Archive for July, 2011

This was due on Friday but other task consumed the day. So as they say, “better late than never.”

6. Don’t know how to pray – Luke 11:1 “…Lord, teach us to pray…”

Perhaps i lack effectiveness in prayer because i don’t completely know or understand what the scriptures teach about prayer. Jesus gave His disciples an outline for prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. i have taken time to study it. Other passages teach that prayer is primarily to be a private, intimate time
with the Lord (Matt. 6:6), to be intermingled with praise and thanksgiving (Acts 16:25, Phil. 4:6).

Times of fasting with prayer are beneficial to strengthen my faith and power in prayer (Acts 14:23, 1 Cor. 7:5). Jesus often went to secluded places to spend prolonged periods in prayer (Luke 6:12, Matt. 4:2).

7. Lack of Faith – Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

i cannot please God without faith. Prayer is not merely “begging” from God. It is “believing” God and His Word! Faith will come forth and grow as i devote my attention to the Word of God (Romans 10:17). my faith can also be “built up,” by praying in the Holy Spirit (Jude 1:20). Faith is believing from the moment you pray it to the moment you recieve it.

8. Misunderstanding of Faith – Mark 11:24 “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”

i understand that faith is believing in the reality of things, even though i cannot see them (Heb. 11:1). Jesus said that “when” you pray, you must believe that you “receive” your answer at that moment. The word, “receive” comes from the Greek word, LAMBANO, which means “to receive now” (present tense). He then says we will “have” them. “Have” comes from, ESOMAI, which means “to possess later” (future tense). So, when i pray i must believe in the finished results of my prayer, and i will eventually experience the tangible results sometime later.

9. Wavering faith – James 1:6-7 “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;”

On occasion i allow every “wind” of feelings or circumstances to influence or discourage my faith. i go back and forth, like the waves tossed about in the sea. One day i believe, but the next, i’m ready to give up, and so forth. In these times i base my faith on my feelings or emotions instead of God’s Word. When i waver in my faith i cannot expect to receive “anything of the Lord.” my faith must become stable, steadfast, and consistent to receive from God.

10. Failure to apply spiritual Authority – Mark 11:23 “For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, Be removed and be cast into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.”

There are times that some prayers may not get far until i incorporate the spoken authority of the name of Jesus. The reason for this is that the problems i face may “sometimes” be a product of an evil spiritual origin. As Paul writes, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). In such cases, my prayers may need to engage in what is called “spiritual warfare” to obtain results.

The need for this type of prayer is most obvious whenever Christians deal directly with demonic activity. For this evil operation to cease, my prayers need to include the exercise of spiritual authority against the devil in the name of Jesus, commanding him to leave (Acts 16:18). Therefore, as Jesus indicated, there will be times that we may need to literally speak to mountains (symbolic of obstacles and problems) and tell them to move in Jesus’ name.

11. Lack of Perseverance – Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Probably the greatest reason that some prayers go unanswered is because i give-up praying and believing before i receive my answer. As long as i have the promise of God’s Word, be patient and persistent – keep believing, and don’t quit, no matter how long it takes! God has a “due season” when He will bring the answer to pass.

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It’s said that if it can’t be repaired with duct tape then it can’t be repaired. Where does that leave prayer?

2. Not seeking to Please the Lord – 1 John 3:22 “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” Answers to prayer come when i seek to keep His commandments and please the Lord with my life. This is not to suggest that
i “earn” answered prayers, any more than i can earn salvation which comes only by faith (Eph. 2:8-9). He answers my prayers from his “grace” and “mercy” (Heb. 4:16), not merely from my good deeds. However, keeping His commandments and pleasing the Lord is a product of my obedience to His word, which is faith in action (James 2:20). What are His commandments? He commanded that i am to love the Lord with all my heart, mind, and soul, and to love my neighbor as ourself (Mark 12:30-31). Further, Jesus said i am to love my brethren as He has loved me. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Lack of love, bitterness, forgiveness is the root of many unanswered prayers, since faith works by love (Gal 5:6). i believe that my hearts desire is to please the Lord, i also believe that i spend a large amount of time thinking about it and trying to let my words and deeds line up.

3. Unconfessed Sin in my Life – 1 Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” i have no doubt that sin will disrupt the flow of God’s blessings and answers to prayer. The psalmist, David wrote, “If I
regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18). All acts of rebellion and disobedience to God are considered sin. Sins of “commission,” are
those overt acts which are done in disobedience. However, sins of “omission,” are those things i don’t do in obedience, but know i should (James 4:17). The
remedy for all sin is to confess it to God, forsake it, and ask Him to forgive me (1 John 1:9). If there is one thing i have learned in the five years of directing a prayer center it’s to confess my sins quicker than i used to. i remember the old ed would just be quiet about them in hopes that they would go away on their own. It’s sort of embarrassing how many times a day i have to ask for forgiveness.

