Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prayer & Share Experience #2- God's Call to Journey

What is the mystery in God’s call? Why does it come to us in a mystery?

Only by accepting and receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior will you ever be reconciled to God and be able to have a personal relationship with Him.
"I (Jesus) am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."- John 14:6
" to all who received Jesus, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." - John 1:12
Eternal life and being a Christian is not just about accepting Jesus as your Lord & Savior, then waiting around to go to heaven where you will live forever. It is about a relationship with God, and getting to know Him , and serving Him and obeying Him because you love Him.
"Now this is eternal life: that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" - John 17:3
" I have called you friends." - John 15:15
“You are my friends if you do what I command." - John 15:14
"God's call is for you to be His loyal friend, for whatever purpose He has for your life."
- Oswald Chambers "My Utmost For His Highest"
"God, who has called you into fellowship ("koinania") with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."
- I Cor. 1:9("koinania" fellowship- "the fullest possible fellowship & partnership with God, and with others in the church. Intimate fellowship with God and His son Jesus produces this type of fellowship and unity in a church. Only God can produce this genuine koinania fellowship, love, and unity.") (Henry Blackaby)

" For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11
Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has special plans for our lives, plans to bless us and prosper us; The next two verses spell out the necessary conditions for us to receive the benefit of His plans, "Then when you call upon Me and come and pray to Me, I will hear you. When you search for Me, You will find me; if you seek me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:12-13)
" God will instruct him in the way chosen for him." - Psalm 25:12
" You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." - I Peter 2:9
" For we are God's workmanship ("valuable masterpiece"), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." - Ephesians 2:10

" For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." - Philippians 2:13
(You will have a love & joy & passion for doing the things God has created you for & calls you to do)

List of Spiritual Gifts
Administration: Discernment: Exhortation: Faith: Giving: Knowledge: Leadership: Mercy: Prophecy: Service: Helps: Teaching: Wisdom:

"Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." - Acts 13:2
The Greek word for called means that God "called them unto Himself", first to a love relationship with God, and next to where His presence and His power would be at work. We only need to respond in faith and obedience, and God will provide the power and whatever else is needed to get the job done. Moses being called to help lead God's people out of Egypt is another good example of God's call and how God provided everything (see Exodus 3 & 4).

"Come follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." - Matthew 4:19
"Then Jesus came to them and said “All authority in heaven and on earth have been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” - Matthew 28:18-20

You are not truly following Jesus unless you are being a fisher of men and an active witness for Jesus Christ, telling the lost about Him and sharing His plan of salvation with them. He also wants the church to teach and help others become fully devoted and passionate disciples (learners and followers) of Jesus Christ, so they will be fruitful witnesses and servants of His.

Brainstorm: God called Abraham and his progeny to be the means for saving all of humanity. God called Mary to bear his son. God called Joseph to be an administrator of business affairs. God called Moses to be a leader, a judge, a musician and a teacher. God called Jehiel to be a bookkeeper (accountant). God called Solomon to be a preacher. God called John to be an author and write down his vision. God called Joshua to be a leader, mayor, governor, president. God called Jonah to be a missionary. God called Luke and Matthew to be preachers and missionaries and his other disciples. They were also called to be doctors to heal the sick. God called Paul to be a missionary.

Genesis 12:1-4
1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." 4 So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Jeremiah 1:4-10
4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." 6 "Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child." 7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD. 9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant."

Matthew 4:18-20
18As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 20At once they left their nets and followed him.

He called ordinary people to do extraordinary things. They all felt inadequate; however they all followed the call.

Which of these similarities do you expect to be present in god’s call to your congregation as it journeys with God to discern and live into his preferred future?

I think we are all ordinary people that God will call and we will all feel inadequate possibly. But I think God will also bless us if we take on His call. As stated above- God’s presence and power will always be with us when He calls us- so how could we fail?!

What are some things these people called by God had in common?

They were called to leave what they knew, they were called for a specific task that wasn’t really told to them, they were called to be leaders, teachers, and they were told that God would be with them through it all. (Jer. 1:8)

Share something you learned about God as you read these accounts of God’s call to a faith journey.

