In Dark Times: why I’m not freaking out on facebook

We are truly in dark times right now. This I understand and am not naive to. But alas there are some ways I do not find myself reacting with the larger population when I see the realities of our world playing out. There are a couple things I keep hold of in my heart and mind.

1. I do not place my faith, trust, or confidence (or lack thereof) in what I see on the news or in the world.
2. I have to clamor for more of the important dependence of life instead of living in fear of what I see outside.

First, truth is not anchored in my feelings or my circumstances. I believe truth is anchored in God’s Word, and I will align all my confidence there. The Christian life is one of faith lead by Scripture (Jn. 15:7). In all parts of life it is critical that I have the Word of God and always ask, “God, what are YOU saying?” My ears need to be far more in tune to His voice than to the world around us (Ps. 28:1-2, 7). I am not moved by what I see, I am moved by what God says (2 Cor. 5:7). So is it does not matter what I see on the news; I do not pray what I see on the news, I pray what God says.

Secondly, a German philosopher said, “the more a man has in his own heart the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man.” In times that are truly dark, I am more frustrated by own and others’ dependency on what they see outside themselves. My level of worry reveals the emptiness of my heart; it reveals how little I trust God. AW Tozer wrote, “Is it not a strange thing that in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood…?” We are in a dark time, yes, but I fear more for the faint of heart Christians with eyes dimmed.

We have come to be affected far more by what we see around us, and this is because we have not spent inordinately more time taking care of our inner lives. We ought to be clamoring to hear from God far more than we hear from FOXNews and facebook posts.

We cannot, and I do not propose here, we avoid reality by sticking our heads in the sand like an ostrich, but we also cannot run around like another bird with its head cut off. As my pastor, Banning said, “We are so impressed by darkness, we have all the statistics about it. My prayer life is not based on statistics.”

The Father’s smile

So much of our spirituality and religion is greatly affected by who we know God to be. A.W. Tozer said, “Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God.” We all have within us a gallery images of who God is, and those images dramatically affect our responses to Him. This gallery greatly affects the faith and religion we live out each day in relationship with God.

The trouble is many, if not most of those images are distorted at best or entirely false at worst. This God many of us relate and respond to is not the God of scripture, and we begin to wonder why some of us live out such a grim, hard, and loveless faith each day.

It is because the God we have come to believe is distant and hard to please. God becomes a cold Father demanding your work without encouragement or love or pride in you. It is very difficult to serve that god with enthusiasm or joy. It is difficult not to chalk up other more enthusiastic brothers and sisters to fanaticism when the god you know is cold, removed, and grim. But this is not the God presented in scripture. This is the god of the Pharisees and he will always drive a Pharisaic religion and faith.

The moment I was first ambushed by the love of God is when I came to see the Father of Scripture who loves and delights in me, His son. He comes close to me in a true fellowship where I can find rest and healing. He is not hard to please.

Yes, he disciplines us, but I have come to know His delight and smile. He will correct and challenge me with the smile of a Father who is tender and proud. My Abba is proud of me and knows I am His “imperfect by promising” son. I see His delighted smile which knows I am coming to look more and more like my Abba every day.

When desire runs dry

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Henri Nouwen wrote, “Those who think they have arrived, have lost their way…An important part of the spiritual life is to keep longing, waiting, hoping, expecting.”

Today my heart and mind are tired and weary from waiting. I am worn out from hoping and longing. Yet I must continue. These are my feelings, but my feelings do not determine my faith and confidence in God. While I am weary and tired, I have to maintain desire for more of Christ. I have to continue to desire for God’s action and presence. If I cannot do this, I am utterly lost.

When my desire to pray is lacking, I have to pray for the desire to pray. If God gives desire to the human heart, and He gives if we ask according to His will, then I have to ask for more desire in the dry and weary places.

E.M. Bounds wrote, “Prayer is the oral expression of desire…the deeper the desire, the stronger the prayer. Without desire, prayer is meaningless mumble of words.”

When that desire runs out, I have to pray and ask for more. I never fully arrive, and I certainly need more and more of Christ in my understanding, my looking, my speaking, my thinking.

Wilderness Journey

Another door closed for us this week. I apologize for the impersonal fb post, but I know a lot of you have been praying and walking with us, and I didn’t want to miss anyone.

We continue to journey through a wilderness time of our lives that began in June. I know enduring a wilderness time, one will either mature and learn or disintegrate. We have learned a great deal about God, our family, myself, and life in this time. I must also say I am weary and tired. I identify with Israel as they journeyed through the wilderness and wondered why God would do this. I know the feeling of desperation to hear from Him. I know the sense of silence on the other end. I know the questions which ambush the heart and mind regarding your identity, your value, your calling, your talents, your gifts.