4. Improper Motives – James 4:3 “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” my motives in my prayer requests are of concern to the Lord. He wishes to help me in my time of need, but is not obligated to answer prayers which will merely feed my carnal, worldly appetites and (lustful) pleasures. my motives and desires can be corrected by humbling myself, and drawing near to God (James 4:8-10). Being a giver if i am guilty of wrong motives it would have to be that i want to do things for others more than they want to or seem to want to, so ed to the rescue.

5. Not asking in God’s will – 1 John 5:14-15 “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”
God will only answer those prayers that are in “His” will. When i ask anything that is in His will, i can have assurance that those “petitions” (requests) are granted to me. God’s will is revealed through
His Word, the Bible. Anything promised by His Word is His will, and i can be confident that He’ll honor my prayers based on His Word… BUT… along with His will is His timing. This is also where my own perception of what the word is saying comes into play and can lead me astray. The best resolution i have found for this is to have a community of people around me that i can have discussions with to curb my perceptions.

iam begining to imagine what i’d look like if each of these were pieces of duct tape.

Prayer and Duct Tape

Posted: July 27, 2011 in Prayer and Duct Tape

It’s said that if it can’t be repaired with duct tape then it can’t be repaired. Where does that leave prayer?

i was standing in a consignment store for children to get a car seat and a car boaster seat for my son and family who will arrive here soon. They have two children and the laws today are much different about transporting children than they were when my son and daughter were young. In my day it was one size fits all, while today i understand there are at least three or four sizes. i was asked to get these items for them and to do so as cheap as possible, thus the consignment store.

On this day i arrive at the store only to find that at least 25 to 30 others had found their way there prior to my arrival. The store was hot and it was packed. i worked my way around the congestion to finally ask a sales clerk for help. Yes help… i have no idea about what i need, so rather than guess or waste my time i asked. i have also been known to ask for directions as well, contrary to one other persons opinion. Anyway she guided me through what they had and even recommended certain ones and not so much some others. i decided to go with the ones that she said she would buy for her own children.

While i am doing my thing Ann Marie is doing hers, shopping! Recently one of the Onething families had a baby and well, we have decided that he is our adopted family. His name is JP, but don’t call him that around his father. We also have another baby coming in a few months and it’s going to be a girl. i have not been able to buy for a girl since my daughter so she will be blessed. Ann Marie found things for both of them that were just to cute and to affordable to pass up so as i entered the line to pay for my two items she handed me no less than a dozen. i was about 4th or 5th in line and as i stood there a woman from the front was told that she had to go back and get in line again to do what she wanted. She walked back and said to me “i have to get back in line” and proceeded to step in front of me. No sense making a scene, right?

Once she reached the counter she was told that they needed the sales tag number from the item she wished to buy. This was so they could pay the person who owned it. She responded “fine but you’re not going to take anyone  else while we’re waiting.” i responded to her statement, “that’s not very nice as i let you in front of me and didn’t say anything.” She responds, “no my place was being held.” Being held? By who an invisible being? Game on! It was then that i heard that still small voice say, “let it go.” In that moment i prayed “Lord put a guard on my lips.”

Moments before this all happening we were discussing something about the air conditioning and how it was installed back in 1988 in these buildings. How did i know that, because Onething is in the same plaza and we have dealt with air conditioning issues for five years. A woman in the line added her thoughts, “so it’s held together with prayer and duct tape.” An interesting comment in light of Onething being a prayer center and yes we have rolls of duct tape to hold things together. The woman who had the attitude continued to let her mouth speak freely and rudely. As for me… well i got a clear picture of my mouth being held shut with duct tape. James 1:19 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”

The woman in the line that we were talking to turned out to be a believer and an aspiring writer. We joked about the idea of a blog called Prayer and Duct Tape. She said she was to busy to blog and so the idea stuck with me and here it is. It’s not a blog dedicated to prayer and duct tape but a category within me and I Am. Every once in a while i will add a post to it. While i did pray for God to put a guard on my lips, the greater prayer is for the woman with the attitude. My prayer for her this past week or so was Psalm 34:4 That she would seek the Lord and that He would answer her and would deliver her from all her fears.

Duct tape would keep my mouth shut but, an adjustment in my heart would probably bring a more lasting result. That adjustment would come about by prayer. One of the greatest benefits given to me as a Christian is the privilege of answered prayers. In the Bible, Jesus made this promise, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matt 21:22). However… yes however, despite the Lord’s willingness to answer prayer, it is obvious that some of my prayers have gone unanswered. Why is this? i’m going to look at some of the possible reasons why some of my prayers do not get results: Now i must keep in mind that it may just seem that they do not get results.