Journey by faith in beloved community, and you will be empowered for life!

Everyone believes in something. And we live our beliefs in our actions through faith at work, at play and in how we interact with friends and foes, neighbors and family. Faith is central for our spiritual empowerment. Faith is our lifeline when life is raw, ugly, painful, terrifying, numbing, demoralizing and tragic. Faith brings us into great moments of hope and love. Faith empowers our prayers and helps us rejoice and praise God, expressing profound gratitude with a deep and abiding sense of thankfulness even when our world has turned upside down and inside out. Through faith, we can pray to a Power greater than ourselves. Through faith, we find the Holy One is safe to cry, laugh, rage and rejoice with. God has never left us, although we may have misplaced or forgotten God. God is always with us, even as we frantically search for meaning and fulfillment in our lives. God is eager to be found and is nearer than our hands and feet. And so it is with our faith journey. However you understand God at this present moment, celebrate it, however uncertain it might feel. And when we are together, our combined spirituality is very great indeed. Beloved community helps us overcome temptation, change destructive and negative patterns of behavior and thinking, encourages and strengthens us when we are discouraged, and helps us discern God’s call in our lives. It is so important that we will travel around the world to find it. It is where no one is left out and everyone is welcome.

Is God’s call upon the congregation just a call to the body or is it also a call to the body’s parts- the members? Why?

It is a call to all its members- we all have different attributes and we are all different however just like the physical body with all of it’s parts- the hands, arms, legs, brain, heart etc… we each have an essential function that is only productive when put together with the other parts in order to have a functioning body. That is how each member is to a congregation or “church body”…

What is the relationship between god’s call to the congregation and God’s personal call to you?

I have my own spiritual gifts from God, as do each member of the congregation- and we are all set to work together with our strengths and others picking up our weaknesses… working together for God’s call can accomplish much- we all have different passions and weaknesses, but together and with God we can be successful.

How does this leader’s statement connect with you and your hopes for the spiritual journey?

If I allow God to speak to me, if I take notice and listen, if I study to find my own spiritual gifts, then God can and will use me in this spiritual journey and if all the other members feel this way then it will be successful tenfold and nothing will stop us!

Share & Prayer Experience #1- Coming into the presence of God

Expectations and hopes for prayer triplet experience:

I think I expect us to follow the example already set for us as we pray:
Jesus prayed for guidance in places of quiet solitude - “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35)
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).
We of course will be praying together, in a quiet place with one another.
Jesus prayed for His disciples and for all believers -“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11).
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you” (John 17:20-21).
I think we will pray for one another as disciples of God and for our fellow believers that are also praying in triplets as we are.
Jesus prayed in praise to God, the Father - “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure’” (Luke 10:21).
I think as things are revealed to us- as I believe they will be, we will pray with praise for God opening our eyes and revealing His plan for our church.
Jesus prayed prayers of thanksgiving - “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks
and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body’” (Mark 14:22).
I believe we will pray thankfully, that we have God to lead us and to trust in through this mission for our church.
Jesus prayed in a posture and with an attitude of reverent submission - “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39).
I believe we will pray His will, not ours for our church… What would He like for us to do, What would He like for us to be?

Jesus loved His Father and communicated with Him often. He prayed for wisdom and guidance in His earthly ministry. Jesus prayed for God to strengthen their (his disciples) ministry once He departed from them. He prayed with honesty and reverence. He prayed with joy and praise. But most of all, Jesus prayed with expectation. He knew the Father heard His prayers and would respond.

I believe God will hear us- all the prayer triplets, our ministers and our congregation as we pray seeking what He would have us do and be as a church now and in the future. I believe He will answer us and lead us in His direction. This is my expectation.

What does it mean to enter into the presence of God- to be fully present with him?

I believe that “to enter into the presence of God, to be fully present with him” is a choice that we as individuals have to make consciously. If you think about it- how easy would it be if he was sitting right beside me in the flesh? As my guest I wouldn’t hesitate to offer him my undivided attention. Yet I do believe that God is always fully present with me- thus waiting on me to be fully present with Him.

