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Butch, Sundance and Jesus

One of my favorite Western movie scenes is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In the scene “The Kid”(Robert Redford) is accused of cheating. The man who accuses him stands up, puts his hand on his gun and is ready for a fight. Butch (Paul Newman) says, “Sundance, let’s just get out of here.” The man’s response, “Wait, you’re the Sundance Kid, I didn’t know that….if I draw on you…you’ll kill me.” Sundance: “There is that possibility.”

There is a sort of Sundance kid feel after Jesus heals a blind man in John 9. The blind man is confident in who he is and in what Jesus has done for him. Of course, the Pharisees question the validity of the man’s new found sight, so he states very clearly to them what happened. “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” (Jn 9:11) The Pharisees weren’t having it! They didn’t believe the man so they called his parents. After the parents caved to authority they went back to the man to try and get him to admit that Jesus was not from God. I love this next part! “I have told you already what happened and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?” (v.27) This infuriated the lawmakers and they threw the man out.

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and went and found him. He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man? The man said, “Point him out to me, sir, so that I can believe in him. Jesus said, “You’re looking right at him. Don’t you recognize my voice?” “Master, I believe,” the man said, and worshiped him.

It wasn’t just sight that was restored that day. This man came face to face with the God of all things and his life was radically changed for the better.  Once he realized it was the Son of Man standing in front of him, he worshiped and believed.

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A Model For Prayer

I was encouraged in 2000 through a seminar to spend daily time with the Lord, and took the presenter, Tom Raley, up on his challenge.   In my early years of doing daily time I followed Tom’s recommendation to a T. This is what he taught me: When you wake up in the morning, “Good morning Jesus. Thanks for a good night sleep. Look forward to being with you.” After that spend a few minutes in each of these:

  1. Praise
  2. Thanksgiving
  3. Guidance – read scripture and pray over calendar for the day
  4. Dedication of the day to the Lord
  5. Intercession – pray for family and those you minister with and to
  6. Petition
  7. Meditation – pick out something from your time with the Lord that you can walk with the rest of the day.

* By Tom Raley – Practicing Spiritual Discipline

After a few years of using this model I began to branch out to other tools. The devotional book titled, “A Guide to Prayer” has been a great companion on this journey of daily time with the Lord. It gives a daily psalm, scripture reading and reading for reflection for the day. This is a great tool for someone starting out on a journey of daily time. For three years I did the One-Year Bible and it was fantastic. It got me deep into scripture each day and provided a grounding for my faith.

What I learned from Tom and from my own experience these past sixteen years is that a plan is vital. Without a plan we are wander. To get up each morning and know where to begin our time with Jesus is essential for longevity. If we are serious about making time with the Lord a priority, then follow a plan that becomes a simple ritual will lead to vibrant life in Jesus.

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What Does It Mean To Pray?

What is prayer? When I was a boy I thought I knew what prayer was. Each night as I laid my head down on the pillow I would begin to list all of the people that were closest to me. I would ask the Lord to bless them and then slowly drift off to sleep. I was careful not to miss a night because I was afraid of what would happen to these people if I did not pray for them. I saw to it that they were protected by my prayers and believed that without me these friends and family members would be in a rough place.

Over the years my understanding of prayer has changed. While I still believe in petitioning to the Lord on behalf of family and friends, I have come to adopt a definition of prayer that I first learned from Henry Nouwen: Being with God and God alone. As I have considered a lifestyle of prayer, I have had to honestly ask myself if there was space for that in my life.   After all, this was Jesus’ model of prayer, and if I was seeking to pattern my life after Him, then I had to begin to create space in my life for God to get at me. If Jesus often spent time in solitude, I believe that He is asking us to do that as well.

The most significant thing that we can do in our time with the Lord is listen to His voice. What??? Come on??? What does that even mean, listen to His voice?   Beginning to develop the discipline of listening did not come easy for me. In the early days I would get distracted by a thousand different things. I was annoyed, impatient, and constantly looked at my watch to see when the pain was going to end. Slowly, as I returned to this place of listening I began to hear the voice of the Lord. Sometimes through Scripture or a book I was reading, sometimes through journaling, and sometimes in the still calmness that overcame me in the moment. Somewhere along the way of consistently showing up to listen the Lord over the past fifteen years, He has given me the ability to hear Him. He gives direction for my day, wisdom in decisions, discernment in the moment, and assurance that I am loved by Him.

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The Lord’s Prayer Got Cut Short

The Lord’s Prayer does not end with, “For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory forever.”   It’s just not in the text.   Not only does it not end there, but it doesn’t end. I’m not sure why we have cut it short, but according to Luke, Jesus kept right on speaking when the one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray…” (Luke 11: 1) The rest of Jesus’ answer to the question goes like this:

5       Then He (Jesus) said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves;

6          for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;

7          and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.

8          “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

9          “So I say to you, aask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

10          “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

11          “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he?

12          “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?