1. Lack of Fellowship with God and His word – John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” Unanswered prayers are sometimes a result of absence from relationship with the Lord and His Word. Jesus promised that if i would remain in His fellowship, and allow His Word to remain in me, this would produce results in prayer.

“Even if the fig tree does not bloom and the vines have no grapes, even if the olive tree fails to produce and the fields yield no food, even if the sheep pen is empty and the stalls have no cattle — even then, I will be happy with the Lord. I will truly find joy in God, who saves me.” Habakkuk 3:17-18 (GW)

This verse was sent to me and is exactly what i need. It’s been 5 days and no new miracle, no additional divine intervention, yet i had hoped there might be. My mind posses questions to me, almost as challenges. Did i not do enough, did i give in, were my prayers weak, lacking in substance, should i have gone to court, where did i miss it? And if the challenge idea does not work then comes the idea of guilt. i must now tell the ministries regarding what they must give up or what may appear to be what has been lost. i  can’t say that God did not show up, because, i do not know the “what if” as one reader pointed out. It is now time to put in place what i negotiated. i am not going to lay down and just wait for the sky to fall. my hope is that “ed will be happy with the Lord, ed will truly find joy in God, who saves ed.

When i meet people day-to-day it is calculated by number crunchers that at least 25% of them have already experienced some type of hurt that day by a family member. i hear stories all the time about what a family member did to them or did not do for them.

At the end of a concert a man who was seated in the very back, observed a group of disabled adults. Many seemed to have mental disabilities while others had severe physical disabilities, but they all were having a great time. Those who could sing, sang. Those who could dance, danced. Those who needed to lean on someone else did so happily. At the end of the concert this group decided it was time for them to go and the man watching was amazed that there was no chaperon. They were there alone, together. As they left the man observed the closeness with which they all held onto each other, while still singing and laughing. He thought for a moment and wondered what it would be like to give up pretending that he was whole and simply admit and embrace the idea of being disabled. His conclusion was that from that night on he would stop trying to create a beautiful fellowship. My christian “family” comes about not by trying to overcome my needs but by openly confessing them and finding my way to freedom by leaning on each other.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Dismiss once and for all every clamorous desire for something more. One who wants more than what Christ has established does not desire Christian brotherhood. He is looking for some extraordinary social experience which he has not found elsewhere. He is bringing muddled and impure desires into Christian brotherhood.” If i love the idea of a community more than the community itself then i will actual destroy the community.

The world is continually telling me that i can become someone different, i can be better, new and improved, but they want to sell me something to accomplish it. The word says that all things become new, that i renew my mind, etc., etc., and there is nothing to be purchased. Church, community, relationships are things i am to engage in to remind me of who i am and not who i want to be. For years i was told that i would find myself. For years i thought if i could just do something dramatic i would find freedom from all the suffocating commitments.

Some people think that there is a renewal for “Family life.” i quite honestly do not see it. What i do see is, people are just accepting the fact that they are stuck with it. There is nothing to be done about our dysfunction behavior patterns, our fear of aids, our recognition of economic interdependence and we are left with our need to work together for social, political and ecological crises or die in them.

The word is filled with stories that demonstrate my need for family or community. When Mary conceives the hope of the Messiah in her womb the life of Joseph is dramatically changed as well as mine. When Lot got into trouble it was Abraham who pleads the case before God. The relational stories are the real stories that need to be told. Cain and Able, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, Moses, Aron and Miriam, David and his elder brothers, James and John as well as Peter and Andrew all relationships designed by God. And look at the effect of Adam and Eve on my life when they are removed from the garden. My family or community can affirm or corrupt my humanity. My Community should be a place of finding hope.

So how do i encounter God when i and my family are so dysfunctional and even sinful? There is one path and thus i must walk alongside others and it is there that i discover a hurting world and realize the only possible difference between us… i am found by God. It is in that single truth that i realize my seemingly needy life is filled with significance.

The word says, “hope deferred makes the heart-sick.” But i wonder, is my heart-sick before my hope is deferred? If my heart were healthy wouldn’t it hold onto hope? And yes, perhaps what i call hope is something else. Maybe its hope in the wrong person or thing?

At breakfast a wife looks at her husband as he reads the newspaper, just as he has done every morning for the past 20 years. He desire is to tear the paper from his hands and tell him that she is in love with him every bit as much as the day they met. But she isn’t sure it’s true. She isn’t sure he loves her. She isn’t sure who he is anymore. She stares across the table at the back of the newspaper and asks, “where are you?” A man driving home from work realizes that once again he’s running late. He picks up the cell phone to tell his wife that he’ll be a little late for dinner. His little girl answers the phone and asks, “where are you?” He then remembers that he has forgotten her first piano recital. Disgusted with himself, he can’t get the question out of his mind, “where are you?” A recently widowed woman goes to bed alone and as the grief begins to take hold, with tears running down her face she asks, “where are you?” Hope has been deferred by various causes.