I believe that I have to choose also to be present in what is going on right now, right in front of me. I get distracted with the past and the future, sometimes all together missing the present. I think my time spent would be better invested sometimes in what is going on presently.

It occurred to me that this is the same when I come to meet with God. Will I engage fully in this time together, believing that God has something for me right now that I do not want to miss?

I read somewhere- in a devotion or online that I should “realize that the world will not falter while I am not busy with it.” How true! Life goes on! And how wonderful is this that the world does not depend solely on me! What a relief! I realized my own self importance needs to be checked at times. Setting aside time for God should be a priority. My top priority. God is willing to make himself available to me; shouldn’t I be willing to do the same for Him?

Why do we often find it is hard to be fully present with God?

Parents playing with their kids on the playground while talking on the cell phone
A group of friends eating together, yet all looking at their phones and texting/Twittering, etc
Conversing with our spouses on the couch, yet watching t.v.
Not moving away from our devices to focus on someone who has come to talk to us
Worshipping in church, yet more concerned about what’s going on at other churches via Twitter
Checking email, FB and Twitter messages last thing at night, or first thing in the morning
Glancing at our phones while on a date with our spouses, or significant others
Constantly updating/texting while out with family or friends.

This is just a very small list of things that demonstrate how to not be in the moment…to not be present with those we are in direct, relational proximity to.

I think it is boredom, impatientience and a lack of self confidence. We seek affirmation, hoping that someone will notice us. It’s almost like we are shouting: “Hey, hey, look at me. Look at what I do. I’m important. I am somebody.”

I feel that we are like this with one another, as well as with God. So many things get in our way. We give our attention to so many other things today- we leave no room or time for God.

I think that we need to listen and identify with one another – see one another on the same level. To be present is to listen and identify with one another, to be sustained and uplifted by one another- not distracted or entertained. I believe this is what God wants with us as well. I also believe that God does this for us too.

What in this grandmother’s relationship with her grandchildren allowed her to give them her full and undistracted attention?

She enjoyed them, paid attention to them, she watched them, made them feel important like they are somebody. She cleared time specifically for them and lived in the now with them. She made her time with them a priority.

What can we learn from this about being fully present with God?

All these things are how we should treat our time with God. It is after all how He treats His time with us.

What does this insightful prayer tell us about God and about being in his presence?

This prayer really reminded me of the hymn Just As I Am.

Some of the words from that hymn are:
Just as I am, without one plea, Just as I am, and waiting not Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt, Fightings and fears within, without, Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind; Sight, riches, healing of the mind, Yea, all I need in Thee to find, Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; Just as I am, Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down; Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone, Just as I am, of that free love The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove, Here for a season, then above.

God will take us as we are, meet us where we are in our life right now right here… then change us and send us out under his guidance in his love and strength. We only need to tell Him we are ready.

What does it tell us about ourselves?

We have to be open to God, be willing to change if we need to and be willing to trust Him completely.

What four things does God tell us we must do if we are to be changed and transformed?

Humble ourselves, pray, seek his face and turn from our wicked ways.

Which of the four are the hardest for you to do?

Seek His face.

Does it take all four to be changed and transformed? Why or why not?

I believe it does, b/c that is what He tells us in His word- if we will do these things, then will He hear from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land.

Remember a time and exp. when you entered into the presence of God.

Well I have noticed in my own life that I am most in tune with God when I am getting sick or when I am sick… unfortunately I am so in tune with Him because I need Him, His strength, and His understanding. I tend to lean on Him more during this time – a time when I feel I can’t do it all by myself. This is repetitive in my life, and I hope that I can somehow turn this into a positive thing and learn to lean on God when things are going good as well.

What was it like? How did you feel? How were you changed?

I am always humbled when I get sick and revert back into deep communication with God. I am reminded that I need Him and that without Him I cannot move forward. I am also reminded though, that with God ALL things are possible. I can survive, I can prosper, get better, move forward. It is always a check and balance in my life- I remember to get back on track, take time to rest and recover all the while getting back in line with God and re-evaluating priorities in my life with Him.

