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A need for Community and Worship

July 28, 2011 1 comment

After a long time, I am finally back writing again. This summer has brought a busy schedule and not much time for writing, or thinking for that fact. However, as things are slowing down, I was glad to have the opportunity to start writing again.

This week in the social network realm of reality, a friend stated something to effect of “back from an amazing retreat, now back to real life.” After reading this, I became concerned.

You see, what my friend expressed in 140 characters, was quite a statement. It was something that I have struggled with for years. Ever since my first retreat in high school, I have wondered when a person arrives back home from a week away, why we feel as though we have arrived back into reality. This is very troubling for me because I know that “reality” is and can be what ever you want it to be. Don’t worry, I am trying to be metaphysical or anything like that. I am not trying to convince you that their chair your sitting in, isn’t really there. What I am trying to convince you of is the fact that the reality we experience in a retreat can be realized in the reality once back at home.

After years of processing this, the answer finally came clear to me. Their are two primary reasons that retreats give the exhilaration of a high. While there are many other reasons that people latch on to, it all boils down to two reasons. These two things are something each of desperately need. These two things are some God designed us for and meant for us to experience in our daily life.

Most kids come back from a retreat thinking that the media had something to do with coming close to God. Maybe it helped, but I doubt this was the primary reason. Some kids believe that the smoke and lights brought them close to God. Well, again, not likely. While some may have inhaled too deeply and experienced some kind of enlightened feeling, it wasn’t one of the two core reasons.

God created us for two primary reasons. These two reasons can initially be found in the book of Genesis in the garden, and then through every book and every chapter of the Bible after that. These two things are: worship and community.

We were created for worship. God created us to worship him. It’s in our being. It wasn’t until that first sin when this became a challenge for man. Worship is at our core and when we enter into worship with others, we feel it. Worship is like coming back home. It gives you that peaceful feeling that not much else can give to you. So, when these retreats are filled with worship, its no surprise that these people are on a high because they feel that closeness with God.

The second purpose is community. Community is also found in the very beginning. Once man was created, the first thing that God said of man was “It is not good for man to be alone.” God spoke truth. We were never meant to be alone, to live life alone, or to walk with God alone. He created us for community. These retreats provide a week away with peers for and gives one a heightened sense of community. From Adam walking with God in the garden to Jesus meeting with His disciples in the other garden, we were meant to be with one another.

So when my friend thinks that after experiencing a week of worship and community he needs to get back to real life, I think that he is actually leaving real life. Most of us live in a world of busyness and avoid worship and community on this level. What if we made the commitment to experience worship and community on a weekly basis like we do when we are away? Worship and Community aren’t two complicated things, they are the two primary needs that God designed us to have. So when we don’t experience these on a daily basis, we are running away from what God intended for us.

In closing, I want to challenge my friend (and you) with this thought. Don’t look at returning home as coming back to reality. Look at it as a challenge to continue in reality. Reality is what you make it. God intended our reality to be filled with worship and community. Gather with friends and make it a point to walk with God and worship Him with all you have. The lights and the video, while cool, are not what brings you close to God. It is walking with Him just as Adam did in the garden and the disciples did in the other garden. So from garden to garden, let’s actively participate in worship and community and truly experience what reality is!

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the real ‘American Idol’

I often find the title of the popular talent search show “American Idol” a little bit controversial. Sure its a good show about the young people of America showing off their talents, but really what comes of it. The goal is to be the star, the winner and just another idol for people to worship.

I read in passages like Exodus 32 and Isaiah 44 how people are drawn to inanimate objects to worship. I read this and I laugh. However, its at this point that I realize, nothing has changed. I read in a book this week that the idols still exist today, they are only more glamorous now. Instead of worshipping a log or a golden calf, we worship money, security, fame, we worship people and potential and a number of other things.

Even those of us who are self proclaimed Christians and followers of Christ fall into this trap. Now, the scriptures make it explicitly clear that the items themselves are not evil. The scriptures say in Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have…” It’s the love of such things, when we place money or any other object above God is when we sin.