“Where are You?” i have asked that question. Often of people, occasionally of God, and even of myself. i like the story of Abraham and Isaac because it has a happy ending, God showed up in time. But sometimes it seems a s though God shows up to late, by my understanding of course. Jesus hears that Lazarus, whom he loves is ill, and yet he stays where he is for two more days. Jesus does not race right over to Lazarus’s place and fix him. Get this, Jesus says, He tarried until Lazarus died, “so that you may believe.” (Jn 11:15) Believe what? How about believe simply in God and not what He will do?

Perhaps my actions are to push my way to Jesus and grab a little bit of grace before it’s too late. Jairus has a sick daughter and asks Jesus to come and heal her but along the way a crowd gathers and in the crowd is a woman who has been sick a long time. Imagine as the crowd grows and Jesus pauses to heal this woman what Jarius might have been thinking. “Come on! This woman has a chronic problem, She’s been sick a long time, She’ll be sick tomorrow, but my daughter will be dead.” Jesus has the ruler, a man with the position and power, a man with authority wait while he heals a nobody. The story goes on that news came that the young girl died. Jesus did not show up in the nick of time, He was too late. What i must realize just a Jarius had to, was that Jesus is the God who shows up at the place of death, after hope has turned to despair, when the improbable becomes the impossible. i do not think of Jesus as the one who can and does defeat the power of death. Not sure why it never crosses my mind. Perhaps despair comes and seems more real. When despair comes to Jarius Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Again , believe what? That a loss will be avoided or simply believing in Jesus. My hope must be in God alone and i must give up the idea that i can control His creativity in my life. Jesus gets to Jarrius’s house, throws everyone out and says, “talitha kuom! Little girl get up!” Then Jesus says, “Tell no one about this.” No long sermon just 4 words loaded with power.

Most of the time people can handle a little bit of Jesus, a Jesus who helps me out from time to time, or who offers me a little charity when i am in need, but a Jesus who is stronger than death? This would put Him in the category of being uncontrollable.

Believe: to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, although without absolute proof that one is right in doing so. To have a conviction that (a person or thing) is, has been, or will be engaged in a given action or involved in a given situation.

Believe in what? “The Truth – God” Just how much confidence do i have in God is revealed each day in my actions. Could i take my son up the mountain for the purpose of a sacrifice? Would my belief in God sway if he did not show up until two days after my loved one died? What would it look like if one of my children died because Jesus paused to heal a nobody? My hope is sometimes unruly: disposed to disobedience.

Don’t be surprised if this is just ramblings of an unsatisfied poster. And if He doesn’t will i give up my faith? This was not a part of this series but through circumstances that occurred during the writing of this series the quest came to me, If He doesn’t… will you give up your faith?” Absolutely not sounds like the correct answer. But is it the honest answer? And let me go a step further and break the question down to simply “And if He doesn’t?”

The question came to me from one of what i think was the best Little House In The Prairie shows. We do not have cable at home and so i do not get to see the show very often, but this day i am at a resort on what is being called a vacation. I’m not sure that’s what it really is but i can go with the flow. Through a series of events i found myself sitting front of the television and yes watching Little House On The Prairie. And to top it off this one show that i already said was a favorite. i wont bore everyone with the entire details of the show but if your reading this then you should find a way to see this episode and watch it.

Mr Ingals through a series of events much like myself ends up building an altar and is believing for the healing of his son. He prays and asks for a confirmation that God is even listening. Suddenly an old man, slash angel shows up and is the confirmation he was asking for. The time came for God to do what He would do and so the angel asks Mr Ingals the question, “And if He doesn’t – meaning heal his son – will you give up your faith?” Mr. Ingals pauses for just a moment and replys, “No.” Of course in this episode and like most television shows God shows up, on time, and does as asked.

The timing for me is impeccable. i, or i should say we have just concluded a 120 day court battle with the landlord of the prayer center. my question is slightly different by very similar. After spending the 120 days doing as i believe i was told by God, did He show up? i do know that He did and i have no regrets regarding my course of direction for the 120 days, but…. and this is tricky…. on one hand it doesn’t feel like it, nor look like it and on the other hand it feels like it and looks completely like He did. i am not giving up my faith, this is not that serious of a possible no-show from God. And again i am processing through the no-show aspect and am actually about 80 percent on the other side of it.

i said all along that i had no plan, no back up plan for the outcome of the court decision. i said that i would abide by the judge’s ruling and that would be fine no matter what. i must have been asked over a hundred times what i had planned and what would i do or what does the future look like and all this is in regards to the prayer center. i would respond over and over i have no idea but i will know on July 21st when we get done with court. So honestly i did not think that i had a preconceived idea of what it might look like. It seems that i must have had some deep hidden idea of what i was expecting and thus the one hand this and the other hand that. The outcome, while i have a sense of peace, to be honest i am slightly disappointed, i think?

