Thursday, October 27, 2016

An Important (Final) Reason for Finding AWE

Moses passed.
Joshua died.
All those who were of that generation were "gathered to their fathers" (code words for "they died").

And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. And the people...did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served other gods.
(Judges 2:10-11)

Does this verse send shock waves through you?
It does me.
Ever wonder what happened?
How could a mere handful of years make the difference between a believing generation and the next-gen that turned their backs on a God-of-Deliverance? The God-of-the-Red-Sea-Parting? The God-Who-Is-Faithful? Commanding-King-of-Kings?

Those two verses need to be pondered.
History has a habit of repeating itself.

I don't want the generation following me to forget the God I serve, do evil, and follow after worthless things that never bring fulfillment or joy.
The thought of that has me crying out for mercy!

I've always wanted better for my children and my grand-treasures.
Instead of going backwards, I want them to leap forward, go deeper, stand stronger, fight harder, live worthier of the gospel.
Why? Because I want the so-much-more-of-God for them.
I know I'm not alone in that.
I know all parents feel the same, and echo these words of John:
Nothing brings me greater joy than to know my children are walking out the truth.
(3 John 1:4)

But, currently, we stand in a critical place.
We are positioned on the cusp of seeing another generation rise up and make a choice!
Which way will they choose?
Who will they serve?
And, what is the answer to the problem presented in the book of Judges?

I have a one-word answer:

The older generation stopped telling the stories.
They stopped recording them.
They stopped passing on the tales of God-the-Hero.
They became AWE-forgetters.
They put God out of their minds...and out of their talk.

The generation that followed didn't know of the Lord or His works.
They didn't observe the reality of God in the lives of their parents and grand-parents.
They weren't instructed in His ways, or His deeds, or His character.
There was no intentionality.
When intentionality is missing, so goes the AWE.
When we fail to rehearse the faithfulness of our God, we fail to pass on faith.

The adults stopped paying attention.
Thus, they failed to see God's omnipresence in their every day lives.
They slowly faded into a life being lived unto themselves.
Sad indictment.

We, too, are standing dangerously close to the same edge of the same cliff.
About to tumble over.

We need a clarion call.
We need someone (several someones) to shout from the pulpit (several pulpits) the words of the Psalmist:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!

I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from our children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might,
and the wonders that He has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which He commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments...
(Psalm 78:1-7)

We must share the AWE lest we lose a generation...


Thursday, October 20, 2016

In Need of More Prayer Power? Here's a Thought...

I've read A LOT of books on prayer.
I've attended prayer conferences.
I've sat through many sermons (including one from our pastor last Sunday).
I've studied through passages of Scripture...all prayer related.
I've taught on prayer.
But, the one thing I really haven't seen until recently is the role that AWE plays in prayer.
My eyes have been blinded to it, I guess.

Of course, it should have been obvious.
Right there, in the introduction to the Lord's teaching on Prayer (His "model" prayer), I begin by acknowledging MY Father in Heaven.
That should blow us all away with AWE.
He's our FATHER...
The King of King's and the Lord of Lord's, calls us His children.
If I let that truth alone, soak in, well, it leaves me breathless in wonder!

Yet there's more to that simple line in the Lord's Model Prayer, "Our Father who lives in Heaven, Holy is Your Name..."
It's a reminder that, while prayer is as simple as a conversation with a loved one, it's also an act of worship.
I can't enter into prayer without acknowledging that I am needy. Lacking.
I can't explore prayer's depths without acknowledging God's Sovereignty, His rule, His reign, and His control...
I can't enjoy the benefits of prayer without bowing first to His glory...recognizing He is Holy and I am not.
Until heaven, I will fight my sin nature. My "want" to do my will my way...

"Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done..."
I just don't enter prayer as a child on Santa's knee...I bow my knee in surrender to the God who CREATED the Universe.
God's plans and purposes prevail; and, I acknowledge this fact.
His ways are better than mine.
His will accomplishes more.
His heart lovingly knows what's best.
His eyes see, not just the now, but the there and then.
His love for me, and for those whose lives I touch, extends beyond my personal kingdom.
I can't surrender to God's grand will, if there is no AWE of Him.
It will be difficult to believe that He is the God of the Impossible if I can't worship Him in Spirit and Truth.

