Be Still

2-be-Still-and-Know-That-he-is-GodThis past week I got to experience the wisdom of Psalm 46:10. It’s the verse, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I remember the first time I was encouraged to practice the wisdom of this verse. It was the summer of 1986, while I was preparing for a summer missions project to the former Soviet Union. I was in New York and the project leads asked us to spend 30 minutes practicing the discipline of being still. Not praying. Not problem solving. Not dreaming. Just being still before God. Almost 30 years later, I still remember the awkwardness I experienced at Kings College that afternoon, as I tried to get my mind and body to be still. And true confessions, 30 years later, it is still hard for this Type A personality to be still. So to remove the distractions from my life, my family and I headed to the mountains this past week. Free from internet connectivity and out of cell phone range.

The Hebrew definition for “stillness” is to stop striving, to let go, to surrender. Whether it’s practicing Sabbath, or being still, the psalm reminds us that we can take comfort in letting go and resting in God to provide help, strength and safety in those times of renewal. Yet, this is tremendously difficult in our media rich, always-on, over-communicated society. It is not uncommon for the noise of this world to crowd into every empty space, leaving us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. And that’s why it’s important to unplug and surrender to the One who ultimately provides.

One of those moments of stillness this past week, was during a hike to Eagle Lake. Our family left particularly early that morning in order to beat the crowds and the forecasted thunderstorms that afternoon. When we arrived at the lake that morning, we realized that we had the whole lake all to ourselves. It was a majestic moment of stillness. Just us, in awe of God’s majesty! As we took it all in, we watched a mother duck care for her ducklings. We witnessed fish feeding. We saw the reflection of the Sierra Mountains on the stillness of the water. We heard the birds chirping. We breathed the fresh forest air. And we couldn’t help but be still, to take it all in and then later take time to pray. It was a glorious morning being still before God.

This past week held many opportunities for me to reflect, renew and meet God in the stillness. And it got me thinking, “why don’t I do this more often?” So, as I reflect on the last week, I wrote down four good reasons why it’s important to be still. And I share these with you in hopes that you might also experience the joy of being still.

So here’s why it’s important to practice stillness…

  1. To remember that we’re human beings, not human doings. If our salvation isn’t based on what we do (Ephesians 2:8,9), than neither should our significance be based on what we do. Instead our identity needs to be in who we are in Christ. When we cease striving, we recognize who we are, what we were created for and it causes us to live a more balanced life. Now don’t get me wrong, God desires us to participate in His plan and do things for Him, but our doing must be the result of being in His presence. In other words, our works are the overflow of being with God. Remember this, we are human beings, children of God, to do good works; not human doings, doing good works, to be children of God. There is a big difference there.
  2. To understand our limitations. Let’s face it! We’re not God and we can’t save the world. By practicing Sabbath and stillness, we understand our limitations. Understanding our limitations allows us to let go and let God, be God! And this frees us up to truly rest in the arms of the One who has it all in control.
  3. To express our dependence and trust in God. When we pause to spend time with God, we really have to trust God to provide the time we desperately need. In God Calling, Sarah Young writes as if Jesus is speaking the following words, “Trust Me enough to spend ample time with Me, pushing back the demands of the day. Refuse to feel guilty about something that is so pleasing to Me, the King of the universe.” Sometimes it’s hard to make room for God in the busyness of my day, but it’s pretty amazing how God multiplies my time when I spend time with Him and honor Him in stillness. When we pause, we’re saying, God I trust you to fill in the gap!
  4. To hear God speak. Here’s some truth…we can’t hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit in the hectic pace of life. God often speaks out of the depths of His own silence. First to create the world, then to renew the world through the incarnation of His Son. And God calls us to silence as well. He invites us to go into our room, our chosen sacred space, and to shut the door and pray to our Father who is in secret, assured that our Father who is in secret will answer our prayer (Mt 6:6). It is in that silence that we can listen to God, hear His voice, and discern His plan and purpose for our life.
In considering the wisdom of this psalm, I wonder if perhaps God is asking you to seek His voice in rest and stillness, as you cultivate your relationship with Him. You see, as Christians, we often get the impression that growing in our faith means adding a bunch of spiritual activities to our crazy-busy lives. But lately, I’m finding that drawing near to God is more about subtracting, than adding. Yet for this Type A personality, I have to admit that this new paradigm is a difficult one to embrace, but I believe that as we do, we keep urgency from edging God out of our lives. And as we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit, for apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5)!

12 Quotes from Abba’s Child

img_4539Many Christians have bought into the lie that we’re worthy of God’s love only when our lives are going well. If our families are happy, our careers successful and our life is good, then God loves us. But when life gets hard, and our sins threaten to reveal our less than perfect self, we scramble to present our good self to the world and God, as if God’s love for us is conditional.