Here ‘s part of my problem. With just hours before the court time was to come i got a call saying that they wanted to negotiate? “Are you kidding?” That’s what i wanted from the very beginning and they refused to even talk with me and made it clear to anyone they could that they wanted nothing to do with me and that they would not every negotiate with me if i were the last person on earth. “Are you kidding me?” Now just hours before i must negotiate a plan which i have no clue of. The short of this is that we never went to court and we settled the entire matter by what they call negotiating and what i call, ed compromising.

For 120 days i spoke the word and refused to engage in speculation but on the day the outcome is announced i seem to have peace there is no celebration. While i am trying to remain grateful i am not exuberant. While we end up with enough there is no abundance. So i am left with the thought that i seem to have wanted more. It’s a mixed bag is what i have been trying to say. my mind will and emotions are wanting more and my spirit is trying to be satisfied. i am trying to keep my hands off that one tree in the garden and to accept that what i have is more than enough. The enemy is again trying to attack God’s character just as he did with Adam and Eve. The only difference is the names of the people, this time it’s ed and Ann Marie.

So if He did or didn’t is a wrong question and if i ask a wrong question i will get a wrong answer. Whatever it is, it must be enough as a creature of the Creator. i have no deeper understanding, no words to make myself or anyone else feel good about what the situation is, no thus saith the Lord, Not even the recollection of God working all things together for my good settles anything. It is simply “believe” and hold fast to faith. If i may in closing have hope that my patience will have its perfect work? No… i don’t think that’s the answer either.

Loneliness is one need that God did not want me to endure. With Adam God said, “that it was not good that he was alone” and so He created another human for Adam to be intimate with. This intimacy was not just sexual, but it was relational. The process for this is for me to bring my needs to others and when they are openly shared, i am to discover intimate community. Sometimes this works and… well other times not so much.

i was recently watching a commercial on television and the young girl states that scientist have proven that as people today get older they are withdrawing from others. She then goes on to introduce her parents to Facebook and she announces that they have 19 so-called friends, where as she has like over 600 so-called friends. PEOPLE!!! These are not friends they are at best acquaintances. i must ask myself how much of my day is spent doing the same old, same old with the same old same old and never getting to a place of intimacy. When am i to stop and listen to the stories of their lives? Scientists say that more people are leaving my life than entering it. Saying good-by is rarely a challenge as it’s become the norm. John Barth writes, Our friends float on past; we become involved with them; they float on, and we must rely on hearsay or lose track of them completely; they float back again, and we either renew our friendship – catch up to date – or find that they and we don’t comprehend each other any more.

i have lived in many, many places in my life and i only remember one that was hard to leave. A few of those moves were a matter of me settling for a “little pain” versus dealing with relational issues. Even today i deal with some relationships from the stand point of opening myself up to as “little pain” as possible and so the relationship never has a chance to develop. i have shelves lined with books, cd’s and dvd’s that all claim to be able to teach me how to have better relationships. i have not found one thus far that has all the answers and perhaps that’s because relationships involve more than just me.

In God’s design of me i was not equipped or designed for managing my needs, but i was to confess or share them. i am also not designed to be able to mend or fix others needs, but i was equipped to just hold them tightly. There was the day when i cherished the idea of making myself desirable so as to help other people in their needs. “You have a blank sheet of paper in your hands, write out what you want and “i” will help you get it.” God is the only help or hope that i have and that goes for others as well. In my best attempt i am but a speck of what God can do. As with most of the things of God we or i should say i complicate them. i reconstruct what family should look like to fit my circumstances and i end up with something far less than what God designed the family to be.

i like to think that one of the best things i did for my children was to let them go when the time came. That time was not when i thought or what i thought it would look like, but none the less they had determined that the time was right. Today it is not my job nor my intent to fix them and that is not to imply that they need fixing although a fine tuning might be in order. my thought would be that if i am in need of God’s grace daily, well, then my children are in need of my grace daily. There is a saying that the apple does not fall from the tree. i have never liked that saying in regards to parents and their children. my children have made their own way and many times i wonder where they got this or that because their mother nor i are like that at all.

There is a song that says, “the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.” The problem with sin is that adjusting to it gets easier but it never gets better. When Adam and Eve realized they had sinned, the first thing they did was get busy. They began to invent clothes and excuses. They gave up their dignity. In my relationships in some ways i have given up my dignity. A complement is no longer just a compliment. A compliment now has subtle meanings. “You look tied. You must be working to hard,” is a compliment. “You look well rested,” means you must not be doing anything.

