life when that precise thought, about that very song, confused me. You see, I was separated from her, but she, just like my Savior, stood by me and kept me strong, faithful and focused. I would hear Josh Groban and feel equally emotional about the lyrics that described what both meant to me. So much…so strong.

Guilt would then lead to prayer and study in God's word about why I was confusing the two, when one day in reading I came across Ephesians 5:25:

Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church…

That's when I clearly came to the understanding that I'm supposed to love her, yes my beautiful wife and soul mate, just as strong as Jesus loves me…meaning only He comes before her in my heart and soul. A wonderful peace came over me. I felt that peace today again on the way home to be with her.

Marriage is an important bond to God. He gave us so much in His word about what He expects in our marriages. I'm so glad I have a marriage built on the foundation of God. I'm most appreciative He blessed me with a wonderful woman who is only second to Him. She lifts me up…just like Jesus.

My wish is that God blesses you, as He has me, with an amazing spouse….or maybe, He has already.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

What's your heart full of?

Since Valentine’s Day was this week, we’re celebrating Love in general, and our spouses in specific, here at Kingdom Bloggers this week.

My husband John and I wed in July 2005. This wasn’t either of our’s first marriage and we’d both been single for quite a while. We were both grateful to God to have found one another.

I’d been dating quite a bit the couple of years before I met John and was basically burned out on the whole process. I’d found to my great disappointment that even people who said that they were Christians did not necessarily live by Christian values. So you can imagine my great delight (even if I was a bit uncomfortable) when on our third date John turned to me and looked me straight in the eyes and proclaimed “I don’t believe in having sex outside of marriage. Do you?”

John was a breath of fresh air in a world where it seemed everyone was pretending that doing things their own way was OK, and that God didn’t really mean what He said in the Bible. I appreciated a man who not only lived out His faith, but who also made himself accountable to stay true to what he believed.

The fact that we both have the same faith has made all the difference in the world to our relationship.

Getting married when one is older brings with it a whole set of challenges. John has likened our relationship to the merging of two great and mighty rivers; of course there is upset/friction when they come together. Since we’d both lived many years prior to our coming together, each had a few children (he 6 and me 3), and both had careers, we were fully developed people (rivers vrs streams) and our merger has sometimes created big crashs/splashs.

But we both love God and want His will more than anything else. We both pray. God has been so good and so faithful to open each of our eyes over the past few years to new ways of thinking and doing things. John says that he thinks marriage is great because it helps you become less selfish. He says that he thinks it’s easy when you’re single and are doing everything your own way to think you’re so spiritually mature, but then you enter into a relationship and no longer live just for yourself, then you find out how mature you really aren’t.

Another phrase of John’s that I appreciate is that he says that we’ve just got to give each other a lot of grace, just like Jesus gives us.

I feel so grateful to God for John. This man really loves me. This past Saturday, we were celebrating Valentine’s day early since Monday would be a work day. During the course of our time together John referred to that Bible verse from Ephesians 3:20 that talks about how God can do more for us than we could even imagine, than our wildest dreams. John talked about how grateful he is for our wonderful home in the mountains, and for getting to have me for a wife. It blows my mind that he actually sees me as such a great thing!

So during this Valentine’s celebration I have a heart of thanksgiving for this man with whom God has blessed me.

What about you, what's your heart full of at Valentine's Day?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Love is not enough

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day.  I hope your day was pleasant.  I saw someone post on Facebook that Valentine’s Day is not something you can be neutral about.  For some it is a wonderful day full of hearts, flowers, and romance.  For others it is lonely and painful.  For some, who’ve recently lost a spouse or a loved one, it is a day you’d like to stay in bed and ignore.

I’ve written about my love story related to Valentine’s Day and you can read it here.  I thought yesterday, that was probably the first and last most romantic thing my husband ever did.  He tends to forget Valentine’s Day now until the very last minute.  He did take me for a nice meal last night and even though I was with him when he bought the roses, he still bought them.  I guess after 33 years I am just very thankful we are still together on Valentine’s Day.

