Being Open With and Open To God

On Sunday we talked about prayer. We talked about how we are called to be first open with God about all that’s within us. We saw how both David and Jesus boldly go to God holding nothing back. They share deeply. They share doubts. They share their hurts, their emotions, and they share absolutely honestly.

The truth is God can handle our feelings, our hurts, questions and wonderings. So go to God openly and be open with him.

But the amazing thing is that Jesus and David don’t just leave it there. They aren’t just open with God, but are also open to God. They are open to God changing them, to using them, and open that God’s will might be different than their personal desires. Both David and Jesus have deep trust in the God who created light out of dark, that he can do that in their lives. God can create light out of the difficulty, pain, and hurt in their lives – but they are open to God’s will and desire. Jesus says, “But not my will by yours be done”.

Jesus is open with God, with his feelings and thoughts, but is also open to God’s will. This is what I believe is at the heart of prayer. Being open with God, but also open to God’s will and desire.

So today why not take a moment and share with God, boldly if need be, what it is you need, want, and desire. Share with him where you are at ~ trusting in him. But then be open to him. Be open to him changing you, shaping you, and that his will might be different. Because the goal of prayer is not to get our way, but to connect with God. So spend time sharing with God, but spend just as much time listening for his direction.

Pray being open with God, and open to God…

Power of Prayer

On Sunday we are starting a new series on spiritual practices. These practices are incredibly important. The reality is that many people want to grow closer to God but they don’t know how.

So over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at practices that have drawn Christians deeper into a relationship with Jesus throughout the years. That whether you are exploring Jesus, growing with Jesus, or completely centered in Jesus, you could discover a next step to grow further. Because the reality is that the Christian is never finished, we can always grow more, take another new step, and become more Christlike.

So on Sunday we are starting by looking at prayer. We are going to be discovering what prayer is, what it does, and how to actually do it. To do this we are looking at the creation of the world, the life of David, and Jesus all in one sermon. So it will be a bit of a whirlwind but through it, our hope is that prayer will become more real to you than ever before. Henri Nouwen writes:

“Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched.”

So we are going to discover how God can change darkness to light in prayer. We will be learning what tohu va vohu means and how it changes David’s and Jesus’ prayer life.

But before we get there, what has helped your prayer life? What questions about prayer do you still struggle with? And does prayer matter to you?

On Sunday we’ll see how it matters and how it changes darkness into light…

Overcoming Obstacles and People Named Sanballat

On Sunday we talked about how to overcome the “Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s” in your life. These are the people who seek to hurt, harm, and wreck your God-given and driven dream. These are the people who when you share, “I feel called to….” immediately say “You?” You can’t do that, you’re not ready, you’re not the right person. We saw how in Nehemiah 4 they attack Nehemiah’s person, purpose, and progress. And ultimately when that doesn’t work they actually try to personally destroy him by sending an army against him to kill him.

The question is how do you overcome people who attack you, seek to destroy your vision, and oppose you?

Well, what we learned from Nehemiah is to first pray. Rather than wasting energy arguing with your enemies, take your hurts, anger and emotions to God in prayer. Nehemiah goes to God in prayer, and then gets back to work on God’s vision. He doesn’t let his enemies suck up his time, energy and emotions.

Next he prepares for the future challenges. Nehemiah knows that each great story has conflict in it. He doesn’t expect God to save him from experiencing the conflict; he expects that God will get him through the conflict. Nehemiah knows that all those who chase after making a difference in the world are not exempt from challenge, but will encounter challenge. So Nehemiah takes his responsibility seriously and plans and prepares for the challenge believing God will use him to get him through it. Donald Miller writes: “Somehow we realize that stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master story-teller”.  Nehemiah though embraces the fact that God is a master story-teller and begins to prepare for God to use him.

Lastly, Nehemiah trusts in God. Once he has learned that enemies are going to swoop down and kill him he says to the people, “Remember the Lord”. He is trying to remind the people that God is in it with them. He is trying to remind them to trust in the God who gave them the vision because he is the one who will ensure its completion.

So how do you get past the Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s in your life? Simple – pray, prepare, and trust in God. Pray to God for faith in the difficulty, prepare for ways to push through the challenge, and trust that God will get you there. That’s what he did with Nehemiah and he wants to do the same with us!