The most grey area of the idols are in our relationships. We date, we marry, we are constantly searching for relationships which fulfill our needs. We enter in these expecting to beomce complete. Guess what, you will be sorely dissapointed. The second part of the Hebrews 13:5 verse says, “because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”” If you are not receiving your complete fulfillment from God and God alone, you are fishing for something other than what God designed you for.

Look at your life very carefully, what defines you? What can you not live without? These are the things that we worship. Is it your car, your bank account, your wife/husband, your kids? What is it? What are you placing above God?

The book I was reading described these type of relationships as “two ticks and no dog”. I love this, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized the author was right on with this analogy. We are in need of something. Sometimes so much that we can suck the life out of something. If we are looking for this fulfillment we won’t find it in something that sucks the life out of us. Basically, that is anything except for God.

If your priorities are out of whack, its time to get things in order once more. Put God above all else. He should be the only thing we cannot live without.

30 Days of Prayer

I have always struggled with getting the time that I need during the day to pray. Some how I don’t think I am alone. It’s so much easier to worship God in “other” ways like singing in church, reading the Bible, but sincere, heartfelt prayer is something different. I think the reason it is hard for people like me and others it that prayer exposes us.

When we kneel down and pray, we open up ourselves to God’s will. Unfortunately, we don’t like the fact that we have to change our ways or lay down our pride. So, we avoid prayer. Even if you don’t, your prayer like consists of prayers like, “Thank you for this day. Thank you for my life. Amen.” or “Dear Lord, why can’t people be more like me? Please help change them.” Do these sound familiar to you?

This week I have begun a challenge for 30 days of prayer. I am working through the book Pray Big for Your Marriage, but prayer is by no means just for married couples. The challenge here consists of praying through the scripture. This may be a new idea to some of you. Let me explain it to you.

Praying through the scriptures allows us to get God’s heart and God’s desires rather than our own. Remember, just like anything else with God, its about Holiness not Happiness. You read a passage and you ask God to reveal the principle of that passage in your life. For example, one of my favorites is John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.” If this doesn’t knock you off your pedestal, I don’t know what will. Your prayer would look something like this:

Father, I humbly submit myself to you with the knowledge that you are creator of all things. Help me become less as I step back and give you greater room to work in my life. Help my desires fade and your desires grow in me. When people see me, I pray that they would see more of you then they would of me. Become greater in my life and help me become less. I ask this in your Son’s name, Amen.

It’s this heart that does give God the greatest room in our lives to work. It becomes more about acknowledging His work and less of ours. If your prayer life is suffering, I invite you to pray through the scriptures with me. I am going to use the guide in the book Pray Big for Your Marriage by Will Davis Jr. This is a 30 day challenge. Pray with me.

I do ask that if you take this challenge, you let me know. I would love to be praying with you and for you through the next month.

Day 1 Mark 10:7-9
Day 2 Matt 6:33
Day 3 Jer 32:39
Day 4 Matt 6:9
Day 5 Matt 6:10
Day 6 Matt 6:11
Day 7 Matt 6:12
Day 8 Matt 6:13
Day 9 Proverbs 22:1
Day 10 Col 3:12

We’ll stop there, but we’ll have  a check in on Day 10 and I’ll give more at that point. If you are married and taking this challenge, I recommend you pick up this book. It can also be purchased at one of the Weekend to Remember Getaways.

Check out 30 Days of Prayer (part 2) to continue your journey!

Simple Beginnings

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

What would it be like if life were still simple? Isn’t that a question we all ask? Things would be different, no stress, no breaking sweats in mid day, no worrying about what is next. It would be easy. I think that might have been what it was like for the early church. When I read through the gospels and through the book of Acts, I feel as though Christ himself alongside with the early apostles were preparing us for something not necessarily big, but simple.

The early church didn’t make themselves so busy they could barely get a decent nights sleep, they organized their life around the church and made sure their priorities were straight. I feel as though we too easily fall into the trap of organizing our life around things that don’t last. We organize our lives around the kids basketball and volleyball games, we organize around the overtime we need to make the next round of bills.