Marriage and any relationship is a lot of hard work.  There are lots of hard times.  There are lots of times it would be easy to give up.  When my first husband abandoned me, there was a stigma with divorce.  I remember hanging my head in shame even though I was the one abandoned.  It’s not that way anymore.  That’s both a good thing overall.  However, it does make it easier to bail when the going gets rough. 

Here in Nashville on the news last night, they found a couple that had been married for 65 years.  They were so sweet, and still so in love.  He said it was love at first sight.  She said, she wasn’t so sure at first.  They met at a revival.  They still have their love letters from when he fought in WWII.  I don’t know if I will live long enough to celebrate 65 years with my hubby, but I sure hope we do.

We beat the odds in so many ways.  We come from different countries, different cultures, and even different religions.  We ‘ve both hurt each other at times.  We’ve probably both felt like throwing in the towel more than once.  But I’ve discovered that the secret is perseverance, commitment, forgiveness, and loyalty.  I think that while we do love each other, sometimes it’s not enough. 

I had a friend who was having a hard time in his marriage.  He came to me for advice.  He was desperate.  He’d waited a long time to marry but his wife wasn’t so sure about staying in the relationship.  I told him that marriage was one of the hardest things he’d ever do and the most worth it.  I shared with him to hang in there – he did, they have four kids now and are still married. 

I think that’s what 1 Corinthians is saying too.  It says that if you love you just don’t give up.  I was also thinking about how God loves us.  He loves us so completely and unconditionally that He just won’t give up.  So even if you didn’t have a valentine to share your day with yesterday, Jesus is your valentine that will never ever leave you!  

Friday, February 11, 2011

I look forward to the day when it will truly never end...

One of the most difficult verses for me to follow from the Holy Bible might surprise you...

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (New King James Version):

 Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do I stand alone in being challenged by this Scripture? Somehow...I don't think I do.

We are all very busy people. Thank God. During the time Jesus walked this planet, people spent the vast majority of each day thinking about where the next meal would come from and making it come about. That hasn't changed today for many parts of the world either. Yes, we are busy people...but busy at what?

Of course, the standard answer would be life. So tell me, how did life get so busy Stop for just a moment and imagine the life of Adam and Eve for but a single day in the Garden. Nice thought huh? God provided them with everything they needed or could imagine to need. Disobedience lead to their same struggle to survive that we endure today. Really? For most everyone reading this, the daily struggle isn't so much about survival as it is about status and comfort...luxurious comfort at that.

Don't get me wrong! I thank God that my children live a very comfortable home with cabinets full of food, they bath daily in drinking water which is unheard of in most of the world, and that their standard of living far exceeds 99% of all the human beings that have ever existed on the planet. Yet, I remain a busy body with echos of Robert Frost's famous poetic line- ...but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep...  

So, where do I fit God into this self-induced, chaotic schedule called life? After all, that should be priority number one. Fact is, I cherish the daily time I spend with Him. Most of it is completely sporatic and spontaneous. A blessing I often acknowledge in appreciation during worship or prayer.

One thing I've managed to build into my daily routine at work is prayer breaks. Ususally twice a  day, I close my door for a few minutes and spend that time in prayer. I've also manged to use my desktop to help keep me focused by installing a daily verse application that gives me random Scriptures to ponder each day along with an updated prayer list of pressing issues for other people.

I stare at a computer screen a lot during the workday. It only makes sense to incorporate my spiritual focus into the work mix. Another benefit I've discovered is the breaks also help manage my stress. Some of you may wonder, 'How can sitting in front of a computer screen all day be stressful?' My response would simply be (with kindness)...'Walk in these shoes first.'

By the way, I'm still working on the Thessalonians verses...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How do you spend time with God?

As I've thought about our theme this week of creative ways to spend time with God I've been reminded of a song by Steven Curtis Chapman, thought about how mind boggling it is that God would want to spend time with me, and pondered how once a day is not enough.

