March 27, 2009

Fast Friday - March 27, 2009

Fast Friday is a community of Jesus-followers who abstain from food, or whatever else the Lord puts on our hearts, with the desire to diligently seek Him."Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" - Isaiah 58:6-7

To Join our Fast Friday, Click Here.

"And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."
Matthew 15:27

THIS woman gained comfort in her misery by thinking great thoughts of Christ. The Master had talked about the children's bread: "Now," argued she, "since Thou art the Master of the table of grace, I know that Thou art a generous housekeeper, and there is sure to be abundance of bread on Thy table; there will be such an abundance for the children that there will be crumbs to throw on the floor for the dogs, and the children will fare none the worse because the dogs are fed." She thought Him one who kept so good a table that all that she needed would only be a crumb in comparison; yet remember, what she wanted was to have the devil cast out of her daughter. It was a very great thing to her, but she had such a high esteem of Christ, that she said, "It is nothing to Him, it is but a crumb for Christ to give." This is the royal road to comfort. Great thoughts of your sin alone will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ will pilot you into the haven of peace. "My sins are many, but oh! it is nothing to Jesus to take them all away. The weight of my guilt presses me down as a giant's foot would crush a worm, but it is no more than a grain of dust to Him, because He has already borne its curse in His own body on the tree. It will be but a small thing for Him to give me full remission, although it will be an infinite blessing for me to receive it." The woman opens her soul's mouth very wide, expecting great things of Jesus, and He fills it with His love. Dear reader, do the same. She confessed what Christ laid at her door, but she laid fast hold upon Him, and drew arguments even out of His hard words; she believed great things of Him, and she thus overcame Him. She won the victory by believing in Him . Her case is an instance of prevailing faith; and if we would conquer like her, we must imitate her tactics.

From "Morning&Evening" by C.H. Spurgeon

Prayer Requests and Praise Reports:

1. Pray that our friends in Ivoryline would continue to develop greater intimacy with God, opening the ears and eyes of their hearts to see and hear Him.

2. Pray for Sean Stopnik and family as their baby has developed diabetes and is now requiring 4 insulin shots a day for the rest of his life. We petition God for a miracle of healing in this situation, trusting His perfect timing and will in all things.

3. Pray that God provides the right living space for our friends in Sons of God, and that He would direct their writing process. Praise God for the jobs he's provided them with.

4. Prayer requests from our friends in The Ember Days
-That the presence of the Lord would be as a consuming fire as worship takes place, and that kids will be impacted buy the beauty of the Lord.
-Fast processing for Tim & Matt's visas, so they can come to the US at the same time as the rest of the band.
-Pray the Lord would bring them a fair deal for a van & trailer as they begin their April tour.

5. Pray for Rachel Arnold's grandmother who has cancer and needs to have a kidney removed.

6. Pray for Beth Johnson's dad, Vern, as he travels to Cuba to teach and preach for a week. Pray for his health and safety, and pray that God would use him in mighty ways.

7. We praise God for the incredible work He is doing in restoring and reviving so many hearts to live more focused on Him.

Submit Prayer Requests/Praise Reports to:

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May God give us all the endurance we need to make much of Him today!

March 24, 2009

The Realness of God and the real mess of man

What can I say about how good God is that hasn't already been said? There surely isn't much I could add to the definition of His goodness found all throughout the weight of His Word. The real mess of men, on the other hand, is such strong evidence to our great need for redemption in a true Savior. Here are several examples from today's headlines that should serve as a reminder of just how much of a mess men can make.

the LATEST from the BBC:

Worker with Canadian aid agency shot dead in Sudan's Darfur region

N Korea warns over rocket launch

Plath's son's death highlights suicide in families

Police eye suspect in newlywed's slaying

Suicide attack on Iraqi funeral

Israeli-Arabs clash with police as Jewish Israeli right-wingers march in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.

We're not required to look very far to realize just how much chaos exists among man. In the midst of my own chaos I've been experiencing a refreshing move to soak myself in the Word, daily. To not only read a chapter and move on to the next task of the day, but to make the commitment to wake earlier and spend more time in the presence of God's Word. I've been spending time reading the Psalms, Jeremiah and 2 Corinthians, all are entirely different and seemingly unrelated, yet so beautifully connected. Here is what I woke up to this morning:

I waited patiently for the LORD;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the LORD.

Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust,
And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered.

Sacrifice and offering You did not desire;
My ears You have opened.
Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.”

I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O LORD, You Yourself know.
I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your loving kindness and Your truth
From the great assembly.

Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O LORD;
Let Your loving kindness and Your truth continually preserve me.
For innumerable evils have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up;
They are more than the hairs of my head;
Therefore my heart fails me.

Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me;
O LORD, make haste to help me!
Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion
Who seek to destroy my life;
Let them be driven backward and brought to dishonor
Who wish me evil.
Let them be confounded because of their shame,
Who say to me, “Aha, aha!”

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
Let such as love Your salvation say continually,
“The LORD be magnified!”
But I am poor and needy;
Yet the LORD thinks upon me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Do not delay, O my God. (Psalm 40)

Jesus, would you open our eyes to the depth and beauty of your Word. Please do not delay in coming to our side. We're a real mess without your mighty hand of deliverance. Thank you for your kindness and mercy, we are an undeserving bunch that is constantly going in circles without your direction. Guide our steps so that we are aligned with yours. Teach us to trust you even in light of what sometimes feels like absolute chaos. Instruct us to rejoice and be glad in You, regardless of our circumstances. Thank you for thinking of us so frequently that we could never recount your thoughts. Your will be done today in our lives.

March 17, 2009

Though He Slay Me

Faith by its very nature must be tested and tried. And the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven as trustworthy in our own minds. Faith being worked out into reality must experience times of unbroken isolation. Never confuse the trial of faith with the ordinary discipline of life, because a great deal of what we call the trial of faith is the inevitable result of being alive. Faith, as the Bible teaches it, is faith in God coming against everything that contradicts Him— a faith that says, "I will remain true to God’s character whatever He may do." The highest and the greatest expression of faith in the whole Bible is— "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15). - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

This is a hard post for me as this still feels like a fresh wound that hasn't had time to scar up and eventually heal. It's also vitally important that I'm completely transparent, both in my times of strength and those of weakness. I had an opportunity to speak with The Glorious Unseen here in Nashville this past weekend, which is always a treat and we've experienced some incredible times of ministry together over the years. It was a CD release show for A Plea for Purging's new album where they only charged $1 as the cover, but that also included FREE BBQ. Needles to say, I've never seen the place so jam-packed, and I've seen a lot of great shows there.

As is typical when I'm out with TGU, you just have to fly by the seat of your pants and be ready for whatever God has in store. In this case, a show that was originally to start at 5, didn't start until 7. We had about 40 minutes to lead kids fresh out of their favorite local hardcore band (which destroyed it, BTW), and into the presence of God. I was the transition from a crowd still screaming "encore" into TGU's set. I usually don't have a problem stepping out and preaching/praying with boldness and fervor. If there is anything that I am extremely passionate about, it's conveying the Love of God in a way that might hopefully move someone closer towards Him. I didn't have time to introduce myself and share a bit of my story, which I usually try to do so people know that I'm just a regular old guy, nothing special apart from the Lord's mercy to use a fool for His glory. What my friends pointed out later on, was that I may have caught the crowd off guard. I don't feel I need to apologize for sharing my heart in a measure of confidence and passion that I've been experiencing for God lately, although my real apology, and a vital lesson the Lord taught me, was one that I wouldn't learn until the event was over.

As I walked back up on stage at the end of TGU's time of worship to say a final prayer and invite those who wanted to be prayed over to join me outside, I noticed there was someone in a wheel chair near the front of the room and people were laying their hands on him. I instantly had the thought come into my mind "In the name of Jesus, rise up and walk". I dismissed the thought and justified my dismissal with the idea that this person would come find me and we could pray for him after the show. In a split second, which is all it takes sometimes to turn off the work of God's Spirit, I chose not to draw attention to this guy in the wheelchair and ask the Lord to work a miracle in His life. Instead, I chose the safe path, which was to not run the risk of looking like a complete idiot and fool if God had chosen not to heal him right then and there. I publicly confess my mistake. The risk would have been well worth the potential letdown that God's time for healing on this guy hadn't quite come yet. Worse-case scenario, I would have needed to explain that there are times when I want something to happen (in the natural or supernatural) that doesn't necessarily line up with God's will and this is absolutely part of being humans and making mistakes. If we aren't willing to step out, though we may stumble and fall, I don't think we'll ever know how to step out, period. Best-case scenario, this person would have risen up and walked.