I know the psalmist’s indignant prayer to “ANSWER ME, my God!” I know how to wonder how long will He stay silent. I know how, with Job, to hold on to the integrity of my heart while coming toe to toe with my God in prayer. I also know how to trust and say, ‘surely goodness will follow me all the days of my life.’ I know God is good. I know he works all things for my good, and He will do so.

Thank you so much family and friends for your prayers and encouragement. They give me strength for the long haul. God is good to me! You are proof of this.

Ascribe: what I taught my girls about thunder

drogoToday in Sacramento there was an actual thunder storm. As someone from the Midwest, I can say ‘real’ thunderstorms are rare in California. Today, though, my girls were eating their breakfast and I was making coffee in my aero press when, in a matter of two seconds, the power went out and there was an enormous clap of thunder that set off my car alarm.

I smiled with delight.
Haddisen (3 years old) was shocked and then smiled.
Bryleigh (4 years old) put her hands over her ears and cried.

I calmed the situation and then explained what thunder really is. I explained that it is one of my favorite things.

I also told them the story of Nikola Tesla, the brilliant inventor, engineer, and designer of the alternating current (AC) electricity supply system, who was known to sit near his window during a thunder storm. He would sit and wait until the next thunder clap when he would rise to his feet to give God a standing ovation.

Pslam 96:5-8 says:
“But the LORD made the heavens
Splendor and majesty are before Him
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
ASCRIBE to the LORD, O families of the peoples
ASCRIBE to the LORD glory and strength
ASCRIBE to the Lord the glory of His name.”

“Ascribe” means to attribute something to something or someone else. We are to attribute great and powerful and beautiful things to God. The LORD does and provides these things; they are not coincidence or simply natural reactions. God is to be ascribed these things.

The girls loved this idea and for the rest of the morning we all three clapped for God with each thunder roll and clap. Haddie would even copy me each time saying, “Dadda, how cool!!!”

This journal

this journalIt has been since June that I resigned just after starting this journal. Journals have legs to walk with you through various journeys and seasons. Journals have backs and hearts to carry a great deal of things so you do not have to.

This journal is a gift from a friend I have not seen or spoken with in many years. It was a random gift which arrived just before an enormous life change I did not foresee at the time. This journal came to me from a friend who has always been a strong encouragement to “Keep writing. Always keep writing.” This journal came from this friend just before a season where it would have been easy to cease writing.

This journal has carried a lot of the things I never wanted to carry. If I could only displace those thoughts and processes on the back and heart of this journal, I could get through days, which would have been otherwise very discouraging and debilitating.

This journal contains the weak prayers of limping through the process of learning to ask God ‘what’ instead of ‘why’. I rarely get answers to ‘why’ questions, but I have learned to look at any and all circumstances asking, “God, what are you doing in me through this?”

This journal contains notes for interviews come and gone for positions I thought were great, if not perfect, but clearly not where God was guiding and calling me.

This journal contains notes for sermons along the way for beloved groups who, unaware to them, gave shock paddles to my heart by giving me opportunities to do what I love in a season when my heart was weak and confused for the future.

This journal has been able to carry the promise of prayer my heart made for the new year. It proves that the challenge remains. It is written in ink after all.

This journal, #38, passes a baton to #39 with promise and hope attached. It uses the discouragement and healing as a springboard to speak to my heart, “You are a better leader, husband, and father than you were before we began walking together, but more importantly, you are closer to the heart of Jesus than you were before we met.”

My Word of the Year 2015

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Several years ago I quit making resolutions or new years goals. I accepted, then, a challenge to choose only a word for the year. “One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live or what you want to achieve by the end of 2015. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long. It will take hard work, and will require intentionality and commitment. But if you let it, your word will shape you and your year. It will guide your decisions and help you grow.”

This year my word is: PRAYER.

While I would say I am a man of God’s Word, I want to be more of a man of prayer. Prayer is not an element of my relationship with God, it IS my relationship with God. I have to realize my relationship is dependent upon communication and time together.

If I wrote my autobiography, someone could read it inside and out, over and over again. They could highlight important parts about my story and things that mater a great deal to me. But that person does not know me. That person and I have no relationship. We have never sat and spoken together.

Much like this, I can study God’s Word inside and out, over and over again. I can highlight important parts and dedicate years and whole college degrees to studying things very important to God. But I could do all of this and still not know God. I do not have a relationship. I have not sat and spoken with Him.

I am a man of God’s Word and a man after God’s heart, but I want to be MORE of a man of prayer than I have been before. I want to be more of a man of prayer at the end of 2015 than I am right now. I want to know Him more intimately. I want to be terribly close to His heart, and that will only come as we sit and speak together with more intentionality and frequency.