Back in the early 90s Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song entitled The Great Adventure that always resounded for me; the song opens up with these lyrics:

"Started out this morning
In the usual way
Chasing thoughts inside my head
Of all I had to do today
Another time around the circle
Try to make it better than the last

I opened up the bible
And I read about me
Said I'd been a prisoner
And God's grace had set me free

And somewhere between the pages

It hit me like a lightning bolt
I saw a big frontier in front of me
And I heard somebody say "let's go""

Chapman's lyrics describe my experience to a T. Maybe it's because I'm a "do-er" and a list maker,but for whatever the reason, if I'm left to what comes naturally I'll start each morning almost obsessed with thoughts of what I want to accomplish and all I need to get done. What I've found however is that if I follow that trend, I never get where I want to go. Instead I just wind up tired.

Conversely, I've found time and time again that, if, instead of following that natural bent, I choose to make time each morning to spend just opening the pages of the Bible and reading for a little while, until God speaks to my heart, I see myself in the pages of scripture. The Holy Spirit speaks to my heart; sometimes it's words of hope and encouragement, sometimes it's sharp conviction of my sin, sometimes it's the overwhelming flood of His love, sometimes it's practical wisdom about events in my life. But whatever it is, it always shifts my focus and gives me a different perspective. Like Chapman describes in the song above as "a big frontier".

How I actually "do" this varies depending on what's going on in my life. Right now it's all about my life-in-my-car. I drop my sons off at school just past 6:30AM and then head on in to work. Since this gets me there earlier than needed, and since I have several different locations where I may be starting my work day on any particular day, I've developed several locations where I'm able to park my car and sit and have some time for praying and reading the Bible before I go on in to work. This morning time is typically simply a time when I read and listen for God's voice. It's not a deep study and I don't have any kind of reading plan that I must get a certain amount read. I just read until God impresses something on me for that day, and then I stop. Right now I'm using The Message paraphrase because it's refreshing for me. Frequently I'll find that I'll read the same portion of scripture for a few days in a row. It's like my heart is hard ground and I need to keep re-reading until God's written word, and the revelation He wants to bring through it, can sink into my heart. Until those words become part of the ongoing way my mind thinks.

Whenever I think about these times I feel kind of excited. I'm the same way about when I get to spend one on one times with those few very close friends of mine. But the thing that I just can't seem to get past, is that God actually wants to spend time with me. I mean God - as in the All Powerful Creator of the Universe, the Commander of hosts of the armies of heaven, the One who always has been and always will be - GOD - is willing to spend time with me. I'm reminded of David's words from Psalm 8:3-5 when he asks God why He is wiling to even bother with man.

As precious as that morning time is, it's never enough.

Typically I've got some kind of on-going Bible study in which I'm involved that I'll take 1-5 time segments each week to study. How many time segments I take just depends on how my schedule is any given week, or if the particular study in which I'm involved is with other people and involves any sort of commitment. I've always got some kind of Christian book that I'm reading; most often just a chapter every week or so. Again, I find that I'm one of those people who requires time to process what I read.

I like to pray in the morning before I take that time out to read. I like to pray whenever God brings people to my mind throughout the day to pray for. Sometimes I know things to pray for people, sometimes I'll just come in contact with someone and feel impressed to take a few moments to pray for them. When I pray for people sometimes I pray with my understanding, and sometimes I have no idea what to say but God's spirit intercedes through me. I like to pray when tough situations arise and I need to reach out to God. I like to pray my gratitude when unexpected blessings come way; things like getting to see the pink sky behind the majestic mountains as I'm driving to work, or my middle son actually says something nice to me, or I accomplish something that makes life better for one of my clients. I like to pray and list out a bunch of the great things God has done for me when I'm feeling discouraged. Sometimes I just want to be near God but don't know what to say, so I go somewhere I can be alone and just be there.

What about you, how do you spend time with God?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Everywhere and Anywhere

Creativity is one of my gifts. However, creatively finding time to spend with God sounds almost like an oxymoron. I think we conjure up in our minds ideas about how we have to be disciplined in our time with God. It involved perhaps reading through the Bible in a systematic way. Or perhaps your tradition dictates certain prayers at certain times of the day.