Yesterday, in watching the movie Ragamuffin, the story of contemporary Christian recording artist Rich Mullins, I was struck by the depth of God’s love and how He accepts us just as we are. And I was also reminded of the teachings of Brennan Manning, whose words have inspired me over the years to freely accept my identity in Christ, as a beloved child of God.

Deeply affected by God’s extravagant grace, I spent the morning, pulling out some of the nuggets from Brennen Manning’s book Abba’s Child. And to reinforce some of those ideas, I thought I would post 12 of my favorite quotes from the book to challenge us to embrace our acceptance in God’s eyes.

  1. Jesus says, “Acknowledge and accept who I want to be for you: a Savior of boundless compassion, infinite patience, unbearable forgiveness, and love that keeps no score of wrongs. Quit projecting onto Me your own feelings about yourself. At this moment your life is a bruised reed and I will not crush it, a smoldering wick and I will not quench it. You are in a safe place.”
  2. Self rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that call us the “Beloved.”
  3. In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.
  4. Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.
  5. The pharisee within usurps my true self whenever I prefer appearances to reality, whenever I am afraid of God, whenever I surrender the control of my soul to rules rather than risk living in union with Jesus, when I choose to look good and not be good, when I prefer appearances to reality.
  6. To open yourself to another person, to stop lying about your loneliness and your fears, to be honest about your affections, and to tell others how much they mean to you – this openness is the triumph of the child of God over the pharisee and a sign of the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit.
  7. Feelings put us in touch with our true selves. They are neither good nor bad: They are simply the truth about what is going on within us.
  8. In my experience, self-hatred is the dominant malaise crippling Christians and stifling their growth in the Holy Spirit.
  9. Quit keeping score altogether and surrender yourself with all your sinfulness to God who sees neither the score nor the scorekeeper but only his child redeemed by Christ.
  10. Genuine faith leads us to knowing the love of God, to confessing Jesus as Lord, and to being transformed by what we know. 
  11. God is love. Jesus is God. If Jesus ceased loving, He would cease being God.
  12. Through His passion and death Jesus carried away the essential sickness of the human heart and broke forever the deadly grip of hypocrisy on our souls. He has robbed our loneliness of its fatal power by traveling Himself to the far reaches of loneliness (“My God, my God, why have You deserted Me?”). He has understood our ignorance, weakness, and foolishness and granted pardon to us all (“Forgive them, Father, they do not know what they are doing”). He has made His pierced heart a safe place for every defeated cynic, hopeless sinner, and self-loathing derelict across the bands of time. The Cross reveals that Jesus has conquered sin and death and that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of Christ.

Tell Your Story

tumblr_m4kwqpURcm1rwoq6lo1_500Who doesn’t love a good story? Whether it’s a story told on a riveting television show, the big screen, or a page-turning book, we all love a good story—especially one with a happy ending!

For me, I love to hear the stories of changed lives! In fact, it’s one of the things that motivates me as a minister. And it’s one of the reasons why I love “testimony night” at Celebrate Recovery! I love hearing the stories of how people overcame their hurts, habits, or hang-ups. And in hearing the stories, I believe we all glean insights into our own journeys toward wholeness, as we identify with their struggle and find the hope and courage necessary to face our own character defects.

There is power in the story of our lives. And in telling our story, our hearts become full of gratitude, as we recall God’s faithfulness in the land of the living. You see, while most of our stories include a period of hopelessness, trauma, or addiction, they usually have a ‘redemptive ending.’ That doesn’t mean that our lives have become rosy or problem free. Instead, the stories remind us of the journey we’re on, recalling that it’s about progress, not perfection.

We all have a story to tell! And when we share our story for His glory, something amazing happens. It offers a powerful witness to those who don’t yet know Christ, and brings hope and inspiration to those who call Jesus their Savior. So tell your story often and tell it well, for you may never know the impact it can make in the life of another.

Healthy Things Grow

growBack in August, following an almost unanimous vote by our church to merge with Hillside Christian Church, I gathered our group leaders and shared a phrase I hoped would be helpful to our them as we began a season of change. The phrase was, “Healthy things grow. And growing things change. And change challenges us. Challenges cause us to put our trust in God. Trust breeds obedience. And obedience makes us healthy.”

As I look back at that statement, I never realized how many times I would quote that phrase as I pondered decisions and talked to others. And in praying, meditating and considering the truth of this statement, here are some of the things I have learned along the way…

Healthy Things Grow
Have you ever noticed that healthy things grow? Plants, children, our emotional lives, our relationship with God, and even our relationship with others all grow. If these things are healthy, they are progressing, moving forward and changing. In fact, in the last month, my son shot up a whole inch. While that was tough on the pocketbook, we rejoice that he’s healthy and growing. That’s because healthy things grow.