When you approach God and enter into his transforming presence, what are your hopes?

My hopes are to grow with Him, closer to Him and learn from Him. I hope and strive to live in a manner that He would be proud of- like a father/daughter relationship~ would He be proud to call me one of His own? Am I someone that God would not be embarrassed to admit that I am His?

Your fears?

Exactly as above- that I am not growing with Him, or closer to Him or learning from Him. That my life is not one that He can be proud of or that He would rather not tell anyone that I am one of His.

Based on your time of sharing and praying together, what specifically can you do in the weeks ahead to help you experience more of the joy and blessing of being fully present with God?

Take time to be with God. Dedicate time solely to Him and listen to Him. Allow Him to lead me in the directions that He would have me go. Be earnest in communicating with Him in all things… good and bad, joy and sorrows, trials and triumphs! Pray believing and expect God to hear and act on my prayers in a way He sees fit and that I will understand His answers to prayer – even it the answers aren’t the ones I think they will be!

Will you commit to doing this?

Yes, I will commit to doing this! I will also commit to praying for others that are entering into this journey as well.

Pursuing Missional Faithfulness... the begining of the pursuit of God.

Okay, so most people that know me know that I am pretty involved in my church- Walnut Hills Baptist Church- woot! woot! I love my church and the people in it, and I have been a lifelong member of this church. I can honestly say I was born and raised in this church!

I have seen many transitions over the years at church- some good and some bad... but we always manage to pull through with strong faith and a desire to meet God over and over, no matter how many times!
It seems to me through all of this there is a common theme among our transitions and until now it’s like we’ve never been able to pinpoint it. That theme is “Where is our church? And where are we going?” Everyone wants these things spelled out to them right? So we don’t ever make any mistakes, so we know for sure we are doing what God would want us to do?
Where is that 10 year map marked with all the details explaining each step of the way? It feels less risky when you know exactly what's coming...

Uhhh... Lord, are you listening?
Then He answered!

The first time I heard about Pursuing Missional Faithfulness (PMF) was during a Church Council meeting. Since I am the church clerk, I was one of the first ones to hear about this intriguing endeavor that our church could participate in if we all chose to take on this journey.

Dr. Neal introduced the council to an approach to church life called Pursuing Missional Faithfulness.
He made us aware that we would NOT "feel" safe; but just the opposite through this experience: he described it as “risky”. Someone ask the question once: "WHAT DOES FAITH FEEL LIKE?" The answer: "FAITH FEELS RISKY." If it doesn't feel risky, it's probably not faith. Wow. Then I remembered the verse, "For we walk by faith and not by sight."

Remember that map I was asking about? I have come to understand that God will never give us a detailed, step by step map of the future. Rather, God's callings are usually out of sight... giving directional vibes but not the details necessarily.

Pursuing Missional Faithfulness should help us come to the right direction without exact details. We are explorer-pioneers, think Columbus, and Neil Armstrong.

Pursuing Missional Faithfulness is a 15 month approach seeking to push us out, up and beyond the obstacles that keep us from “reaching beyond ourselves”.

Pursuing Missional Faithfulness is something that council has decided to present to the church as an endeavor that all those interested in should participate! It sounded so exciting to me and I was anxious to get started!

So this is where all my time has been- and why I haven’t been blogging as much! But even in the midst of it I feel like I should put this on my blog... so the following posts will be about the process of pursuing missional faithfulness with my church from my point of view.

There are other churches doing this same endeavor- under the direction of a great man named Bill Moore and I really think this will lead to big changes in churches around the globe. It’s very exciting to me!

For this process I am in a prayer triplet, getting together with my other two over the course of 100 days to pray for 100 minutes in 10 sessions. This is the first commitment that you have to make when you agree to journey with those in your congregation through the PMF process. Committing to pray first and seek God’s will is key in this process. So many times we try to take things on and then ask for God’s help. This process tries to listen for God’s direction FIRST- then complete the tasks.