074: Dodging the bullets of my own desires to spend time with the Lord

I have been lacking, as a result of my own complacency and apathy.  A man, Tom Tanner, I know him only through other people, said this once, “If you don’t intentionally increase, you will unintentionally decrease.”  He spoke these things pertaining to our relationship with Jesus.  And, to be honest, I have not been increasing.  Thus, well…you can fill in the rest from the quote above.  I have been declining.  And I know it.  I read my bible and pray every other day.  I used to read my bible once week in high school and felt fine, felt like life was at a high point.  However, now, I skip a day and I feel like my life is tearing at the seams.  That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I do feel a significant difference in my life, just the way I feel about things, about what’s happening around me, about where life is going.

So, I want to commit myself to truly seeking out the Lord, always!  Not letting up one day, to pick up another.  But, as anyone knows, it’s hard to keep up.  All the distractions of life–work, school, family, spouse, pleasure, recreation, entertainment, insecurities–take their aim at all your vulnerable time slots–Jesus time, small groups, church.  Thus, I am dodging the bullets of my own desires to spend time with the Lord.  I know this sounds dramatic and all, that’s because it is, on paper (or on the screen, in the internet’s case.)  Nevertheless, I have to be committed to something more than passions an desires, because, as it is clear to all, they fade and falter just as the flesh does, but the Spirit is willing.

I spent time today meditating on the Lord’s prayer.  It is not something I have never done before.  However, I made it a point to be very intentional about listening to the Spirit while meditating.  I guess, I should always do that, really.

First off, I was reminded of the scripture, “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine” (Lev. 20:26 NASB).  If I want to dwell with the Lord, if I want to speak with Him, if I want to call upon His holy Name, then I must be holy as well.  In fact, in this Leviticus passage, God is commanding me to be holy, because He is.  And, in all reality, I am aware that true holiness is unattainable, because I am human.  (You could ask my wife that: she’s seen how human I can be.)  I think the part about being holy that grabbed my focus the most is that I expect the Lord to come be with me whenever I please.  And probably nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, I am asking Him to rest with me while I am an unholy devil.  However, God, in his great mercy, still sits beside the ragged, sinful, selfish man I am.  And from that, from the multitude of His mercies, I am thankful for His holiness.  (For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. — Ps. 103:11 NASB.)

And the other cool thing I got when meditating on the Lord’s prayer is this: Pray expectantly everyday for the Lord to provide “the daily bread” for all parts of life.  I found that “daily bread” is all kinds of life giving substances, whether it is physical bread for the day to nourish my body, or the Word of God to nourish my soul, or spiritual questions for my wife and I to discuss to nourish our marriage.  I guess, ultimately, I can expect that God will provide for all parts of life, for He has come to bring “abundant life.”

066: A thought about turning back

Why is that there always remains a traitor within us all? In myself, I have to face in him day after day. It is a frustrating fact of my life. This is the old man that Paul talks about.  This old self tries to save himself, holding on to the sins of my youth.  I found myself, today, crying out to Jesus for help.  “Jesus, put to death this false-self with in me.”  In Romans 8:12-14, taken from The Message it reads:

So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

In the verses before these verses, it speaks of how we were once under the old law, and there is no longer any condemnation for us, and we have life by the Spirit, now.  That’s summing it up very quickly.  But as I read this today, I just pleaded with God to put to death this old self, who seeks only for himself pleasures and earthly delights.  I hate it.  I want freedom from it all.  And that is what I was begging Christ to help me with.

One of my prayers lately has been this: “Jesus, teach me how to love.  Teach me how to repent.  Teach me how to seek Your face.”  I was reading Isaiah 55 the other day and came across these two verses, 6 and 7:

Seek God while he’s here to be found,
pray to him while he’s close at hand.
Let the wicked abandon their way of life
and the evil their way of thinking.
Let them come back to God, who is merciful,
come back to our God, who is lavish with forgiveness. — The Message

I saw how God wanted Israel–well, the wicked of Israel–to come back to Him, and He would lavish them with mercy and forgiveness.  And I thought to myself, if I am turning back to God, then to whom am I turning the rest of the time?  That made me think about repentance.  I can see how in the old testament there is a large importance for repentance; in reality, Jesus said the same message, “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'” (Matthew 4:17 NASB).  Thus, whether old or new, both testaments speak about repentance, so it must be important.

I thought about repentance.  I thought about turning back to Him, for in my life, I have had to do that a lot.  But what if I needed only to turn to him?  Why am I turning to all these other places?  Usually, it is to my own ways and my own desires, which never really satisfy.  I like how The Message translates the Isa. 55 passage: “Let the wicked abandon their ways.”  I think that is so rich.  That gives me such a vivid picture of repentance.  Repentance = abandonment.  Not abandoning Jesus or loved ones or family, but abandoning the false-self, the old self–my own selfish ways and ideas.  It painted a picture of me having all this stuff and seeing that I was pleased to have it all but still without peace and love, I left it all behind, for life with less things, for a life with greater love, for a life made of a more excellent way.  I could be wrong about the whole repentance thing.  But I like to think of it as abandoning.  I have to leave something behind.  Something that may be comfortable, or something I have done for years.  No matter what though, it always works out in the end.

062: Back from Africa

I have actually been back from Ghana, in West Africa, for about two weeks now.  I haven’t written anything, because I have been processing, thinking, “what am I to say?”  Frankly, I feel like there is so much that has happened in my heart and in my mind, but how do I spill it all out?  One helpful thing has been journaling.  I find that journaling clears things up.  But here, in this blog, I am finding it difficult to express something worth a person’s read.

The thing that keeps throbbing in my brain is the 5th or 6th day I was in Ghana.  The team was at an orphanage in Obuasi, an old gold mining town.  The orphanage, called Adullum, in fact, was my favorite part of the trip; it showed me the best of God’s love, maybe even the simplest form of God’s love.  But that is not only what stood out, or what is coursing through my mind at this very moment.  On this, let’s say, 6th day in Ghana, the team arrived at Adullum and had the opportunity to meet with the owner, creator, and operator.  She had been out of the country with illness, so we were very lucky to get the chance to meet with her.

Her name was Louis.  She was fifty-ish, Australian, and radical.  She looked like something was after her; I later called that something, the Devil.  But she didn’t seem scared in the least.  In fact, I thought she looked quite confident.  She told us with boldness and confidence about how the orphanage had been created.  My hope for the children was made alive.  I felt like they had been placed in this very place by God himself.  He was creating warriors and worship leaders and shepherds for the country of Ghana.  What an amazing sight, to see a sea of future bond-servants, dedicated to each other and to the will of God.

Now, to get to the finale, after speaking with us for an hour and a half, she concluded with this simple prayer: (I paraphrase a bit because it is hard to remember exactly what she said) she prefaced it with this. “Now, only pray this if you really mean it, because if you ask for it, He will do it,” then the prayer began, “Lord, take your cross and drive deep in my flesh, so that I die, but You remain.”  The last words spoken with tears.  This had been her prayer for so long.  And I thought to myself, dying every day is not easy, but I want it.  I want Him to be the life.

I have actually been singing this prayer in almost all of quiet times since I have been back.  I sing it like this:

Take your cross and drive it in my heart: I die; You live.