13          “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

If I am reading this passage correctly Jesus is telling his disciples to be persistent, very, very persistent in their praying. Kenneth Wuest in The New Testament: An Expanded Version explains verses 8-10 this way:

I (Jesus) am saying to you, though he will not give to him, having arisen, because of being his friend, yet on account of his persistence, having arisen, he will give him as many as he is needing. And as for myself, I am saying to you, Keep on asking for something to be given, and it shall be given you. Keep on seeking and you shall find. Keep on reverently knocking, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking for something to be given, keeps on receiving, and he that keeps on seeking, keeps on finding, and to the one who keeps on reverently knocking, it shall be opened.

This consistent Asking, Seeking, Knocking requires belief, active belief, confident belief that Jesus will and wants to respond to your needs today.

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Worry is Unbelief

The Lent season is over, Easter has come and gone, and we got out of bed this morning to take on a new week.  As you think back over the past 40 days has anything shifted?  Has there been an area of unbelief that is now an area of belief?  Maybe you are wondering if you really have unbelief in your life.  There is a sure fire litmus test WORRY.

Worry is the opposite of belief. It pains me to even type out that reality, but it is true. Jesus’ words on the subject cannot be ignored. Regardless of how much faith I have at times, I must return to Jesus’ teaching on worry as the litmus test on faith. Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.” (Luke 12:22) “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life. Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (25-26)

Jesus’ words in Luke 12 hit a little too close to home. His advice is way too practical! I prefer His more obscure teachings. As I read this section of Luke 12 I have to ask myself if worry is the overarching theme of my thought life. If so, then somewhere along the way I have let unbelief take over. “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (28)

So what do we do with worry? Especially if we are prone to worry, grew up in an environment where it was normal, or let’s be honest, like to be in control and mask it as worry? Well, the only antidote for worry I have found it Jesus. Seriously! A lot of my journey the past 10 years has been seeing worry and control subside in my life as a result of leaning more into Jesus. I wish there was a quick fix to this, believe me I searched for it, but I came up empty. What I can tell you today is that worry is practically a distant memory compared to what it was for the majority of my life before this intimate growing relationship with Jesus. His words in Luke 12 have become life giving to me.

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Lent Day 40: Being in Love

Most people I know have been in love. It’s amazing what happened when I fell in love with Anna. Time just suddenly appeared! We both thought we were busy before we fell for one another, but we quickly found ourselves spending numerous hours on the phone, sacrificing sleep, and being intentional about getting time with one another.   Fast-forward seventeen years into marriage. While we don’t have the same feeling of butterflies in our stomach when we see each other or talk on the phone, our marriage is exponentially better when we are intentional about one-on-one time together.   I have found the same to be true with Jesus. While I may not have the same emotional high as the season Jesus was “courting me into the Kingdom”, spending one-on-one time alone with Him drastically enhances our relationship.

I am slowly beginning to realize after seventeen years of marriage, and a number of years of consistently getting time with Jesus, that the courting phase was nothing compared to the level of love and intimacy that is experienced when I simply spend time with the one(s) I love.

A few years ago Anna and I attended a couples retreat in Seattle lead by Tina Sellers called, Passion For Life.   The weekend was remarkable, and was very encouraging for our marriage. One of the primary teachings of the weekend is the importance of believing that we are loved by God. This is where it all begins. We really cannot give or receive love properly until we believe that we are loved by our Father. One of the best pictures of this in scripture in John 15. Jesus tells us:

4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

10 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.

The central message of Jesus is to remain in His love. That is really our only part, to remain, to abide. As we allow ourselves to be loved by God and to remain in that love, we can’t help but love others without expectation or attachment. We can freely love, knowing that we are loved by the Father. Since Jesus is love and He is in us, then we too are love. Amazing!

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Lent Day 36: The battle today

It all started when Satan decided he wanted to be God, left his post as an angel and declared war on God, trying to take his place as ruler of all things. Satan’s biggest blow was his attack on Eve and Adam. God allowed it because he didn’t want his creation to be summoned to love him, but instead wanted his creation to choose him. Satan saw this as a prime opportunity, tempted Eve who invited Adam into the temptation, and they chose to believe the lie and not the truth that they were loved, that God’s love was enough. This deeply grieved God, because he longed to be in relationship with his creation, and it greatly pained Eve and Adam because they were created to be in an intimate relationship with God.

God, of course, knew that the story would play out like this, and also knew that he would pull off the greatest rescue mission in history, God’s rescue of man. He became a man (Phil 2) and came to the earth, not only to show man how to live, but ultimately to die. The interesting thing here is that the Western belief brought in the idea that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penance to his wrathful Father for all of man sins. That was not the understanding of the Early Church. The Early Church believed that the cross was primarily how God defeated Satan, once and for all. Jesus became sin, he became it! (2 Cor 5:21) He didn’t just take on our sin, he literally embraced his humanity to such an extent that he became sin and through that voluntary process he defeated sin’s power. The result of that defeat was man’s opportunity to be rescued by a God that loves him, and to provide a way for man to be in an intimate relationship to God once again.

So the question then becomes, what is the battle now? In light of this great battle and God’s ultimate rescue mission, the battle is now against an ongoing intimate relationship between individual man and God. Yes, that’s it, Satan’s primary concern is to keep men and women from believing that we are loved! And it turns out that he is pretty good at it…