Someone else said this, "Prayer celebrates God’s grace. True prayer arises when you are blown away by grace, for it is grace that gives you the desire to pray, the welcome of God to pray, and the promise that He will answer."

This week, I recognized this truth: I will not ever truly enter into God's prayer power until first I acknowledge Him with celebratory AWE, and follow that with a response of humble surrender. 

When I meet Him in that place, prayer becomes less about me and more about my God. It means that when I do come to Him with my requests, casting my cares upon Him (as He tells us to do), it's less about my feelings, or that to which I think I might be entitled, and becomes a tool of grace that unleashes the Lord to act on my behalf.

I don't want to tether God to my wish list.
I don't want to limit Him through my tunnel-visioned-me-first-requests.
I want the AWE of God to lead me to surrender, so that He can do GREAT and MIGHTY THINGS...and continue to show Himself AWSPIRING!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Calming Secret to a Messy World

It's no secret, our country is a mess.
On the morning of November 9th, no one will truly wake up a winner.
We are all polarized and uncomfortable.
We've run out of options for ethical/moral/spiritual/exemplary leaders.
The certainty is that uncertainty reigns.
But, I am convinced that there is joy to be found!

This past weekend, I spoke at a women's retreat held in the mountains of Northern Arizona.
I fell deeply in love with the women who attended.
I was moved at their vulnerability and honesty.
I applauded the church who ushered them into a safe place to be able to share the hurt and struggles of their lives.
As they shared their stories, I wondered, how can my simple message truly help their wounded souls?
But, I was convinced that there was a joy to be found!

It's the same truth that joy is always found in His presence - NOW & FOREVER.

In the middle of the last night of camp, God woke me with a passage of Scripture ringing in my ears (you know, sometimes the middle of the night is when He has my absolute complete attention). Here was the verse:

God is our refuge and strength, a VERY PRESENT HELP (my emphasis) in times of trouble. 
Ps. 46:1

(P.S. It's no surprise that in the same Psalm is found the verse: BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD! - verse 10

The Lord reminded me - He is WITH ME always (yes, even to the end of the age).
He is with those who are troubled.
He is with a country which is in trouble.

I've been on an awe-search, a quest.
I've been paying attention.
I've found awe in creation.
I've found awe in the middle of worship (the Lord GRIPPED my heart with this identity truth, once again, bringing me to tears: I AM A CHILD OF GOD!!).
I've found awe in the teaching words of others.
I've found awe in the spiritual battle of life and the truth that my GOD IS GREATER than evil.
I've found awe in the testimonies of others as they have shared how God entered their stories and made Himself HEROIC...
Then, in the quiet of the night, I found awe in a simple reminder - HE IS EMMANUEL.
That means joy is ever attainable at all times in all places in all political climates and in every.single.wounded.heart!

So, bear with me. As I sat with this truth, I wrote a Psalm of Awe. It's nothing more than Scriptures connected together like a string of pearls to make one little bracelet. But, if your heart needs strengthening, read it aloud with gusto!!

For the Lord, the MOST HIGH, is to be AWED,
A Great King over ALL THE EARTH.

Come behold His wonders;
Think on His steadfast love;
Remember His righteous right hand, in which He holds pleasures forevermore.
This is the Lord of Hosts
     and sits over all creation
     never leaving His throne.
This God empowers me;
This God is faithful and true;
This God sings over me with delight;
This God hears my cries and He answers -
     riding on a cherub, coming swiftly on the wings of the wind,
     to bring me into a spacious place.

This God equips and strengthens me for the days ahead (whatever they may hold),This God makes my way blameless,
He stoops down to make me great,
     according to His goodness towards me,
     and for His glory.

For this I bring YOU praise,
and lift up your NAME...HOLY is the LORD.

Bask over the course of this week, and the next several, in the truth of EMMANUEL, your refuge and strength, your very present help...


