Sunday, August 30, 2009

Seven days of prayer and repentance for our church leaders.

This Sunday we were studying Mark 9:30-50. In light of this passage, we are taking seven days to pray for our Elders, staff, and church leaders. Maythe Holy Spirit reveal any sin that hinders us from serving. May the Holy Spirit bring a fresh wave of repentance. May the Holy Spirit give us a will to change. And then may the Holy Spirit bring rain on prepared soil so that we see a crop 30, 60, and 100 fold.

Monday: Made deeply and painfully aware of our selfish agendas in ministry.

Tuesday: Receive everyone as we do children, with no thought of their accomplishments, their influence, their fame, or their gifts.

Wednesday: Die to all competitive attitudes in ministry.

Thursday: Promptly and decisively discard our sin that we might not be rendered useless or hurt others.

Friday: Rejoice in suffering, rather than complaining or quitting when ministry is hard.

Saturday: Undone by the call to serve and lose our lives so that it drives us to tears of repentance at the cross.

Sunday: Enter into the fullness of Jesus’ peace with each other so that we will be salt to the world.

Thanks for praying,

Saturday, August 29, 2009

One more thought and prayer for all the performance junkies.

Here is translation of Galatians 5:6 that is a combination of the Message, the NIV, and a little of Neil’s stuff added.

For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religious performance, nor disregard of religious deeds amounts to anything. The only thing that counts is faith in Jesus’ work expressing itself though love.

Jesus, I am totally dependent on Your gift of righteousness to me today. At the cross, I receive the smile of God, the Father. I refuse any attempt to see His smile as a result of working hard on my sermon, spending time in prayer, writing a blog, helping a friend, checking things off my to do list, rectifying some wrong, caring for someone in need...Let me enter into the love expressed for me on the cross. Let me enter into the rest secured for me at the cross. As I live in this reality, I trust that You will produce in me the fruit of love. In Your Name, Amen.

May you sense His rest in the midst of a busy Saturday!

Friday, August 28, 2009

A thought and prayer for all the performance junkies: fight for freedom.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

This week I have been meditating on the book of Galatians. When it comes to the gospel, Paul is a freedom fighter. The Galatians were in danger of being enslaved to the Mosaic law. They were being prodded, pulled and coerced into a life of work to gain a righteousness before God, others and themselves.

Although I am not tempted or pulled to seek righteousness from the Mosaic law, I often am looking to other things to feel good before God, others, and myself instead of the work of Jesus. It is so subtle that I often don’t even notice it. This comes out in things that “I ought to” or “I should” or “I need to.” However, when I pay attention to my feelings and listen to God, I notice the pressure, tension, and sometimes anger as my attempts at righteousness are blocked or thwarted. This week I have been keeping a list of the “burdens and yoke of slavery” I put myself under.

Here are a few of mine I wrote over the course of this week:
· If I get up at 6 a.m. I feel better about myself than if I get up at 7 a.m. I didn’t get up until 7 a.m. on Wednesday. Bad deal especially when I was supposed to meet with an elder for breakfast.
· I feel better about myself when I am “productive.” Work was highly valued for me growing up. I think I am a productivity addict.
· If I was really like Jesus I “should” work with people, help people, deal with their issues without ever having conflict or them getting upset.

Jesus, I acknowledge that there is nothing I have ever done or will do that will make me any more pleasing or less pleasing in the eyes of God. I confess there is a pride at work in me that still wants to prove myself before You and others. There is something in me that wants to say, “Look what I did,” and “I did it, I am good!” I recognize that the “ought to’s” and the “should’s” are hard task masters in my life. Help me to see this and repent. I want to know the reality that it is no longer I who lives but Christ lives in me and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in You. You are not a hard taskmaster. You love me and delivered Yourself up for me. May I rest in You. Thank You, Jesus.

What are your “ought to’s/need to’s/should’s” that are yokes of slavery?

Monday, August 24, 2009

I took this picture two years ago from top of Mt. Elbert, the highest mountain in Colorado.
There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them…Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Mark 9:2,3,7

Have you ever had a mountaintop experience? What was it like? Peter, James, and John saw Jesus totally transformed, clothes whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. You get the sense that words can't explain it. Maybe you feel the same about your mountaintop experience. They were also enveloped by the cloud. Throughout the Old Testament, the cloud was the manifestation of the presence of God to His people. Of all the things the Father could have said in that moment, of all the things the disciples could have heard, felt and experienced, the Father says, “This is my beloved son.” When Peter, James, and John got a taste of glory, they got a special taste of the love of the Godhead!

Although I haven’t had quite the experience of those three disciples, God has given me some mountaintop experiences where I truly sensed, experienced, and felt His love in a special way. After those moments, I expected to be so radically transformed that I would not struggle anymore or at least struggles would diminish significantly and everyone would say, “Wow you have changed! You’re amazingly like Jesus!” Never happened.

