Friday, September 28, 2007

Prayer...

I have concluded in the past 5 minutes that the key to growing in your relationship with Christ is prayer. Why have I concluded this? Many, many reasons...too many to name; but ultimately, I have concluded this because I've experienced it.
- God has done the most through me when I've been in prayer
- I have been closest to Him when I pray
- I only have the ability to change circumstances when I pray
- I've seen God's power displayed in people who pray
Prayer is the key to everything.

Consider for a moment two remarkable passages in Scripture;
1) Jesus clears out the temple and says "my house shall be called a house of prayer." Not preaching, not music, not Bible studies or small group meetings or any of that other stuff, but PRAYER. Does that mean that other stuff is bad? Of course not! We need preaching and teaching, we need worship and music, we need to be in community together and in small groups. However, NONE of that will substitute for prayer.

2) Revelation 5:8 - "And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Somehow, the prayers that we offer are so precious to God that He keeps them in golden bowls of incense...the sweet, beautiful smells of incense.

Consider again this equation; TLC2 (the "2" means squared). I once heard that the key to any relation is T (Time) + L (Love) + C (Communication) + C (Commitment). Get those ingredients in that order and you can make any relationship work. So what's my point? How many of us long to be closer to God, long to see His power at work in our lives, but never get to "first base" with God - we never spend TIME with Him? What is prayer? It is many things, to be sure, and I have much to learn about prayer...but at it's essence, prayer is spending time with God.

I can no longer avoid the fact that if I ever want to grow spiritually, if I ever want to become more fully the man that God has planned, if I ever want to reach my spiritual potential, I must pray. I must pray when I feel like it and pray when I don't. It will not be easy; it will require sacrifice...it will be worth it.

I never want to go through life looking back at all the times God's power was displayed, looking forward to the times when it will once again be displayed, and never actually experience any of that power in my life.

Here's the deal; I've known this fact for about 6 years...and yet I'm no further along in my prayer life than I was back then. To be sure, I've had great moments of prayer and I've hit some highs, but then I sink back. I began reading a book this week called "Could You Not Tarry One Hour?" I knew before I opened it what it would do to me...but someplace, deep inside me knows I need to read it, I need to let myself be convicted again, and I need to pray. Here is one quote from this book I'll share with you; "Face the Facts. If you do not begin to pray, you will not be any further along with the Lord next year than you are right now. There is always the agony of choice before the promise of change."

So how about you? Will you join me in prayer? Will you take the first step and ask God to really change you? If you're already there, pray for me. I want more!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Faith is like...

I want this blog to be "real" and so with that caveat, I say that the next few posts may or may not be the type of post you'd normally see on this blog.

Grief is a funny thing; one minute you're up, in your normal routine and then "wham!" - out of nowhere an emotion will hit you that you can't really control. Sailors call them rogue waves, Pilots call it wind-shear - it's all the same. Something unexpected hits you hard, seeking your destruction. This is how grief works. It comes and goes and can be set off by the smallest thing.

My Mom liked to collect these small turtles from Mexico. I had brought one of these things home with me and yesterday, I put a piece of scotch-tape on my computer monitor and mounted a little turtle there. Wham! Out of nowhere, an emotion hits and I break down. It's these little things that can hit you. Today I was in the auditorium by myself, sitting at the piano and worshipping when "wham" - I'm hit with the thought that were it not for my Mom, I would not be a pianist/worship leader or likely wouldn't be a musician at all. I will never see her again this side of eternity. This is hard to swallow...

Faith is the opposite of grief. It is constant - never changing, always sustaining, always whispering, carrying, holding, listening and understanding. Having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the greatest thing anyone on planet earth could ever have. With faith, there are no surprises, no rogue waves, no wind-shear. Faith is the rudder on a sailboat in a storm, it steers you through the rough waters, keeping you on an even keel, preventing you from fully capsizing.

This is where I am at right now - a small sailboat in the midst of a storm, feeling at times blown and tossed, but trusting a God who never fails.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Worship: more than one face

Worship has many faces; joy, happiness, singing, laughing - and also, crying, sorrow, sadness. On August 23rd I got a call at 2:30 Am that my Mom had unexpectedly passed away. Nothing prepares you for times like this and to be sure, it has been quite a roller coaster few weeks. Thoughts and emotions tend to take over and life suddenly becomes a simple matter of survival. Things that seemed so important yesterday, suddenly seem so unimportant. Life tends to get very simple; family, sleep, food. Phone calls and emails go unreturned, relationships become vitally important, tears begin to flow at the oddest of times and yet...through it all, He is there.

I know it sounds cliche, but it is true - in our darkest moments, He is there. I confess that I haven't been running to my Bible, or spending inordinate amounts of time in prayer, or singing worship songs at the top of my lungs; and yet, despite all that, in some respects I am closer to God now then I was before. He has been there constantly whispering, holding, carrying, reminding me that it's ok to grieve, it's ok to cry.

I wrote a couple of blogs ago that one of the most comforting passages in all the Bible is also the shortest verse in the Bible; "Jesus wept." Little did I know when I wrote that post how soon my own life would be turned upside down. Still, those words bring comfort to me today. Why? Because they remind me that even Jesus, the Son of God, "Emmanuel," hurt. Even He cried, even He had sorrow and even, yes even Jesus understands loss. This comforts me.

And so, this Sunday I will resume my role as worship leader. Because I feel great? No. Because God has been so good to me? He has, but I won't sing because of that. Because I'm paid to do this? :-) Nope! This Sunday, I return to lead our congregation in worship because He is worthy to be worshipped. Regardless of the circumstances of life, regardless of my ups or downs, regardless of how I feel or what I want, I will worship God and sing to Him because of His worthiness.

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