Friday, October 28, 2011

Make Time And...Be Still

"The first and chief need of our Christian life, is fellowship with God. The Divine life within us comes from God, and is entirely dependent upon Him." ~ Andrew Murray

"Be still and know that I am God." ~ Psalm 46:10

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." ~ Jesus (John 15:4&5)

Lately, our Lord has been leading me into what I call "the deeper life" with Him. Something deep within me is becoming more and more detached from this world and is longing for intimate communion with God Himself. 

I have found myself praying more fervently and with more patience; with less words and more silence (listening). I wish I could say that this has been easy for me, but it hasn't. Since I became a follower of Jesus, longing for more of God, that I can remember, has never been my issue . It's the being quiet and being still part that is tough for me. 

People who know me might label me as a pretty "active" guy. If I'm awake, then my mind is racing with all kinds of thoughts and ideas. Whether it's about my family, the church (nationally and locally), our work in Sudan (through Global Response Network), dreaming or personal relationships, my brain rests very little. I'm a "thinker" and it's tough for me to put things out of my mind and simply focus on hearing from God.

In this fast paced world that we live, SOLITUDE is something we need to fight for. If we are hoping to FIND the time, then we may never truly enter in to pure communion with the Lord. No, solitude is something we need to MAKE time for and that's not easy.

As a spiritual leader, it is my "job" to abide with Christ and to walk by the Spirit (and might I add that it is my greatest joy), but even I struggle at times to "be still" and be alone with Him. The demands on my life at times are overwhelming. If it is difficult for me, then I know it must be very challenging for stay-at-home moms, business leaders, college students, doctors, athletes and everyone else with a demanding schedule. Yet, being still and embracing a life of prayer and solitude is not optional for the Christian.

So, how do we do it? First of all, we "MAKE" time. I remember years ago waking up and finding my wife Elli in the laundry room crying out to God. She needed to "make" time before the children woke up. I remember seeing her sitting on the floor, leaning against the drier and weeping for lost people. It was one of the most beautiful sights to behold. Today, she is in a new season of life and has had to adjust to make time to be alone with the Lord.

Here is what I believe is the key - desire and discipline. Everything worth having is going to cost us something. Being alone with our Father is no different. Leonard Ravenhill put it this way, "We all have as much of God as we want of Him." That stings, yet we all know it is true. If we want to be alone with God, it will cost us. It will mean saying "NO" to other things and slipping away and finding a quiet place to meet with Him. So, in simple terms, the way we say "yes" to being alone with God is saying "no" to the distractions and other allurements of this world.

When is the last time you got alone with God? When is the last time you were "still" before His majesty? When is the last time you even heard the word or thought about "solitude". My encouragement to all of us is to examine our lives and take a deep look at the way we spend the time God gives us. Then, after we get honest with ourselves and we MAKE time, find a quiet place to be alone with Him. Shhhh......  Quiet yourself. Say nothing. Read nothing. No music playing. Complete silence. Listen. Be still and know that He is God. And once you know you have entered that secret place with Him, then.... speak... if you can.

By Tom Zurowski

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Commitment To Love

On Wednesday nights, I get together with other men from the body of believers I worship with at The Chapel. We have been having wonderful times together. We have challenged one another, confessed to one another, trust is being built between one another... it's really a beautiful thing.

Last week we were discussing a topic that has stemmed from the sermons that Tom Zurowski has been sharing on for the past couple of weeks. We got into commitment to the body. Commitment to one another.

My mind and heart is in turmoil and unrest over this idea of commitment. It feels as if never before in my years as a Christian have I considered commitment to the body (church) like I am going through now. It's possible I have been challenged in this area in the past at other church fellowships, but it has never hit me like it is now.

The thought of committing to a "church" is almost disgusting to me. I'm not sure why. I guess the thought of committing to an institution has no life in it, at least that is how it seems to me. I guess I have the misconception such that when I hear "church," I hear "building," or "programs," or "institution." And I have no desire to commit to that. 

Commitment to a person, or a people... now that's a different story. There is life in that to me. Of course, "church" is people. I've heard it said before that we live in a generation where little Jimmy and Susie were dragged to "church" when they were young, and so this generation of Christians think church is something you go to rather than something you are.

And so we discussed commitment to one another. What does that commitment look like? What does Jesus require? What is God's command in terms of commitment to one another? As I looked at my brother's last night I inquired, "What does Christ command in our commitment to one another?"

I understand commitment in marriage, and then there is commitment to family. Maybe even commitment to friends. But commitment to those I worship with? 