Two lessons I've learned from this night. The first is to not quench God's Spirit by walking out in fear instead of faith. The second is to recognize God in every wonderful, amazing, and grace-filled miracle that occurs in my life every day. We have a tendency to want to see God move in those really big ways (and, yes, I have seen Him move in those really huge supernatural ways and I believe with 100% of my heart that we will all see much more of those), but I also realize there is such a balance to all of this. If I get pulled too far towards expecting a miracle of healing for someone, I may distract them from the miracle of God's abundant grace that is working a deeper heart miracle because of whatever ailment they might be enduring. Shouldn't I be looking at those people who haven't experienced a dramatic, instant healing but are experiencing a continual, renewing, healing miracle of inner joy as just as wonderful and magnificent? Was it God's will to instantly heal Job? Was it God's purpose to remove Paul's thorn? Was it outside of God's control to remove the cup of suffering from Jesus? Of course, in all of these cases, it was not. Therefore, I'm called to recognize every miracle that occurs in my life, and in the lives of anyone else, regardless of how big or small it may seem.

The question is, are you recognizing God and giving Him the glory for every single miracle working power in your life, even if it may not be of the sort that causes us to leap for joy? Let's learn to give God the glory He deserves, especially on a day to day basis. Praise Him for what He has done, for what He is doing, and for what He will continue to do in your life.

That said, don't ever think for a minute that I'm not in support of the full faith that God does sometimes choose to show up and absolutely rock our world by supernatural miracles. For the person that I didn't step out in faith to pray for that night, I ask your forgiveness. I would love the opportunity to get together and pray healing over you, believing that God may full well restore whatever is ailing your body. If the Lord chooses that your time for physical healing has not yet arrived, I would also love to pray He continues to inwardly restore you and praise, along with you, for every good work He is already doing through your trial.

Even though He Slay Me, I WILL Trust In HIM!

March 11, 2009

The Brutal Power

When I lived in Quito, Ecuador as a teenager, we would make a trip once or twice a year from the 10,000 ft. elevation down to sea level, to spend vacation on the beach. I distinctly recall this huge rock sculpture on the side of a cliff that was an eerie interpretation of the devils face. For some reason it came to mind a few days ago. The message listed under the face is "El Poder Brutal" translated, "The Brutal Power". That phrase has stuck with me over the years. Folklore suggested that the sculptor had a conversation with the devil and in one day, carved his face in the rock. I found some interesting information on Wikipedia (the Spanish version) and discovered that the sculpture had been created by a local Public Work driver and self-taught artist. I never really knew the real motive behind this piece of art but according to the Wiki article, the artist's intentions were not only to show the face of the devil, but to also remind us of our own inner demons. Regardless of motives, this sculpture was always an eerie sight as the road down to the sea was extremely curvy and dangerous in many places. One wrong turn, and the car would plunge hundreds or thousands of feet off the road. There were spots, such as where this sculpture was, that would almost always be covered in a thick layer of mist. Combining the precarious roads, the mist, and the Brutal Power is enough to get you thinking twice about your life.

There are two lessons that I'm learning lately. The first is not to underestimate the power of our enemy. Jesus gave us the warning that our enemy has a three-fold plan to wipe out life on the earth. Those strategies are to steal, kill and destroy. John 10:10 says: The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. Should it surprise us that we are being attacked, or at least plundered, especially if we are stepping out in faith to trust God for a deeper work in our lives, for a time of renewing, for spiritual growth, for endurance, or for any other good thing that spurs us closer to Christ? The devil isn't only trying to annihilate each of us, but he's in the business of treacherous thievery. He may not need to steal our very lives if he can get away with stealing something far more potent; our faith, our joy, and our love. When our hearts are set towards growing in these three areas, we should more than expect the opposition towards each. What good is faith if it's stolen? What good is joy if it's killed? What good is love if it's destroyed?

Be encouraged that we were not promised destruction, but life. The second part of this verse in John gives each of us great hope; "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

Pursue abundant living and know that your pursuit will cause the enemy to rise up against you. The second lesson I've been learning is that it is not just an outward, spiritual enemy in the devil and his cohorts that love to fight against our spiritual progress. There is also the inward, less obvious but equally formidable foe, our flesh. The flesh is made up of all those areas in our lives that do not submit to God's will. Selfishness, pride, greed, lust, etc. etc. that war against the freedom of Christ in us. (Galatians 5: 16-18)

I have two foes that hate any progress I may be making in my walk towards greater dependency on Christ. So do each of you. Don't be shocked, or caught of guard, that the road isn't proving to be easy as you take steps in faith to trust God for the impossible. Remember that, just like sheep, you only have two basic instructions: listen and follow.

Listen and follow, allow God control of the rest.

Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:22-30)