Adult Discussion Questions:

When have you had someone attack your person or dream? How did it feel? How did you respond? What is your personal vision you are chasing after? How can you prepare for some of the future challenges that will come? Why do you think “Remembering the Lord” is so important? Can you trust that God will get you through the difficult times? What helps you to trust in the difficult times?

Prayer to Be Jesus’ Hands and Feet

This is one of my favorite quotes that I read in my morning prayer book a few days ago. It’s from Teresa of Avila and helps me to put things into perspective:

“Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the world; yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good; yours are the hands with which God is to bless people now”

Powerful isn’t it. Reflect on it a moment. Would people say your eyes have the compassion of Christ? Would people say your actions are the loving actions of our Lord? Would people say your hands are the hands that they receive the blessing of God from?

I know I rarely live up to that standard. So my prayer today, and maybe yours can be as well, is this. “God may I be your hands and feet today. May you take these hands and use them to bless. May you take these feet and help me to do your good today. And most of all may you change how I see the world and the people you love with only the compassion and grace you see them with. Amen”

Hearing God’s Voice in Psalm 23 (A Targum and Prayer)

On Sunday we talked about how our God cares for us, provides for us, gives life, protection, and direction.

To end the sermon I read a paraphrase of Psalm 23 asking us to listen for God’s voice in the words. That as I read we would hear God speaking to us. And many people heard God’s voice.

So I thought why not do that again today.

Take a moment, put on some good music, have a cup of coffee and read this passage three times. And as you do, listen to God speaking to you, stirring something in you, listen to any words or phrases that resonate or stick with you. Why not take that as God speaking through his Holy Spirit to you today. And then give thanks to him that we have such a wonderful God.

  • The Lord is my shepherd
    • The one who watches over me
    • Who comes to seek and find me
    • The one whose voice I know within
  • With a Lord like this I don’t need a thing
    • You take care of my needs
    • Leading me to rest for my soul and body
    • You renew my strength
  • True to your word
    • You let me catch my breath
    • And send me in the right direction
    • Displaying your faithfulness at all times
  • Even when that way goes through Death Valley
    • When depression, darkness, and death stalk me
    • I will not be afraid – because you walk at my side
  • You never leave me in the darkness
    • You walk me through it
    • Your power, protection, and presence makes me feel secure
    • Knowing you are there to guide me
  • In the midst of calamity and onslaught
    • In front of my taunters, disbelievers, scoffers, and enemies
    • You come and prepare a full meal for me
  • Welcoming me into your home
    • Anointing my head with oil
    • Calming me, protecting me, and claiming me as yours and yours alone
  • My cup it brims with blessings
    • Your beauty and your love they chase after me every day of my life
    • Grace is pursuing me and life is coming
  • I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life

Getting through the Tough Stuff

This Sunday I preached on why bad things happen but most of all how to get through them. You can download the sermon here.

The main point I focused on though, was that bad things happen because we live in a broken world. The world and our lives aren’t yet what they were meant to be. We struggle with sin, broken relationships, death, decay, and difficulty. This is not the world God desired. But the promise of God is that a new world is coming; that he will transform this world into all that it was meant to be.

But in the meantime how do we get through the difficult stuff that happens until God’s future reaches us?

Well we discovered through Romans 8 three promises God gives us to make it through a tough day, week, or even years. The three promises are as follows:

  • That the Spirit Prays for Us
  • That the Father work everything out
  • That the Son is always with us

These three promises for me are really moving. The fact that when we are down and out, in distress, and weakness God prays for us is astounding. The Holy Spirit is praying for you and all that is before you – praying what you need but don’t have the words for. This is beautiful.

The Father also promises to work everything to good. That doesn’t mean that everything is good, but that out of anything God can create good. That nothing you are currently going through can stop God’s goodness from coming to pass.

And lastly that the Son is always with us and that nothing can separate us from his love. What is in the forefront of your mind and is currently taking up thought space? God’s promise to you is that – that thing – won’t separate you from Jesus. That too is beautiful. These are the promises of God to you.

Which one matters most of you? What other promises from Scripture have helped you get through some rough stuff?