The model I am used to seeing in many ways is if I don't like a church, if I get hurt or offended, it's OK, I'll just pack my bags and head to a new "church" until it happens all over again there. It seems we can leave at the drop of a hat these days when it comes to church. Oh yea, I'm committed, until... someone hurts my feelings, or, doesn't do things my way, or the pastor doesn't give my family or I enough attention...

All the while "church" is more an institution, and a place where I come and get what I want, as opposed to giving my life away.

And, so, commitment to brothers? Commitment to the body? What does it look like? What does God require?

But wait. Maybe. Just maybe...

...the question or turmoil goes deeper than that. Maybe the question isn't regarding what God requires in terms of commitment to others in the body.

Maybe... Maybe it's more about what God requires concerning love.

Maybe commitment is implied in love, stems from love, flows from love...

By John Follman (The Chapel)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Christian or Chameleon?

“Why suffering?” is a wrong question. No right answer exists for a wrong question.” (Richard Wurmbrand)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” 
(Paul’s letter to the Romans; chapter 8, verse 18)
I remember listening to “gospel” radio one day many years ago and hearing a well-known preacher say, “If the apostle Paul understood covenant, then he would not have had to suffer what he did.” Oh, how foolish and arrogant we have become! We have believed the lie of the man-centered gospel (which is no gospel at all) that makes us believe that God was created for our good pleasure, rather than man being created for His.
How could we get so far off? Is it any wonder that there are so many well-meaning self-seeking “decision makers” filling the pews of our worship halls these days? They have come to find out how to get the most out of Jesus. Suffering or trials are no longer a part of the Christian equation.
I remember spending time with a pastor friend, in Sudan, who was captured by Muslims. He was taken to a torture chamber; where demon possessed people beat him. They hog-tied his wrists and ankles together and repeatedly hoisted him 15 – 20 feet off the ground then let him fall on his face onto a concrete slab. He was kept in a steel container for 15 days in the hot sun. He was put in water up to his nose and forced to stand in it for days. Lastly they dug a grave for him and his friend and threw the two men into the graves. My friend’s colleague died. When the authorities found that my friend lived through the night they exclaimed, “surely your God must be a living God”, and released him. This dear brother never became bitter, or asked the question “why God?” He had already counted the cost of following Christ on the day of his conversion. Through out his time in custody his family didn’t know if he was alive or dead. While he was tortured, he preached Jesus to his persecutors. He is still preaching today.
If only someone would go to our brothers and sisters and tell them about the covenant they have with God, maybe they wouldn’t have to suffer for His namesake (sarcasm). In many persecuted countries around the world, the radio preacher I mentioned earlier would be rejected and labeled a heretic. Yet, in America, we embrace such a teacher, buy his books, and send money to keep his radio show on the air.
The Bible makes it clear that if we desire to live Godly in this present day and stand against the spirit of the age, then we will suffer persecution. Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves in the free world is “why don’t we suffer?” Maybe the reason we don’t suffer is because we have become chameleons in our culture. May we not forget that chameleon’s true colors will be revealed at the judgment seat. We must never fit in. If we fit into the world, then we may not fit in to heaven.

Tom Zurowski

* PICTURE... Me with James Jeda. 10 year old boy burned from his ears to his ankles for not rejecting Jesus and becoming a Muslim. This all occurred after his family was killed for loving Jesus. Southern Sudan 2001.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Busy Yet Barren

The doom oh the doom of barren trees. They shall be hewn down and cast into the fire. God will deal with them as men deal with dried trees that cover the ground. He will mark them by some signal token of His displeasure. He will cut them down to death, and cast them into the fires of Hell, a fire blown by the billows of God’s wrath and fed with the wood of barren trees.”
(M. Henry)

“Beware of the barrenness of a busy life.”
(Corrie Ten-Boom)

What will we say when we see Him? Will we, like Adam, blame the gift that God has given us for our disobedient and barren lives? Adam blamed Eve, God’s gift to him, for his rebellion. Will preachers blame “the ministry” – God’s gift to them, for their prayerlessness? Will businessmen blame their businesses – God’s gift to them, for their lack of intimacy with the Creator of the universe? Is it possible that we, too are busy, yet barren? Who will we point the finger at for our barrenness? When the dead wood of our lives is collected what will our excuses be?
It is in the place of prayer and solitude that the barrenness of business is turned to true fruitfulness. We can blame no one but ourselves for not abiding in the Vine that produces perfect fruit. The scary thing is that many people think they are fruitful when in fact they are barren in the eyes of Heaven. Oh, that we would abandon the business and once again be still and know that He is God.
“Oh, Lord light these idol sticks of my life that I might burn for thee!”
(Jim Elliot)