The very next thing Mark records is life back on the everyday playing field. Arguments, Pharisees, a demon possessed boy, a helpless father. You know the place. The place where spouses argue, parents struggle to connect with their kids, employees grind against authority, churches frustrate their members, believers fail to live like Jesus…you get the picture. So what do we do? One, we take encouragement from the mountaintop that God loves us and one day will string together an eternity of mountaintop experiences. Two, don’t waste your time trying to keep it or recapture it. It will just become a dumb idol that breaks your heart. Three, come to Jesus like the father of the demon possessed boy and admit your complete helplessness. It really is the way to access His power and joy in the ordinary life.
Holy Spirit, thank You for the times I have uniquely tasted the love of God. I am sorry for the times I have missed because I did not stop, wait and listen. Strengthen me to deeply know how wide and long and high and deep is Jesus’ love for me. I want to taste the glory! I want to know the fullness of God. I need divine encouragement. Jesus, I admit that I am totally helpless without You. Protect me from my foolish pride that moves into relationships, work, my daily duties, church activities and so many other activities without coming to You in prayer. I want to live in the power and joy of a life desperately, dependent on You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

PS. Tell us where you have had a mountain top experience with the Lord?

Friday, August 21, 2009

What do our elders do?

Colossians 4:2 (NIV) Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

I have often been asked, “What do Elders do when they meet?” I am sharing our time together from last week’s meeting and I hope to send you more of these throughout the year.This past meeting we were continuing our discussion of how we will raise money for our building project in a God honoring way. We have spent a lot of time talking about this, because we know that how we do it; says something about what we believe about God, what we believe about the body of Jesus, how we view the resources God has entrusted to us, and how we intend to live out our values. I believe this meeting resulted in one of our best times of prayers as elders since I've been senior pastor. We came to a place in the meeting where we stopped talking and had an intense awareness that we needed wisdom that only comes from God—not wisdom that comes from our experience or the world around us. During our time of prayer, there was a lot of silence, a lot of confession of our own inability, a long time on weak knees, and a sense of struggling deeply with the Lord. This was the main part of our meeting.

Bibles read without prayer; sermons heard without prayer; marriages contracted without prayer; journeys undertaken without prayer; residences chosen without prayer; friendships formed without prayer; the daily act of prayer itself hurried over, or gone through without heart: these are the kind of downward steps by which many a Christian descends to a condition of spiritual palsy, or reaches the point where God allows them to have a tremendous fall.
J. C. Ryle (1816-1900), A Call to Prayer, from Christian Quotation of the Day

LORD, teaches to be diligent to pray in all things. LORD, make our elders men of prayer. Help us to honor these men as commanded in the scripture. We confess our foolish pride. We confess that we are deceived into thinking we can do Your work without Your help, grace and power. Please don’t let us miss the opportunity to see You work in supernatural ways. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Do I really want what Jesus wants?

Mark 9:31,34
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again…
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Peter had just confessed that Jesus was the Christ—the long awaited King of all kings who would set all things right. And Peter was on the inside. I wonder what he expected he would soon gain by being on the right side: the comfort of a palace, control over some Romans soldiers, the convenience of having some servants, or the freedom to become a consumer of all the best the world has to offer? To hear the Son of Man must suffer was stupefying.

Peter, like us, not only had to learn that Jesus is a King on a cross but that Jesus’ followers go to a cross. This Sunday I said that doing what Jesus wants involves a no and a yes. Denying yourself means saying no at times to comfort, convenience, control, and consumerism. Taking up your cross means saying yes to whatever Jesus wants (even when it doesn’t make sense). That simple yet so very difficult.

I am thankful that Jesus follows this with statements like “whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” I need the encouragement.

Jesus, help me to want what You want. I confess that at the first taste of discomfort, inconvenience, lack of control, or challenge to give I react with second guessing, complaining, asking why, and a number of other selfish responses. I do not want to waste my life. I do not want to come to the end with a chest full of stuff that moths and rust are feeding on. I want to experience the joyful adventure of stumbling to a throne by way of death with You. I also confess the idea is as scary as it is thrilling. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak! Holy Spirit, show me where I am to say no and to say yes that I might do what Jesus wants.

I really think it would encourage others if you would share what a “no” and a “yes” to do what Jesus wants means for you. You can do this with the comment function.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Prayer for this Sunday 8/16/09

Here is a prayer to prepare our hearts for worship this Sunday that I wrote this morning as I was meditating on 1 Thessalonians 1.

May the gospel of Jesus come into and proceed from this body of believers with power in the Holy Spirit, and may many receive it with deep life altering conviction. May we joyfully welcome the gospel into our lives no matter the cost to embrace Jesus’ kingdom. May the gospel message ring out long and loud from us. As it happened in the church of Thessalonica, may people in the city of Dallas talk about how people here turned and are turning from idols, saying no to the gods of this culture and how we are saying yes to You the true, living God. To do this we wait on our risen, rescuer Jesus.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Colossians 3:3-4.
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

How was your time with the Lord today? That is a question I know many of us dread getting. Even if we are able to say, “Well, I did have time praying and reading my bible” most of the people I talk to would say that no sparks went off or they did not feel close to the Lord. One pitfall of sharing my thoughts and prayers with you a couple times a week is that it can inadvertently give off the sense that all of us should have some kind of mountain top experience with the Lord. I know you know that is not true but it still needs to be acknowledged. I know of no person in the Bible who had this. You might say Moses but don’t forget the 40 years in the desert tending sheep.