In my relationships i have worked hard to learn compassion. i remember the day when someone told me that i had no empathy. i didn’t like hearing it and it has stuck with me for about 9 years. Jesus shows compassion in that he never beats me down with my sin, He is more interested in the healing of my sin. Many times Jesus has blurred the line between my sin and my righteousness just as He did with cheating tax collectors, adulterous woman and self-righteous Pharisees. Jesus was the example for me to hold together the two commitments of compassion and conviction. His compassion for the adulterous woman was saying, “Neither do I condemn you.” But because of His convictions he says, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Compassion without conviction is meaningless and conviction without compassion brings no healing.

loneliness is only half of the truth. Through fears, the pain and the hard questions, a glimmer of faith emerges, reminding me of the searching hands of the Father. And in my relationships i find the other half of the truth which says, “i am found.”

In this series of posts i am embarking on a renewed quest for passion so i am going back to my beginning where sin was treated as a by the way. During that time i knew there was “SIN” but there were also “gray” areas and they didn’t count. Here is what sin is for me today. Sin is the act of reconstructing my life to an image of my own making. During the course of my reconstruction many lies are told and the biggest lie is probably the one i tell myself about who i am.

Much like Adam and Eve i look around at the garden which i have been placed in and decide that “this is not enough.” i make a judgement that the Creators work is to slow or to fast, to dull or to threatening. i have at times attempted to “fix” what i deemed as God’s inadequate work. i actually thought… who else is going to do it if i don’t. Somebody has to step up to the plate. i have not come to this place without some help. Temptation is a lie that hooks me in the heart when i feel desperation in my situation. Temptation tells me that i am a person who is in need, that something is missing. The forbidden fruit of the garden represents different things to different people.

There was a man who visited a mental institution and to his surprise, he found that no one in the place seemed crazy. The patients talked sensibly and discussed their plans with much clarity and the visitor was convinced that they were sane. He asked the doctor about it and was assured that they were all mad. The doctor explained that yes they talk sensibly, but it is all about themselves. He went on, “here man is himself to the utmost limit, himself, and nothing else. As himself, he progresses full steam ahead, he encloses himself. No one sheds a tears for another’s sorrows, no one considers another’s ideas. We’re ourselves in thought, word and deed.” In my attempt to cope with life’s needs i sometimes fall captive to the idea of me. Everything around me seems to say that it’s all about me and it’s all about now. If i hear a lie over and over, it subtly begins to sound like truth. Others believe it so why shouldn’t i? Adam and Eve heard the serpent say, “eat this fruit and you will become wise as God.” Immediately there was a sense of something missing from their lives. Why believe the lies? Because i see them as a way out of where i am. With more of this i will be better, i will love and be loved more. i will have a better job and thus more money to give to God’s work. And what of all the rest of God’s blessings? Adam and Eve forfeited the splendor of God’s work for the one tree they were not to have.

A man drives home from the nursing home where his father lies in a coma. He tries to say, “i have always loved you, Dad,” but the old man does not respond and so the son feels the guilt and remorse of not having said it sooner. A retired couple are going through old photos of their children and one finally says, “I wish we had spent more time with our kids when we had them.” A young woman sits alone crying on her living room floor after hearing the heart braking words, “I’m leaving.” She then wonders how she let another relationship slip through her fingers. These situations remind me that it’s not until i have lost something that i realized how little time i spent taking care of it.

i wonder what would have happened if the serpent would have presented something to Adam and Eve that would have questioned the existence of God versus the character of God. i can be very determined when it comes to my belief in God but very weak when it comes to believing His character. i know that God is good but will He be good to me? This comes from temptation presenting itself by asking, “If God is so good to you, why have you been deprived of that which is missing?” Another question temptation has asked me is this, “what does it mean when you have done everything right and God doesn’t take care of the rest?” For me living out the answers to those questions is the most creaturely thing i have to do.

When i look at my situation in life i do something no other part of creation attempts… i try to make sense of it. my number one question has always been “why”. What possible purpose could God have for allowing this? i am always looking for order or purpose to my world and most often i find no answer. So how can i help others who are dealing with the things of their world? It’s simple i create my own understanding. And here’s an interesting observation, i only ask why when things seem to be tragic. Why don’t i ask why when it is awesome or a blessing by my definition. i read recently that scientist say the greatest threat to humanity is to live a meaningless life. For me… bring on the tragedy so long as i can make some kind of sense regarding it so that i can settle in my mind that it gives purpose. There is no other part of creation that imagines new frontiers for the purpose of discovering life’s meaning.

Much of my life has been lived out in heart stopping moments often times spinning out of control and hoping that God is there to catch me or break my fall. i have owned or better yet created over a dozen businesses in my life and yet not one satisfied for very long. It has been said of me that i get bored easily. i would rearrange the furniture in our house at least every 90 days… that is if it were up to me. i guess the very fact that i am free to create  a new job or design a new marketing piece is a gum-tree for me. i really never worry about not having a job because i think i can just create one if need be and in that i find security, or so i think.

