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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Seeing God in Psalm 4


When Daniel Henderson was at CSCC the end of October leading us in a renewal of our prayer focus, he presented a model for an approach to prayer.  His philosophy is that prayer should be Scripture-fed, Spirit-led and Worship-based.  We can do that when we pray the scriptures back to God through Reverence (upward focus), Response (downward focus), Request (inward focus) and Readiness (outward focus).
As the staff has been praying together, we have been taking a Psalm each week and following this approach to guide our prayers.  The time has been rich and meaningful.
As I have focused on the Reverence of God in Psalm 4, here are some of what I have prayed back to God: 
Thank you God that you hear my prayers, that when I call out to you, you answer me.  When I am struggling and in need of comfort, you give me relief.
Lord thank you that those who seek you aren't neglected by you, that you have set us apart and you are attentive to our needs.
Thank you that I can be angry and troubled with life but it does not have to destroy me or others.  When I experience these challenges it is yet again another chance to trust you more deeply.
Loving Father it is good to know that the source of my joy is not in myself, not in my situation, not in my circumstances, not in my possessions but my joy is to be found in you.  Your face is a shining light in the darkness of despair!
My Protector, thank you that there is peace to be found;  that no matter the turmoil of life, the struggles and disappointments I can find peace when I rest in you.  In your arms I am safe and there is no other place I could be more secure.
 If you are looking to jump-start your prayer life, if it has gotten cold or stale then I would challenge you to begin in Psalm 1 and begin to pray back to God his Word.  It will renew your heart and fan your passion for God.  And even better yet, find a friend to pray with – "…two are better than one.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken."
May you be filled up this holiday with the fullness of God!  (Turkey doesn't last very long!) 
Peace and grace, 
David

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanks

It's Thanksgiving time so a few thoughts on some of what I'm thankful for:

I am thankful for my Savior, Jesus.  He is my solid fortress and a rock that will never move.  He is always with me and will never leave me.

"And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." " (Matthew 28:20, ESV)

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." " (Hebrews 13:5, ESV)

I am so thankful for my wife, Pam.  What a rock and a blessing she is for me.  She is my most faithful prayer warrior, my comfort, my beautiful lover.

"An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. " (Proverbs 31:10–12, ESV)

I am thankful for my children.  Keenan, Noah, Daniel and Eliza stretch me, bless me, challenge me and definitely keep me on my knees, deepening my prayer life!

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. " (Psalm 127:4–5, ESV)

I am thankful for my friends.  They have the courage to look me in the eye and ask the hard questions because they love me.

"And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. " (Ecclesiastes 4:12, ESV)

I am thankful for my church.  It is the people that stretch me and challenge me to know God deeply and share his love freely.  It is full of people seeking Jesus, growing in generosity, growing in our heart for the world.

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. " (Ephesians 5:25–27, ESV)

I am thankful for life.  I get to do the things I do, in a beautiful place with extraordinary people for an Awesome God!

"How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation. " (Daniel 4:3, ESV)

What are you thankful for?

It is a great privilege to be your pastor!

David

Love God, Love people.
Matthew 10:37-39




Friday, November 12, 2010

Grace

Grace is hard.  It is much easier to follow a path of judging than it is to live in grace and extend grace.  I’ve been a pretty good judge in my life, having this amazing ability to know the motives, intentions and stories of people’s lives from just the smallest of details or the slightest whiff of rumor.  I have then very sanctimoniously become prosecutor, judge, jury and jailer.  I remember once hearing about a popular Christian recording artist who got a divorce.  Having absolutely no knowledge about this person’s life, I judged them not worthy to listen to anymore.  It is easy to judge.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. ”  ~ Jesus (Matthew 7:1–2, ESV)

Judging others is the great destroyer of community.  When we judge, we assign motive to the hearts of others and we determine those motives are evil. And then we condemn.  What more effective way to destroy relationships than that?  The thing is, it happens in all arenas of life – family, work, neighborhoods, workplaces, churches, little league, ballet, etc, etc.