I've done that. I've used a "daily office" book to bring discipline to my life. I plan to do it again this year for Lent. Having no grown up in a church that observed Lent, I rather enjoy it. If I had done it all my life, I might not. Here is a source on line for the prayers and readings for right now.  I've found this to be a wonderful way to focus on God.

I also have discovered a little book by a Spanish Catholic names Francois Fenelon named Letting Go.  I like it because I can read an entry in a few minutes and amazingly, it always seems to touch my soul when I do.  

Frankly, in many ways I am a pretty undisciplined follower.  I took Spiritual Formation at the seminary and realized that I fell far short in the idea of spiritual discipline.  I really have no excuse other than I am lazy.

However, I think of sermon I preached one time.  I've always been puzzled by the scripture to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  The Bible also tells us to prayer everywhere, all the time, about everything.  If we give that a ritualistic understanding, we probably should be in a monastery or convent.  Sometimes I think that I'd like that, but since God hasn't called me to that lifestyle, I have been perplexed as to how to do that - especially as "undisciplined" as I am.

In this sermon, I preached on The Lord's Prayer, The Our Father... I realized that while this is prayer it is also a prescription for a lifestyle.  While it may be a cop out for my lack of discipline, I try to live a lifestyle that keeps in constant communication with God.  I remember that He is with me at all times, in all places.  My heart can and often does stay in constant communication with Him.  Kind of reminds me of the old song: And He walks with me and He talks with me - and He tells me I am His own ...

Monday, February 7, 2011

How Much Time Is a Long Time?

I was driving northwest, heading to church which is an hour from my home. I flipped on some soaking music from the iPod. My spirit was excited about Jesus! I started to pray, first in English, and then who knows what happened, but my spirit sort of went on auto-pilot. Not long after, I realized that not only was my heart full, but 30 minutes had passed. As I rolled off the exit ramp, I felt a wonderful communion with Jesus; I pressed on for the pressed of the ride.

This week your faithful Kingdom Bloggers are going to write about creative ways to spend time with God. Or possibly a better topic title would be, fitting God into an already busy life.

I work in Boston, and rush hour borders on the absurd. I've been teaching a class (for the first time) which has taken hours and hours of preparation, writing a 30 page book, and creating 250 Powerpoint screens. Not to mention that it takes about 2 hours to get there and over an hour to get home. Some days I wonder how I am going to fit sleep into my day, forget trying to squish God into the cracks between breathing and exhaling.

Here is what David does to be with he beloved Savior.
- I am often up between 4 and 5 am. I pray until I fall back to sleep, if I actually do. I have a list of friends who are ill and of course my family is on the list. I pray for the folks in my class, for the class, and sometimes other stuff - more often I just enjoy the presence of God.
- I can't concentrate on Jesus while I am navigating the Zipper Ride between home and work, so that is out. As soon as I get to my desk, I flip on some soaking music and use the time to pray or read the Bible online. Some days it's 30 minutes, some days I am a few minutes late and there isn't' time.
- I write many of my blogs at lunch - if I get one, and that is a form of study and meditation for me.
- I listen to all types of Christian music for 8+ hours a day. In between meetings and phone calls, it helps me focus on my Saviour. I can pray while I write programming code, so I often do.
- I play my guitar about 20-30 minutes a day, and that is a time when I sometimes commune with my God. Other days I just rock out!

Here is what I don't do - I don't have a specific reading and prayer time. I pray on-and-off all day, and some times it is for hours. I read the Bible on-and-off all day as things come to me in prayer. I have a relationship with Jesus, so I just don't get all religious about quiet times and stuff like that. I read two books that helped me live this lifestyle of constant communion with God: The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, and The Release of the Spirit by Watchman Nee.

I have heard so many teachings on how to start by spending 5 minutes praying, or reading the Bible through in a year. I have done that, but what works for me is being honest with the Lord, and dedicating as much time as I possibly can to setting my life up in such a way that God will be at every corner, and every crossroad in it. A long time ago, I had an experience with the Holy Spirit, and his presence has been with me in a way in which I can't easily describe. If I simply take even one thought, and turn it to Him, his presence is instantaneous.