On the other hand there have been those times when i was walking out a dream and suddenly realized that it wasn’t working like i thought it would. It’s then that i put my dream up for sale to move on to something else. i have no lack of dreams or ideas so it’s not that difficult.

Then there have been those times when i have looked to my faith to give me a boost in this life constructing process. If i am honest though my faith gives me no special edge in trying to construct my own life. At the very heart of my Christianity is the knowledge that i am completely at the mercy of God to find the meaning of my life. It is in Christ that i receive life, and i am never to construct one. i want to live with appreciation for the mystery and the adventure that come as a result of living life in Christ. It’s like wishful thinking or Great Creator. Nothing fits into the space in my life that God has reserved for Himself. i can not put God into the box that i have built for Him. He is beyond my capacity to limit Him. God is not just another piece of the puzzle. AND… God refuses to be captured by me His creation.

The story of the woman at the well holds many nuggets. When Jesus is talking to her He has one purpose in mind and that is to push her into a deeper understanding of her thirst. From water to relationships, from relationships to religion, from religion to hope. They finally get to her thirst for a savior quest and then Jesus reveals Himself as the one sent from God. But there is no place where Jesus “fixes” her life. She was still alienated from the other women, she still had to decide what to do about the man she was living with and all her divorces still remained. Yet the promise was that the water of Jesus would satisfy her thirst. What changed was that Jesus taught her how to worship… “in spirit and in truth” (vv. 23-24). The woman does not have God through the encounter with Jesus. What she “has” is a new way of finding water that satisfies her thirst.

i have searched for God and thought that i could find Him and “get” Him in such and such way. As of today i still have not gotten Him, but in many instances He has gotten me. That’s where i need to remain… gotten by God. i thought that more education in the word would get me more of God? Maybe a small group, men’s bible study or bible college would get me more of God? Perhaps a position, serving in a church or ministry, for free by the way would get me more of God? Tithing, giving offerings, serving and on and on go the ideas, yet not one has gotten me more of God. During these past few years as i have done less and less of those things and found my way to a place of worship more often, God has found me. What i have found is that there are places where God refuses to go regardless of whether i am there or not. i can have the best intent in doing a bible study and i can tell people that God will show up, but that is my presumption and sense of entitlement to presume that God will do so. He is not at my beckoned call, yet… He is always there. GRACE!

For many grace is a theological concept that plays a vital role in salvation. My grace is not limited to a theory of atonement, a formula for salvation or a schemas of the end of time. Grace to me did not just make a way for me to get to heaven. Grace to me is not just saying the right words, or living the right way or going to the right church. Grace to me and for me is the embodiment of God in Jesus Christ. Grace is the source of my hope, that i am in His hands and my life has purpose, no matter how tragic, dull, exciting or awesome that it seems to be. There are no good days and there are no bad days, just days of grace. And as much as i hate to say it, some days of grace i must endure and other days of grace i am able to enjoy, but with maturity i am hoping to enjoy them all.

In closing there is the story of a little girl who was in first grade, and she was asked to be an angel in a church Christmas play. Her mother spent weeks designing the costume. The day came and the little girl got dressed in her costume and came running into the room with her white dress, wings and halo. As she entered the room she cried out, “guess who, Daddy! Guess who!” Beneath the long, flowing white rob protruded her pink sneakers. The sneakers revealed the real child beneath the costume. i share that to say this, no matter how i try to dress myself up or change my appearance or increase my knowledge, my sin nature or better yet my humanity will always be sticking out in some way. AND… God will always be able to recognize me as He has marked me as His own. My name is written on the palms of His hands and i did not put it there, He did!

i know i have shared about doing versus being before but it has arisen again. When people meet they almost always after introducing themselves will ask “what do you do?” Depending upon my answer the response is differt. Doing does make an impact on people around me but “being” is what God delights in. Recently when asked “how i am” i began responding, “i am.” It seemed like an incomplete statement but i liked it better than the alternatives. Just weeks ago i learned the finishing words to my i am. i now say, “i am His beloved.” Okay but what do you do? “Be” His beloved.

I am learning to allow that to be enough. It is in learning who i am i am finding out what to do. For most of my life i was not content with that and so i reached for a piece of fruit that looked good to me, in spite of the fact that the tree it grew on was forbidden. I did not become a better creation… I became a corrupted one. Just because God is good doesn’t mean that everything that happens to me is the work of God nor does it mean that it is good. I can get hurt by my free will, my choices, and i may get hurt by other people’s free will and their choices. So long as i am in this world i am vulnerable.