If someone does something I don't like, it is much easier to justify my poor treatment of them by hanging labels like "stupid", "greedy", "lazy", "incompetent", "worthless", etc, etc.

So what do we do? 

On the wall of our church it says:
Free to be who we are…being transformed into all God created us to be.”
It is a statement of grace.  It is the recognition that as we come to Jesus, none of us is perfect, none of us is without our edges, our faults, our sin, our hurts and our ability to hurt others.  But as we pursue God, he is transforming us.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ” (2 Corinthians 3:17–18, ESV)

We don’t need to judge one another, we need to be people of grace that don’t assign motive to others actions.  We need to see irritations, misunderstandings and disappointments as opportunities to pray for each other and to grow in our grace quotient.

Judgment is easy.  Grace is hard.  That is why we need to be experiencing the God of grace through Jesus so we can be the people of grace through Jesus. 

For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. ” (1 Corinthians 4:4–5, ESV)


David

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Why Community Matters - Relevant Magazine

Why Community Matters - Relevant Magazine


I just did a series of talks on community.  Here is an insightful article I just came across.  It is worth the 5 minutes to read and consider.  I especially like (and, at the same don't like!) this quote:  

"Author and pastor Kevin Miller says: “If [the church] isn't hard, then that's a sign you probably haven't entered deeply enough into community. Because God's deepest work in us is to teach us how to love. And love doesn't mean much until it's tested by someone who is cranky, narrow-minded, bigoted, critical and harsh.” The body of Christ has a special role to call us out of introspection, selfishness and bitterness to live as Christ intends for us."


I want the church to function perfectly.  But, opps! I'm here!  Ain't gonna happen.




Friday, November 5, 2010

God Using His Word To Meet Us

Yesterday I met with a group of pastors in WA to teach, encourage and pray for one another.  One of them, my friend John, had suffered a terrible blow to his family earlier in the week.  His ninth grade son was brutally beat up at school, breaking his nose and a bone below his eye as well as suffering multiple cuts from his braces.  His face was so swollen when they saw him at the hospital that he wasn't recognizable.  The boy who did this had been bullying him for a time - a classic example of the strong victimizing the weak.

Another friend shared about the (untrue) accusations that some church people had made about his kids as these people voiced their displeasure over recent changes the church was making to reach people for Jesus and live out their faith more fully.

Before I met, as I prayed about what we would be doing in our time together, I decided to apply some of the things I had learned this past weekend in regards to prayer.  Daniel Henderson had led us in an approach to prayer that is "Worship-based, Scripture-fed, Spirit-led".

As a group, we chose the scripture.  I asked someone to give me a number between 0 and 15.  Another person gave me a number between 1 and 9.  The numbers that were chosen were 8 and 2.  So, we turned to Psalm 82:1-8 and did God ever meet us there!  As I led us through the rhythm of prayer of Reverence, Response, Request and Readiness over the next 30 minutes the truth of God's words in the Psalm encouraged us, guided us and comforted us.

Psalm 82 reminds us that God is the great, mighty, fair and ultimate Judge.  We can trust him when evil rises up.  We can lean on him when unfairness seems to be winning.  We can call on his perfect justice.

It was what we needed.  It was what my friends needed.  The Spirit led, God showed up.  It was anything but uninspiring and boring.  It was a great fresh encounter with God.

