Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beside quiet waters

Because I grew up in the church and at a christian school, there are some passages, I've heard so many times, I take for granted what they mean, and miss the amazing message God placed inside.

Psalm 23 was one of those passages.

As I sat down on what I suspect was once a chimney that now sits like a relic next to Tar River, God reminded me of how "he leads me beside still waters." And so I turned to Psalm 23 and began to read...

And He took my breath away.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. To borrow from JoMo, how stinking awsome is it, that God is my shepherd and not anyone else? Mr. Feeny, Wilson, and Morrie can all impart some great life lessons, but ain't none of them the good shepherd.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters, God always knows when I need rest, and when I need nourishment/encouragement, and thankfully He nudges me to that place, when I can be a rather numb sheep and keep trying to graze on a cliff.

He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. I'm not just living for my name, reputation or ministry. Far from it, I am living for His name. His reputation is what needs to be remembered.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and staff, they comfort me. HE IS WITH ME! And His Word, the people He uses along with other instruments, comfort me as they guide me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. The spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I will dwell in the house of the Lord FOREVER! Thats blows my mind.

Then 2 o'clock crept up, and I needed to head to campus for class. I lamented that my time with Him must be cut shorter than I'd like, but then I remembered...

He is with me. He goes where my feet go because I am a living tabernacle.

And so I sang all the way back on my bike to class.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Praying with all Boldness

Currently Campus America has represenatives in town for two days. In between classes and assignments, I've been spending time with them, showing them around, and introducing them to people. And learning more and more lessons about prayer.

Oh how important those are...

Like being reminded of being bold to ask to pray to/for even complete strangers.

I did this once, for two firemen in Detroit, despite probably being the strangest site they probably saw that whole month. Long story short, I was using a fold up chair as a crutch to prayer walk because I tore my ACL the day before, and was wearing a cowboy hat I picked up in Virginia (I think) on the road trip up. Josh Morgan has told me I should burn the hat, but I refuse. So I come hobbling up, shoot the breeze joining in their conversation about the Detroit Red Wings, then I asked if I could pray for them. They said yes.

Or how our bodies are living temples for the presence of God?

When we pray for people, God's presence is practically breathing on people's hearts, exhaling life, if they will inhale. We should continue to be welcoming to people, and hear their story, because in each one, God is pursuing them.

Or when we pray, we call down God's Spirit?

Sunday as our 2:42 leaders sat around a table having shared a meal we reflected on Elijah and Elisha. Elizabeth Helms pointed out that God answered with fire several times. Just as He answers with a still small voice, He also answers with fire. With passion, conviction, an invitation. A fire that consumes anything that will steal our hearts away from Him.

Oh how I needed to be reminded of those little lessons...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

To go or not to go...

Imagine this scene with me for a moment

While Jesus was out walking through the streets, this large crowd was following, clamoring to see what miracle He might perform next, what teaching he might pronounce. Maybe the crowds starting constantly bumping elbows with Him, or just became so noisy that He could barely hear Himself breathe. Regardless of why, Jesus turned to them as they walked and essentially said this

"Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's own self!—can't be my disciple."

"Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure the cost so you'll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you're going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: 'He started something he couldn't finish.'

Jesus is beginning to bring down some harsh conditions for those following if they continue to desire to follow Him. First He says that you have to let go of everything, and be loyal to me first. Secondly He says something to the effect of, 'You know those guys who sit down and consider the cost of something before they undergo the task? I don't want you to be like them. I want you to follow me no matter what the cost, not to even worry about it, or begin to look back.'

I was thinking about that last night, when I undertook what stands as my craziest adventure yet on campus at East Carolina. I'm sorely tempted to give details now, but I don't want to attract too much attention to me and my friend just yet. All you need to know for this post is that we did something spur of the moment. What we did was crazy, and slightly costly. Thankfully I didn't dwell much on all the costs of doing this, and simply lived the adventure.

I came to a huge realization about myself in the process. As much as I talk about adventures, I rarely get around to actually living them, often because I take time to consider the costs first, and unless I'm prepared enough, they don't happen. Last night unlocked a door in my heart, a door that gave my soul permission to freely pursue adeventures, to throw aside caution.

We need Christians to do the same with their faith. Jesus Himself even called for us follow Him. Not to go back, draw some out of savings, pack a suitcase with rain boots, and a winter coat, etc but to follow Him and trust that He will provide the rest. He said in Matthew that if the birds are taken care of, and they don't even gather or store into barns, how much more would we be provided for, and we being of far more value that birds?

What if He calls us to live in Alaska during the winter there? Or to take medical supplies to the congo? What if He calls us to give hope to patients who only have 2 months to live with cancer? Will we say yes, or will we sit down and say "I don't know, thats asking an awful lot. Can't I give money instead for people to do that, and stay here?"

Will you jump in water or stay standing on dry ground?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Got my Hands Tied

"This is the word that came to Jeremiah form the Lord: "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shapping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord. "Like clay in th hand of the potter,so are youi in my hand...Jeremiah 18:1-6

For the past two years of my Christian walk, as I've really begun to pursue Jesus in my life, following Him in everything. The race before me to do this, has been that of the course of letting go, surrendering my life to Him, letting Him have His complete way in my life. School has kept my hands tied though as I run this race.

Two years ago, after my freshman year, I nearly quit East Carolina, desiring to plunge straight into ministry, to be able to serve God as my vocation. After talking with my parents, I chose to still pursue a degree at ECU before serving in a ministry capacity. I don't regret the decision, because I've learned so much since then, being a part of Campus Christian Fellowship. CCF in fact has equipped me with a stable walk, so that I now pursue God on a regular basis and not in serious lapses as before. CCF has in fact been my only motivation to stay in school at times.