I recently made a six week commitment about my time with the Lord. The first nine days were great—then today hit. I should say last night hit. Allergy attack. I was tired. Other times I am distracted, depressed, discouraged, frustrated, rebellious, too busy, any number of things that I let hinder me from having this sense of really entering in. This morning I was making my attempt to read, observe, take notes and pray over Colossians 3. I did all of those things—a little. Most of the time I just sat, trying not to doze off, repeating over and over Colossians 3:3-4. That simple. That ordinary.

Father, thank You that my relationship with You starts with Christ, is presently held together by Christ, and will end in glory with Christ. Thank You for loving me because You love me. Thank You that because my life is hidden with Christ there is nothing I can do to be more pleasing to You. Thank You that when everything is said and done, I will be in glory face to face with Jesus! May I rest in Your love when I am on feel on top of the world or being crushed under it. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16

I am back. Plugged in. This picture really captures how I felt being unplugged. This is Taylor Lake which sits at 6500ft above sea level outside of Etna, an old mining town in California. I spend the last two Saturdays there-the first one with Stephanie and the second one with Natalie. We experienced a peaceful, unhurried time that allowed us to connect with each other and with God. Being away from my computer, cell phone, twitter, facebook, blog, etc., created space in my day for God and my daughters in such a way that the days actually seemed longer. Often my wanderings and distractions with technology steal serious amounts of time—time for others, time for God, time for prayer, time for rest.

Father, thank You for the gift of connecting through technology. I want to live wisely, making the most of the days on earth that You have given me. Help me to fight all the distractions of life that I might live out what Jesus wants for me each day. I pray that You would help us as a church take this one life you have given us, individually and corporately, and live it to the fullest.

Dinner for Two

Reflections from Revelation 3.14-22

From Matt Dumas, Minister of Equipping, and while Neil is out.

The folks in the church at Laodicea had everything going for them. They lived in a wealthy city, well-known for its clothing industry and school of medicine. Seemingly the only thing the city lacked was a natural water source. Just north of the city in Hierapolis were hot springs known for their medicinal qualities. South of city there were cold water springs refreshing to drink. In order to get water into the city, the people constructed stone pipes to carry water from the cold water springs into the city. Although the water was cold at its source, during the hotter months the water would be warmed by the pipes and become lukewarm by the time it reached the city. When Jesus confronts the church of Laodicea, He confronts their lukewarmness. They were neither hot (picturing the healing properties of the hot springs) nor cold (picturing the refreshment of the cold springs), but like the water in the stone pipes, they had become lukewarm – they had become like the culture around them. So Jesus rebukes their self-sufficiency and self-righteousness and invites them back into fellowship with Him.

I am afraid that my life too often mirrors that of the Laodiceans. I can be very self-righteous and self-sufficient at times. I too like to appear to have it all together. Jesus is often an afterthought as I go about my daily routine. What about you? Do you find yourself in that comfortable place where you really don’t need Jesus in your day-to-day life? Is it hard to distinguish your lifestyle from that of your non-believing friends? When was the last time you had a good talk with Jesus? He’s still knocking, waiting for a dinner for two.

Jesus, forgive me for pretending that I can live the Christian life in my own strength. I pray for a desperate hunger, a thirst for righteousness that can only be satisfied in you. To the best of my ability, I want to invite You to come in and dine with me. May we as a people be ever aware of our need for You. Jesus, make us to want what you want. Amen.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Faith of Our Fathers - Moses: Depending on God

Reflections from Exodus 2–3

From Matt Dumas, Minister of Equipping, and while Neil is out.

Moses was a man who showed great potential as a child. He was obviously gifted, trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was raised in Pharoah’s palace as the son of Pharoah’s daughter. He had everything going for him, and then he made a decision that cost him everything…in a moment of time he chose to respond in his own strength to attempt to bring about a good result – to deliver the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt – and ended up killing a man, being alienated from his people, and running for his life. He chose to do things his way and suffered the consequences. Forty years of wilderness wandering later and Moses has a second shot at delivering the Hebrews. This time he will be successful because he has learned the value of patience and humility and doing things God’s way.

Have you been there before? Really feeling like the thing you’re about to do or say is the right thing at that moment. You act and the thing blows up in your face. God isn’t even really an afterthought until you are faced with the consequences of your actions and are left to try to pick up the pieces and figure out what went wrong. You go on a wilderness journey of your own. I’ve been there, more than once I’m afraid. The wilderness is a lonely place, but it’s there that God meets us. It’s there that He begins to deal with our character. It’s there that we find redemption. We wouldn’t choose the wilderness, but there we learn to cry out to God. And it’s a good thing.

Father, thank you for the lessons you’ve taught me in the wilderness. Forgive me for the stupid choices I’ve made that have hurt You and others and sent me there. May I be ever mindful of my need for your grace, and may I give it as freely as it has been given to me. May we as a people become traffickers in Your grace this week. Jesus, make us to want what you want. Amen.