Thursday, October 6, 2016

This Happens When We Forget We Are At War

"Don’t be discouraged at the spiritual war you’re called to fight every day. The Lord Almighty is with you and wars on your behalf."
Paul David Tripp

The suitcases are unpacked.
The laundry has been sorted and started.
The unanswered mail is in neat little stacks on my desk. 
My "To Do" List is long, but I'm ready to start tackling it.
After three weeks on the road, I am home.
In my "sighing place."
Certainly, it's only for a couple of nights, and tomorrow I head out again for another wonderful ministry opportunity, but for now, well...I'm leaning into the comforts of the place I love.

This week's blog is a little processing of the last week in our three-week journey in Nova Scotia, spent on the Cape Breton island. It truly is a spectacular place, particularly in the highlands along the coast. While there, we spoke in four communities and at a bible camp. We watched summer fade into fall; the colors change to autumn; and, we felt the significant decline of temperatures. Certainly, my favorite time of year...

Yet, even amidst the beauty, my heart felt HEAVY...burdened.
Driving, I saw some of the sweetest old churches. 
I'm a fan of old churches.
One day, I'd like to go on a "picture taking" tour of churches all up and down the East Coast. 
Had we stopped at every church I wanted to take a picture of, we'd have never driven more than about 25 miles. 
Pretty country churches are EVERYWHERE!
Did I say that most of them have steeples?
They do...and I'm a fan of old churches with simple steeples.
Steeples speak "AWE" to me...

There's a problem, however.
Too many churches stand empty.
There is no longer a community of corporate worshippers involved in 7 out of 10 churches.
Less than 1% of the Cape Breton population would even claim to be Christian.
A "mega-church" wouldn't have thousands (as here in the U.S.), not even hundreds; a mega-church might consist of about 80 members.
The church leaders with whom we met all describe the Cape as a "dark place."

Even before we chatted about the spiritual condition of this area, I sensed it. 
I found myself waking up night after night because of nightmares. 
At times I could only describe my boldness and confidence in Christ as seriously lacking, definitely weakened. 
There were times when the heaviness made it particularly hard to breathe, and if breathing is difficult, sharing what God had placed on my heart to share, well, that is even harder.
I spiritually, and physically, recognized the present-battle for hearts was fervent in this place.

Sometimes, I am aware that I get rather complacent in my spiritual life. 
I forget that there is a war we are all called to fight.
A battle against good and evil. 
Because Christians don't talk about it much, I forget about the fact that there is an enemy prowling around seeking who he could chew up and spit out.
I forget that we, as a church, at all times, and in all places, are spiritually vulnerable. 

Even my complacency, I don't adequately prepare for the battle.
I skip putting on some of the pieces of God's provided, powerful armor.
I neglect to "bow the knee" and "raise the sword." 
Even Jesus told His disciples, there will be some places, some instances, some battles where the enemy can only be driven out by prayer and fasting
Yes, we're talking INTENSE!

But, followers of Jesus, there are hundreds of empty churches across Northeastern Canada that are a testimony of why we must battle the enemy
Why we must not forget. 
Why we cannot get complacent.

When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church at Ephesus, it was thriving. He spends a lot of time reminding the church that all of life is a battle-field: marriage, parenting, relationships, the church, even the gospel...then he lays out one of the greatest gifts of grace - a plan for battling the enemy. How to be properly equipped.

Sadly, somewhere along the line, the Ephesus church forgot Paul's admonitions.

Sadly, she became complacent, and, perhaps, afraid.

Today, there is not much THRIVE left in modern day "Ephesus," either.

We live in an era, where complacency and fear can easily lose the battleground for the faith; and even this has the potential to get worse...

So, we must contend for the faith!

We must be fully prepared...and I believe it starts with AWE...

Thankfully, look again at the quote at the top of the page:

"Don’t be discouraged at the spiritual war you’re called to fight every day. The Lord Almighty is with you and wars on your behalf."
Paul David Tripp

As we contend for our faith right here in our own homes, let us not forget to pray diligently for the workers on the field in unreached, hard-to-minister areas. Pray for the gospel of grace to be clearly understood and God to move in hearts. Pray for revival...