And don't tell anyone, if the sermon is boring, I read the bible for an hour on Sunday morning.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Let me give thanks for His mercy...

Shakespeare's lesser known play, given name apparently from the well known proverb, would have been better suited called The End Justifies the Means. That's because the story is filled with deceit and fraudulent acts leading up to an outcome that...well... ends well for one of the story's main characters.

It's a horrible read and hopefully and much better play...

I'm not sure I adhere to the end justifies the means philosophy at this point in my life. Although I have lived before at my very foundation following that principle, the resulting chased end is never truly quite satisfying when you step on and over others to achieve it. You become drained of your joy at some point in the process.

God's Word teaches us that struggles are a part of our earthly walk. Jesus didn't escape the trials and temptations that result from a fallen world during His time on Earth. Satan was given his shots at our Savior each step of His journey to save mankind. Thank God that Christ never faltered or took short cuts to that glorious Resurrection day He overcame the grave and fulfilled the Holy promise!

If I'm to use Jesus as my template in conducting my own life, then why would I compromise or take short cuts myself? I can look back on a number of situations in my life when doing so may have resulted in the desired outcome...but getting there was far from Christ-like.

That's not to say that good ending can't come from bad circumstances.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

One of my personal pet peeves is to hear Christians accuse someone of finding God just because they're in some type of trouble (aka the jailhouse religion syndrome). Prominent public figures like Michael Vick and one of this weekend's Super Bowl quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger, both come to mind. Shouldn't we rejoice in their revelation instead of reject their claims with cynicism? Besides, if we question their sincerity without being witness to their actions, then we become guilty of being judgmental...and we all should know as Christians what God's Word says about more than one place in Scripture.

There are so many personal stories from this week's topic I could have shared that it was difficult to chose just one. Instead, I decided to take my time this week and just thank God that He looks at our heart above all else. I'm reassured that the numerous messes I've found, or maybe even will find, myself in the midst can more easily be overcome by letting go and letting God. That's letting go of my understanding and letting God be my guiding lead.

I need to look no farther than Moses, Abraham, David, and Paul (just to name a few) to see examples of bad circumstances and decisions being ultimately used for God's glory. That's pretty good company to keep.

God bless you Forbes family...may His comforting arms hold you tight during this time of loss.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

God Can Unscramble Eggs

This has been a tough week. I have been teaching a class at church, recording a CD, writing 4 blogs a week, working and taking care of my family along with the mountains of snow we have received in New England. And I lost a wonderful friend to cancer this past Saturday.

Forgive me for a short blog. It is a great topic, how "God took a bad situation and turned it around." There are so many things that have been messed up in my life. I was an alcoholic and drug addict before I was 22. I have been divorced and remarried. I have done more bad stuff then most and lived with lots of shame because of it.

All through my life the teachers and the parents said I would never amount to much. I got fired from jobs, and finally ran off to college to escape. I found Jesus in there somewhere. I rose to the level of failure in ministry, and gave up all together. I received a second chance and did missions to Brazil and Norway. God wasn't quite done with me yet.

I met Mary Anne, and slowly I gave up ministry aspirations all together. Three and half years I was in the desert hoping to make a friend at church, worship God in power and lead a life with significance. Instead I was empty at church. I longed to be home with my family, and if they didn't go with me, I stayed home.

One day I woke up and the Lord asked me to go to a new church - one in which I had met the pastor before. He and I had been at a few conferences together over the years. That was last year. Now I am teaching a class and receiving phone calls; in fact I have to schedule them.

God has taken me out of the desert, and is now restoring the joy of my salvation.

Psalm 40
 1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
   he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
   out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
   and gave me a firm place to stand.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
   a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
   and put their trust in him.

 4 Blessed is the one
   who trusts in the LORD,
who does not look to the proud,
   to those who turn aside to false gods.[b]
5 Many, LORD my God,
   are the wonders you have done,
   the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
   were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
   they would be too many to declare.