Even now, I'm sitting in the library. Its 11:30pm. Came over at 9:00pm to do some research for a 10 page paper due next week that has yet to be started. Also planned to work on a portfolio project also due next week. In 2 hours time I have nothing to show for it. Most of the time, I sat starring at the wall, completely unmotivated or looking up random things on the internet like youtube videos of sun drop. I'm just tired of assignments keeping me from His presence, from connecting others to Him, to spending time waiting and wrestling in prayer, meditating on His word.

My friend Daniel Mejia is stuck in the same rut. He wants school to be over so he can put God back at #1 in His life, and return to the joy of following Him every day. Daniel unlike me, has stayed committed to his school work, often for hours on end at the library.

I know that school has equipped me with good things, even now with the classes that I'm taking and the classes I have next semester I am gaining valuable knowledge. But when my heart is all out running one way, while my mind is forced another way, I can't help but be frustrated.

Still, I know God's will is for me to be here. And I need to learn to be content with the ways God is working in me, preparing me to be able to one day live all for Him. And just as Paul had a thorn, so I have mine.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Raise the Banner

Night continues to envelope East Carolina. But the Son is on the rise.

This friday, Christians on campus here at ECU from every ministry, varying denominations, different walks, cultures, will be turning to God in prayer.

As a friend of mine said earlier this evening, its a clear sign, that God is working on campus. Unity of this magnitude doesn't happen by chance or by the will of a few good men and women. This is the Body of Christ coming together, the bride of Christ, and not a group of bridesmaids. ONE BRIDE.

What do we hope to gain from spending ourselves in prayer at all hours of the day or night?

Believers, and non believers will begin, and or continue to experience God presence in a real, inviting way. Some may be brought to tears as they realize how much love, and grace Jesus has shown them. Some may fall down in amazement, that the creator of the universe is actually speaking to them, in a gentle whisper, sharing his plans. Others may start a war cry, determined to take back the campus from the evil one.

We want to take time away from our lives to sit down with God and say that we also desire this campus to lift up your name, O Lord. Yes we still want to pray for those sick, but our dreams are bigger than any one person or small group of people. Our dreams are those, begotten to us by the Holy Spirit, from the Father and Son.

We want to see the walls of darkness come down, the person contemplating suicide out of loneliness to find a friend who will truly miss them. For the person who continues to give pieces of themselves away in sexual activity, to taste of the pure living water offered by the Son. For the drug addict to find that true life, the ultimate high is knowing God as the one true God, and Jesus as His Son, and passionately following Him in every little way that He nudges.

East Carolina can become an institution where it is said "God is there." We can also become a training ground from which radically simple disciples head out, travelling to those in need, carried by the Spirit and prayer. East Carolina can become many things, but we must sit down and wait as God begins to unveil the blueprints for His plans. Who knows, even the things I just listed might even be a drop in the bucket compared to what He wants to do.

The question is, do we care? And if we care, are we patient to wait, and to seek out the Lord. With God all things are possible, but if the army He is raising up, chooses to continue to sleep on, the battle will never be won, not even contested.

And darkness may just yet continue to hold tight its grip over this campus.

But because of the salt of a few, more are turning up their lights. We're going to war with the evil one, but first we're going to wake up the rest of this army as it slumbers.

The bugle sounds: 24/7 Prayer.

All that and a can of chips

Got a couple of quick thoughts I'm pondering I want to share

1) I was sitting on my couch eating some Pringles chips about 20 minutes ago, and as I was eating, I was reflecting on the packaging. "Why do pringles come in a can and not a bag?" Then I realized that they do so, because the chips stacked together drastically decreases the chance of the chips breaking. In essence, Pringles are for those who care about all of the chips in the package, and not the few who land on top.

Within the Kingdom of God, if we were potato chips, and our Father needed to store us safely, He would use a pringles can, because He cares about each one, and no one is more important than anyone else!

One day that will make a great Sunday School lesson, or I can illustrate it to my kids If I should be blessed in that way one day.

2) I was reading recently in "Iressistable Revolution" about how there are bulemic Christians. They study the word of God, then as soon as they have it down, they vommit it back up to their friends. As I read this, I thought to myself, well I don't see how thats a bad thing. But then as I was reading through Red Moon Rising to get ready for 24/7 Prayer starting Friday, I read about different practices of prayer and meditation, and I found this-

"Saint Cyprian told those in his care to "be constant as well in prayer as in reading; now speak with God, now let God speak with you." Guigo II, a Crthusian, wrote that reading the Scripture is like putting food into our mouth, meditation chews it, and prayer extracts its flavor. Further reflection enriches us. Through this type of prayer, God's very self 'breaks in upon the middle of our prayer, runs to meet us in all haste...and restores our weary soul."

Then i realized the need to take Bible study slow. To take a passage and read it, reread it, read it slow, let words stick out to you. Spend time reflecting, praying, read again. Then visit later in the day or the next day. And so I've been doing this with a passage in 2 Corinthians that has been really speaking to me about ministry, and God continues to bring verses to mind throughout the day and speak to me further.

So take time to let the Word digest, and actually strengthen you inside, and out before you really begin to pass it along.

3) Tonight after dropping off a friend at the library, I got pulled by the campus police. Now I knew for certain I wasn't speeding, hadn't ran any lights or stop signs, failed to yield or anything. As I sat there wondering why, the officer came and told me he pulled me because my headlights were off. (I had turned them off while I dropped my friend off, leaving my running lights on as we finished talking). He then asked for my license and registeration. I began praying.

"God please show some grace. You know in my heart I was unaware of this. I don't need another ticket to have to pay. Not having on headlights is a totally arbritary reason to be given a ticket, when I totally was unware."

Thankfully God let a little grace fall from heaven, and wash over me, the minute I simply prayed for peace over the whole situation. I received a warning ticket but no more.