Growing Things Change
If it wasn’t for change, we wouldn’t have seasons! Or butterflies! Or progress! In fact, we might still be living in the dark ages. As I look back on my life, I am grateful for change. Change in my preferences. Change in my attitudes. Change in my behavior. And even change in my clothing styles. You see, this is how we know things are growing. They change and are different from when we last saw them.

Change Challenges Us
Mark Twain once said, “The only person that likes change is a wet baby.” As humans, we like things to stay the way we like them. We are creatures of habit and comfort. After all, why mess with a “good thing”? But let’s face it! What if the “good thing”, could be better? The challenge that comes with change, is that it leads us into unknown territory. So we resist it. We like the familiarity. Even if the familiarity is unhealthy. As humans, we prefer the path of least resistance. That’s because change challenges us to make adjustments, take risks, and trust God for an uncertain future.

Challenges Cause Us to Put Our Trust in God
Here’s the reality! Challenges cause us to dig deep and depend on God more fully. Yet when presented with a challenge, many of us choice  to remain comfortable, knowing that change may require something of us. When I officiate a wedding, I often use this phrase, “May God give you enough tears to keep you tender, enough hurts to keep you compassionate, enough failure to keep you humble, and just enough success to ensure that you stay dependent upon Him.” You see, God knows exactly where to apply the pressure to cause us to turn to Him in faith. God wants us to grow in faith, and challenges force us to trust in Him.

Trust Breeds Obedience
Remember that old hymn, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”? The antidote to fear is not safety and security. It has always been trust that leads to obedience. If we truly trust the Lord, He will reveal His will to us and show us what to do. Thus, trust breeds obedience.

Obedience Makes Us Healthy
Let’s look at it this way. Obedience takes trust! Trust creates expectancy! Expectancy breeds faith! Faith pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). In life, there will inevitably be something that forces us to trust God in a new way. And this is the great adventure of living with Jesus!

We Are God’s Handiwork

ephesians-2-10“You don’t have woo!” That’s what I heard from another church, a few years ago, as they explained their decision not to hire me. I had three of the four things they were looking for, but I didn’t have woo!

What is “woo”, you ask? Well “woo” is the supernatural ability to win others over. Did I just say, “supernatural”? Perhaps that was a little tongue in cheek. I guess it would actuality be more of a personality trait than anything. But some seem to elevate it as more important than a “spiritual gift” and a lot of churches seem to want leaders who have it!

Really, I’m not bitter! I am quite content that I don’t have “woo”! And in the case of the church that turned me down, because I didn’t have it…well they appear to be having their own set of problems, in their search for it! So, God actually used it to protect me, and for that I am grateful.

So what am I trying to say here? I guess I can try to manufacture it, which wouldn’t be true to who I am. Or I can be who God made me to be!

Believe me when I say, I am glad for those who have woo! We really need people like them in the kingdom! And truth be known, I am actually drawn, like many others, to people who have woo. But instead of trying to be something I’m not, I’ve gotta be who God created me to be. And in truth, by being who God created me to be, I will actually win others over, instead of trying to be something I wasn’t created for. Yes, people can see right through the fabrication.

So, I don’t have woo! But I have a lot of other God-given traits and gifts that are just as important to the body of Christ. As the Scriptures declare in Ephesians 2:10, “we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Each of us has a role, a part, in the grander plan of God. We were shaped by God, for God. He made no mistakes. And each of us, if we play our part in the kingdom of God, will sense God’s pleasure and fulfill God’s purpose here on earth.

I don’t have woo!

There I said it! Perhaps I will sleep a little better tonight having acknowledged that! Yes, I am at peace with who God created me to be. No mistake about it.

The E’s of Decision Making

4260399_300x300While the Scriptures give us a lot of direction for life, there are a lot of issues we face that don’t seem to have a direct scriptural response. In other words, the Bible seems silent. But in actuality, the Scriptures are not silent on these matters. Instead, the Bible gives Christians the liberty to make God-glorifying decisions based on their convictions and principles from God’s word.

As followers of Jesus, God desires us to reflect his character, conduct and commitments, yet each day we are faced with lots of choices that the Bible seems unclear on. In other words, what does the Bible say about the movies we watch, the music we listen to, and the activities we engage in. Well, below is a list of questions, based on the principles of God’s word that can help guide you when making choices, in what I call the grey areas of life:

  1. Expedience: Will it be spiritually profitable?
    “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.  – 1 Cor. 6:12
  2. Edification: Will it build me up?
    “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.  – I Cor. 10:23
  3. Excess: Will it slow me down in the race?
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. – Hebrews 12:1
  4. Enslavement: Will it bring me into bondage?
    I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1 Cor. 6:12
  5. Equivocation: Will it hypocritically cover my sin? Does it give me a license to sin?
    You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. – Galatians 5:13
  6. Encroachment: Will it violate my conscience?
    He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. – Romans 14:23
  7. Example: Will it strengthen and help other Christians by example?
    Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. – Romans 14:13
  8. Evangelism: Will it lead others to Christ?
    Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. – 1 Cor. 10:32-33
  9. Emulation: Will it be consistent with Christ-likeness?
    Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. – I John 2:6
  10. Exultation: Will it glorify God?
    So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.1 Corinthians 10:31
  • So what questions do you have? Run them through the principles above. And remember what is good for me, might not be good for you. So be careful not to judge, but hold true to your own convictions.
  • As a people charged with the task of being salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16), a “royal priesthood” called out of darkness and into light (1 Peter 2:9), we must consider how our choices contribute or detract from our calling.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Thanksgiving IstanbulPraise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

Dear heavenly Father, we join King David, on this Thanksgiving Day, in rehearsing just a few of the multiplied reasons why we love being your children—why we love being loved by you. By your Holy Spirit, free us over the course of these next several hours to abound in gratitude and overflow with thanksgiving, that we might offer you the heart-filled praise of which you alone are worthy.

Father, here are a just a few of the way-too-easy-to-forget benefits that you give us so richly and fully in Christ:

We praise you for being the God who forgives all of our sins. Because of what you’ve done for us in Jesus, all of our sins—past, present and future—sins by our words, thoughts and deeds, all of them have been forgiven. When we trusted Jesus, you didn’t give us a clean slate and a second chance at life; you gave us a new heart and your robed us in Jesus’ perfect righteousness. Hallelujah, for such a standing in grace!

We praise you for being the God who heals all our diseases. Everything about us is broken—everything about us bears the effects of sin and death, but you are the God who is making all things new through Jesus—all things. In this life, the healing journey has begun—a story with a guaranteed ending of whole-being health—in body, heart and soul. We will be healthy forever! Hallelujah, for such a living hope!

We praise you for being the God who redeems our lives from all kinds of “pits”—from the pits into which we have aimlessly fallen in life; from the ones into which we are thrown by our enemies; and from the ones into which we foolishly jump. Nothing will ever separate us from your sovereign and sufficient grace.  Hallelujah, your name is Redeemer!

We praise you for crowing us with love and compassion. You have taken our garland of guilt and shame and have crowned us with the victory of your beloved Son, Jesus. He has triumphed over sin and death for us. Hallelujah, your banner over us is love and your rejoicing over us is loud!

We praise you for satisfying our desires with good things—partially in this life, and fully in the life to come. You freely give us all things to enjoy, and to share with others. May that be evidenced today, as we gather as family and friends—all in need of your daily mercies and steadfast love. Hallelujah, for intending our joy and for renewing our strength! May everything within us bless you holy and grace-filled name! So very Amen we pray, with gratitude and hope, in Jesus’ name.

Courageous Conversations

This past weekend, I had the honor and privilege of speaking at SunHills Church, in El Dorado Hills. I spoke out of 2 Samuel 11, unpacking the story of David and Bathsheba and how this story could have had a different outcome, if some folks in the story, including David, would have had some courageous conversations. I invite you to have a listen…

Humility

9.1.ChristLikeHumility_610947592Ran across this great clip from Erwin McManus on humility from his book, Uprising. Thought it was worth a post.

Humility’s closest attribute is honesty. Humility doesn’t require us to be self-deprecating. Humility is not about having a low self image or poor self image. Humility is about self awareness. Is important to be self-aware in relationship to our gifts, talents, skills and intellect. But in regards to our spiritual health, it is far more essential that we be self-aware in the arena personal character. If you see yourself for who you are and embrace it honestly, humility is the natural result. God isn’t asking you to say something about yourself that isn’t true. God is asking that we take a good, long look in the mirror and see yourself for who we truly are, and then after that, to have the courage to ask for help.

Our humility allows God’s intervention. The word humble comes from humus, which is simply translated “earth” or “dirt.” Humility is about coming to grips with our humanity. The Scriptures describe a proud person as one who is “puffed up.” Pride is the determination to be seen as bigger than we are. When we are humble, we are down to earth. No energy is wasted on pretension. A humble man can be taken at face value. It is ironic that the imagery of being humble is one where we never lower ourselves. Humility sees nothing as beneath it in terms of servanthood. It is in this position that God finds delight in reversing the order. When we lower ourselves, God is eager to lift us up. Only for the humble is there a promise from God of being exalted. Only to the lowly will God leave a legacy of greatness.

How God Molds a Man

hands of a potter, creating an earthen jar on the circleLove this poem about how God molds a man to play the noblest part in His kingdom. There’s a lot of truth in these words…

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.

– Anonymous

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21  Scroll to top