Just thought I'd share.
dc

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thoughts On Prayer


Last week's Fresh Encounters prayer conference with Daniel Henderson was a personal time of encouragement and refreshment for me.  We had set this up last Spring and it was great timing to challenge us (and me) to keep a right focus on God.
Here are some observations and conclusions I have come away with.
1.     We need to pray because God is worthy of our effort.  Talk of prayer can quickly move into the guilt thing.  "There goes Pastor David, talking about prayer again.  I know I don't pray enough!  I wish he would shut up!"  I haven't met anyone who believes they pray enough.  But guilt isn't a motive for prayer.  Prayer is ultimately about our heart seeking God's heart.  We do that in private but we also need to encourage each other in this worthy pursuit through corporate prayer.
2.     Prayer doesn't need to be boring.  God is not boring.  Living a life of faith is not boring.  Why are so many of our times of prayer boring?  Especially when we pray together?  I've got to be honest, I have been reluctant to start a regular corporate prayer time because I have been so uninspired by most of the prayer times I have been a part of – and many of them I have led myself!!  I appreciated Daniel's Worship-based, Scripture-fed, Spirit-led approach to prayer.  I found our two times of corporate prayer during the weekend were fun and engaging.  Those boring prayer times were my fault, not God's.  I need to be a better leader to help us experience God in prayer more fully.  I am committed to learning and growing so I can do that.
3.     A life of prayer isn't going to be the easy path.  Of all the things I do to lead in ministry, personally and in my family, prayer is hands-down the hardest thing for me to do consistently and faithfully.  I've got a healthy dose of SADD – Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder – and I can always find something to do other than pray.  I think prayer takes two D's to be consistent:  Desperation and Discipline.  I have to truly believe I can't be fully alive and fully effective apart from a deep connection to God.  I am a pretty good Control-Freak-Type-A-Driven-Problem-Solver person.  It takes a lot for me to feel desperate.  Prayer helps nurture that deep dependence and connection to God.  As far as discipline, that's just a matter of "Going Nike".  You know what I mean – "Just Do It!"
4.     Prayer is of primary importance but it isn't the only thing of importance.  Prayer isn't the answer to all of our problems but it is where we find all of our answers.  God still calls us to work, love, lead, follow, serve, think, plan, say "yes" and say "no".  (See Philippians 2:12-13)  But prayer is the power source by which we can do those things right and do them well.  The volume and fervency of our prayer life reveals who we believe has the most power.  Little prayer – we believe we have the power.  Much prayer – we believe God has the power.
5.     We need to pray more.  When I was in Ethiopia, every church I went to had something in common.  Every church had kneeling pads laying around on the floor.  Those kneeling pad were for people who were down on their knees in prayer.  I remember writing the simple statement in my journal – "I need to pray and fast more."  In each of the churches I was at, the leaders of those churches laid their hands on me and prayed for our church and for me.  I could only understand a few words (Jesus and thank you!) but they prayed fervently, loudly and for a long time.  I was moved and inspired.
So, we are going to pray more.  Every day from 8:30 - 9 AM we are having a prayer time for the staff and anyone who would like to join us.  During those times we will begin by seeking God's heart and asking for his hand to move.  I'm encouraging every Life Group and Bible Study leader to give a "tithe" (a tenth) of your group time to prayer.  So, if you meet for two hours (120 minutes) you will spend at least 12 minutes in prayer – not talking about prayer or prayer requests, actual talking-to-God time.  Some Life Groups are going to have prayer as their primary focus, using the tools of Fresh Encounter as a guide to lead in Worship-based prayer.  And I am planning some corporate prayer encounters that will not be boring!  Stay tuned, more details to come. 
Our mission is still "We exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ from our community."  Our definition of a disciple is still "A transformed life who is trusting in Jesus such that they are loving God and loving people."  Our vision is still "Growing transformed lives through experiencing the love, truth, presence and people of Jesus."  The way we help disciples grow is still "Invite – Connect – Give – Grow".  What we are doing is not chasing a fad, it is intentionally and more deeply plugging into our power source.  It is returning to the roots of how our church has experienced transformation the last 12 years.
Wouldn't it be cool if someone asked you where you went to church and when you told them they would respond, "Oh, that's the church that prays."  That's my dream.
            Being your pastor is a privilege.  Let's keep moving forward, embracing the grace of God in its fullness.
Peace and grace,
David