Many people do not like someone who has not made the same mistakes they have. There is nothing to identify with. i struggled with that for many of my years in church.The story of sin filled lives was what people wanted to hear about. The so-called heroes of today all have their moments of compromise, and conflict. But what about the teen who never drank alcohol, experimented with drugs, or spoke profanity? i can assure you that my story of being set free from sin and receiving God’s grace is no less dramatic. It is filled with challenges and struggles to find significance and purpose for my life. I have no regrets regarding those days but there is the question of “what if” that pops up every now and then. My sin was “Self.” God saved me from myself. The sin that i have chosen in my life distorts my identity, values, relationships and eats away at intimacy the same way that it does for anyone who is human.

i live in a future-oriented culture that relates time largely to efficiency and productivity. It is true that i am more inclined to use time to accomplish results than to enhance relationships. Much of my life was worshiping the god of progress which inspired me to compete, achieve, and win for the sake of competing, achieving, and winning.

Philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, “We are warned not to waste time, but we are brought up to waste our lives.” This is evident in the tragedy of many people who in the first half of their lives spend their health looking for wealth, and in the last half spend their wealth looking for health.

In my home – i missed out and still miss out on relational opportunities when i am dominated by excessive activities. Over the years i have taken an inventory of activities like television, children’s lessons and sports, meetings, time on the computer, etc., to see how some of these can be reduced. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 exhorts me as a parent to know and love God and to teach my children about Him “when i sit in my house and when i walk by the way and when i lie down and when i rise up.” God intended my home to be a sanctuary for spiritual and personal development in a relational setting of love and acceptance.

In my work – The mistake of looking to work rather than God for security and significance coupled with the pressured quest for more of this world’s goods—these are forces that in the past drove me to the idolatry of materialism and busyness. If i don’t have enough time to cultivate a quality relationship with God, my spouse, and my children, i am working too long and too hard. As Gordon Dahl put it, “Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship.”

Church work/ministry –  This has often become another arena of busyness and frustration, especially when i have taken on activities and responsibilities in order to please people and meet their expectations. Not every need and request is a calling from God.

Personal God. Excessive activity draws me away from the time it takes to cultivate intimacy with God. i have often defined my relationship with God in terms of doing things for Him rather than spending time with Him.

So what am i to do?

  • Like Jesus, i must develop a clear sense of my mission so that i can invest my time with God’s in mind.
  • Free myself from bondage to the opinions, agendas, and expectations of others.
  • Seek a balance between rest and work, recharging and discharging, depth and breadth, inward and outward, reflection and practice, thinking and application, contentment and accomplishment.
  • Ask myself how much is enough. Unbridled wants kill contentment and drive me to greater busyness.
  • Resist the temptation to allow work to invade rest.
  • It is better to pursue excellence in what i do for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) rather than success to receive honor from people.
  • Since i cannot measure the “product” of time spent in developing my relationships with God and people, it takes a risk to invest a significant amount of time in these ways.
  • Live from moment to moment and hold a looser grip on my long-term plans. “Our great business in life is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand” (Thomas Carlyle).
  • Be aware of the distinction between chronos (chronological, everyday events) and kairos (special opportunities and occurrences). i want to be available for the opportunities or kairos moments God providentially gives me (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). Manage time loosely enough to enhance relationships rather than tightly to accomplish results.

i  have a built-in hunger for security, significance, and satisfaction, but the world teaches me to pursue these things in the wrong places. It should come as no surprise, then, that the dreams and goals promoted by the culture have also infected my whole approach to a spiritual life.

Any dead fish can float downstream—to swim against the current of our times, we must be spiritually alive. As the New Testament portrays it, real life in Christ is countercultural. The world defines who i am by what i do, but the Word centers on who i am in Christ and tells me to express that new identity in what i do. Being and doing are clearly interrelated, but the biblical order is critical: what i do should flow out of who i am, not the other way around. Otherwise, my worth and identity are determined by achievements and accomplishments, and when i stop performing, i cease to be valuable. When i answer the question “Who am i?” by what i do, the world has a way of responding, “So what have you done lately?”

In Christ i have a secure and stable basis for worth and dignity, because these are founded on what God Himself has done for me and in me. Being should have priority over doing, but it should also be expressed in doing.

External action should be derived from internal reality, and this requires a rhythm of solitude and engagement, restoration and application, intimacy with Christ and activity in the world. The life of Jesus illustrates this pattern of seeking significant amount of time to be alone with the Father (Luke 5:16; Mark 1:35; 6:31) so that He would have the inner power to deal with the outward pressures imposed upon Him by His friends and enemies. People who work and minister without adequate restoration through prayer and meditation do not have the inner resources to manifest the fruit of the Spirit in a stress-filled world. It is during the quiet times of the devotional life that we gain the perspective and power we need to live with character and composure in the context of daily demands. “In repentance and rest i will be saved, in quietness and trust is my strength” (Isaiah 30:15).