~~i want to be everything you dreamed when you called my name~~

Monday, June 26, 2006


Gethsemane - the place that has come to signify a place of intense suffering and courageous submission.

After Jesus had celebrated the Passover with His disciples, the group went together to the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked His friends to keep watch while He went to pray alone a short distance away. Luke says that prayer was so full of anguish that His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44).

Prayer is one of the disciplines of a godly life that we frequently find difficult to completely understand. I think oftentimes the whole concept seems intimidating or even baffling because we try to use unfamiliar words, or sound a certain way, like God is interested in whether or not we use proper English when we talk to Him! God never intended that talking with Him should be threatening! His desire is that prayer be more like an intimate conversation than some profound theological discourse. He just wants to hear our voice, to know that we trust Him enough to come to Him - even if we sound like babbling idiots! Jesus began His prayer that night at Gethsemane with, "my Father," and he has instructued us to address God in the same manner when we approach Him in prayer (Luke 11:2).

You guys - true prayer, the kind that moves Heaven, it requires honesty. Honesty with ourselves, and honesty with God. That night in the garden, Jesus knew full well that He was about to be arrested, and with every ounce of human emotion He dreaded and resisted the idea that He was about to die on the cross. He pleaded with His Father...you know, I kinda don't want to do this - if it's possible, take this away from me (Matthew 26:39). But the key is - Jesus openly expressed His emotions, He was honest with God in His prayer! He of course knew that His request was against God's eternal design, but He was honest with God! I strongly believe that God honors honesty in our prayers!! Jesus said if it were possibe he would have preferred to avoid the anguish ahead of Him. This isn't a sign of weakness - rather it was an expression of authenticity and honesty. In the same way, when we face seemingly unbearable suffering, it is perfectly legitimate for us to plead with our heavently Father to deliver us from the pain.
But hear me - when we approach God in a prayer like this, we have to be willing in advance to submit to whatever He decides is best. Jesus didn't look forward to the pain, but He had the wisdom and the courage to add yet not as I will, but Your will be done. Through this He acknowledged that His Father's will had to take priority over His own personal desires.
When we come into God's presence in this spirit of humble submission, of willingness to surrender control, to let go into the loving arms of the Father, we know in advance that while He may not change our circumstances, He will most definitely change us through the experience.
God honors honesty in our prayers - He just wants to hear our voice. Don't worry if you don't sound like so and so...God wants to hear YOUR voice, and YOUR heart! He wants us to trust Him, and believe Him when He says He listens to our prayers.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer (1 Peter 3:12)

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

We're Kinda Dumb

I'm all over reading about Jesus' miracles in the gospels...God is just blasting me with an understanding that the miracles of Jesus are just the ordinary works of the Father, He just has to scale it down so we might actually believe them to have happened. Imagine what He could do with children who had the faith to believe anything He threw at them!

I was thinking about when Jesus miraculously satisfied the hungry masses at the feeding of the 5000...then he sent His disciples across the lake by boat while He went to pray (even Jesus needed quiet times of rest with the Father...probably a good plan for us too, then!). Later that evening, He cross the lake Himself - walking on water. (He's so cool!) As He approached the disciples in the boat, they assumed that a ghost was drifting toward them (yep, the Holy Ghost..well, sort of!), but Jesus calms their fears with three simple words..."Don't be afraid" (Mark 6:50). When He climbed into the boat, Mark says the disciples were "completely amazed"...I'm guessing they were sitting in shocked silence, you know the kind where you just shake your head wondering what just happened?! Mark 6:52 tells us that "they had not understood about the loaves." In other words, the disciples just didn't get it...we're kinda dumb! They had just witnessed Jesus feeding more than 5000 people with a handful of food, and they were still astonished that He could walk on water. This is so me! How many blessings and miracles has He brought on my life...and I'm still shocked at His goodness! We're kinda dumb! But as you read through the gospels, you see the disciples began to see that Jesus could do anything - it was only through experience that they finally figured this out! And the same it true with us - only as we get to know Jesus on an intimate level, can we learn that He can do anything in and through our lives! The more we observe Him carrying out His plans for our lives, the less astounded we'll be when He performs what seems unimaginable to us! Then we can start to become kinda smart...but only because of Him!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Prophet Without Honor (for Nicole)

Text: Mark 6

I'm getting ready to head home for my 10 year high school reunion (yikes, when did THAT happen?!?!)...and was reading in Mark about when Jesus goes to his hometown...some thoughts I thought I'd share...

No matter what we do with our lives after we become adults...how far we travel or how much we learn...returning to our hometown is often an emotional experience. (Kids...you'll understand this in about 10 years) Most people will at one time or another speak nostalgically about their childhood memories, and my psychology background tells me that to some degree, people make sense of their daily experiences through the filter of the patterns and recollections of their youth. So in some way, we are all forever affected by something of what we were as children.

Jesus understood these feelings about childhood experiences. When He returned to Nazereth and taught in the synagogue, the people there were amazed by His wisdom and miracles but found themselves unable to reconcile what they were seeing and hearing with the fact that Jesus was a local carpenter's son (Mark 6:2-3). Within the close-knit circle of small-town life, they had watched Him grow up, and their response to His teaching was skewed by their recollections of what had been in many ways an ordinary childhood. (I love how God makes ordinary - extraordinary!)