The life that Jesus taught to His followers was a simple life. Put God first and his purposes to follow. The early church filled their schedule not with busy activities, but with opportunities to worship. They met together daily to break bread, fellowship, and worship. They spread the message of the gospel to others out of worship. They met met daily giving up of themselves and their possessions to glorify God with their whole being. They weren’t stressed about this, they did what they did becuase that was all they needed to do.

What would it be like if we could get back to that place of simplicity when all that mattered in our week was how we would worship God? If Jesus were to look at your calendar for this week, what would he say? Would he say that you are worshiping him or something else?

Take some time to think about the simple beginnings the church had and how every need was met. Wouldn’t it be nice if our every need was met?

It’s not the goal

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I have been corrupted. It’s true.

I’ve bought into the idea that my happiness is somehow a primary concern to God. I’ve been sold on the idea that this life is about me. I don’t know how it happened, but it’s true. I can’t even begin to trace back when the transition occurred from God-centered to Me-centered. I am sorry its happened though. It’s affected my ministry, my marriage, my friendships, how I read the Bible. It’s effected everything.

I was challenged yesterday with the idea that what God wants for and from me is my heart and worship. Honestly, if he doesn’t have that he doesn’t care about my happiness. It’s not in the Bible. You can search, its not there. It’s through my worship that happiness may be a by product, but its not the point. Its as much a by product as contentment, as security.

Have you been corrupted? Take a long look at your life. How has  this thought of your happiness superseding the worship of God affected your life? I wonder if as a Christ follower I can stand up for truth. This is one of those areas I believe Christians are duped nine times out of ten. We are suckers for this worldy theology and its driving us apart. We begin to introduce this stuff into our marriages, our workplaces, our church and its creating division between all of us.

What happens when our worship begins to take precedent over our happiness? What happens when we set our eyes on God and nothing else matters. How dramatically does this change our world?

Over this Christmas season, I challenge you with this idea. Are you like me? Have you fallen for this too? What can you do to put God in first place?

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Second Guessing God

This next week I am going to crack open a new book called Second Guessing God by Brian Jones. If you don’t know who Brian is, I recommend you check him out! I wouldn’t typically announce that I am about to start reading a new book, but this time its a little different. I know this will be a challenging book to read.

Many of us have had to deal with something seemingly catastrophic in our lives. Whatever it has been, it was one of those situations that could change everything for you.  I’ve dealt with one of those events. I am going to spare you the details for now, but I remember thinking how could this be possible? It caused me to question God and His plan for me. Granted I quickly came to trust that His plan is still secure in my life, I just had a determine what that plan was.

Too often I can think I am very comfortable with God’s plan in my life, the downfall to that is once this happens God changes lanes and begins going in a different direction than I thought. I have seen this happen over and over again in my life. While I am trying to make sense of what God is doing in my life, I am trying to hang on to His promises with all my strength.

It’s easy to second guess God and what His plan is, but if I trust in His word, I know that He’s got everything under control.

From the Plains to the Mountains

Last week I was in the Wyoming mountains near Laramie. It was my first time spending any considerable time in that area. One of my favorite things about heading west from Nebraska is the mountains. I don’t know if its the shear size of them that I am in awe of, or if it is the fact that its definitely not flat out there. Either way, it was a good change for a week.

I have been spending time outdoors since I was an infant. By outdoors, I am not talking about parking lots and outdoor malls, instead I’m referring to National Forest, National Parks, wilderness, wild animals, sleeping in a tent and enjoying God’s creation! I’ve always said that some of the most beautiful places on earth are not accessible by car. You need to hike.

The part I love most about the outdoors are those places where you just know God is present. Even when you are miles away from the closest church, you just know God is present in His creation. The mountains have always been my getaway from the typical structure of a day. It’s my time away from my phone, my email, the dishes, and the general busyness of life. It’s all about immersing myself in what God has carefully created for His glory.

Upon Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, scripture says, “the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully praising God in loud voices for all the miracles that had seen:

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

As I spend time in the wilderness, I love hearing the sound of nature. I know that if I can’t praise God for His creation, the rocks will cry out.

So as I return to the normal life one thing I keep with me until next time I am able to retreat for a few days, is that God has called me glorify Him in all I do and to sing praises as often as I can. I have seen His miraculous creation and its up to me to not keep quiet!

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