The citizens of Nazareth lacked faith. But Jesus refused to simply walk away and give up on them. He did not perform many miracles in Nazareth, but He did perform some (verses 5-6). I think the reaction that stung the most HAD to have been that of His own family. Check out Mark 3:20-21 - His own family questioned His sanity!! (Jesus entered a h ouse, and again a crowd gathered, so that He and His disciples were not even able to eat. WHen His family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, "He is out of His mind") In John 7:5, John explains it as, "Even His own brothers did not believe in Him."

Nicole...this is where I find the Holy Spirit bringing you to mind! In our own lives, I think it can sometimes be most difficult to discuss the reality of Jesus' love and salvation with those who know us best. They may listen to what we say and even acknowledge that they can observe a change in our demeanor since we first met the Savior, but they will almost invariably judge us through what they remember of us...the "family" lens. They are probably the most skeptical because they remember too much. Or because they see that there is something different, but they have no idea how to approach it and understand it.

I think the key is - even when our parents, brothers, sisters, or close friends reject our words or are embarassed by our devotion to Jesus, we can not simply resign ourselves to their entrenched attitudes! Eventually, Jesus' own family DID come to the point of belief (see Acts 1:14). What speaks the loudest is not the idea that we are perfect, but the observation that we are consistent. (Oh...how I could write for hours on this one!) The example of a changed life before Jesus, will make a difference over time to those around us who find it hard to understand or believe!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Miracles Aren't Enough

I've been reading through a number of the miracles Jesus performed (as recorded in Matthew) over the past few days. It's obvious that Jesus' miracles attracted a lot of attention because there were crowds of people following Him everywhere (Jesus was a rock star!). But these miracles didn't always result in people turning to God in faith. In Matthew 11:20-24, Jesus condemned the towns of Koran, Bethsaida, and Capernaum because they had seen with their own eyes who He was and what He had done - yet had failed to believe. It seems that witnessing miracles does not always lead people to want to get to know God. This is so hard for me to understand because God has used miracles in my own life to draw me closer to Him (although, I definitely miss out on some from time to time because I'm retarded...). So it got me thinking - when two people witness the same event, how is it that one person is left doubting and another is found running into God's presence? I think the answer lies in God's grace. Only God's grace can bring about a change in our hearts.

While these New Testament miracles may have constituted irrefutable evidence that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, they can not in and of themselves soften and change unyielding hearts of stone. When we witness things around us that build our faith, draw us near to God, and basically just blow us away - that is the Lord wooing us into His presence, saying - come my child - let me show you what I have for you - this is just the beginning!

I think it comes down to three things...commitment, worship, and repentance. You see, Jesus desires our commitment, not our applause. He longs for our worship, rather than merely our wonder. And he yearns for our repentance, rather than simply our respect.

The greatest miracle anyone can experience is having his or her heart transformed by the touch of God's love and grace (see Matthew 13:11-17 and Ephesians 2:4-10). I think I always view this as the big salvation transformation of our hearts, and forget that God wants to transform my heart daily. I think too often I miss the small touches of His love because I am looking for the big signs and wonders. O how I pray that we will begin to understand His grace on a level beyond salvation and repentance. And move into an understanding that daily He rejoices over us with singing, He delights in us, and His love quiets our hearts - drawing us in to see the world through His eyes (Zephaniah 3:17).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Stupid Satan

A short one today...I'm supposed to be working - but keep thinking of this, so I'm sharing!

Last week sometime, I was reading in Zechariah (chapter 3) and I've been thinking on this, as well as challenged to believe it, over the past week. In this chapter, Zechariah was allowed to witness a very unusual sight - basically Satan was standing next to Joshua, God's high priest, and accusing him of spiritual inadequacy (Zechariah 3:1-2). How often to we hear him accusing us in that fashion?? You didn't do your devotions this morning....You missed youth group last week...You don't pray enough. Here's the cool part - God let Satan know that Joshua was one of God's own and that God Himself had made him acceptable. God made Him acceptable - not anything Joshua had done on his own accord! And Zechariah is not the only Biblical character to have observed Satan accusing one of God's people. John also saw Satan as the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God (Revelation 12:10).

Satan accuses us night and day - but here's the beautiful thing - we don't have to fear his accusations because we have a defender standing with us before God. We have One who speaks to the Father in our defense - Jesus Christ, the Righteous One (1 John 2:1). So Satan accuses us...Jesus defends us...but it goes even further! (How awesome is our Father!) In Zechariah 3, the angel of the Lord stood by Joshua's side (verse 5...the angel of the Lord was the preincarnate Jesus if I'm not mistaken!). And Zechariah observed the angel speaking to Joshua and offering forgiveness and fresh, clean robes in which he could serve God. Wow! Not only does Jesus defend us against the enemy's accusations - but when we are obedient to run to God when we sin - He clothes us with righteousness.

ps...I know this sounds an awful lot like my message last week...but it's so foundational to us understanding who we are in Christ - and living free lives before Him. Grab hold of it - and run!!