Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

From all of us at The Chapel, we wish you a joyous and love filled Christmas. May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you as you worship Him with holy devotion. Peace be with you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Alone With God... Part 2

First, let me apologize for my delay in writing the second half of this post. I have been quite sick in my body (flu/shingles), yet joyful, peaceful, and satisfied in my spirit. In other words, my light and momentary affliction has not kept me from communion with my God and I must say that it makes me very happy.

I ended my last post by noting that Jesus found strength in rising early to be with His Father, by getting alone in a solitary place, He prayed. This is where I want to pick up on my thoughts about prayer.

Please remember that I am on a journey and do not have all the answers as it pertains to the depths of this topic. I am but a traveler on the road of discovery to a place that my spiritual heroes have talked about, but I have never been. I think I am possibly learning what it means to walk with Him and really be with Him; to be spiritual and not just religious. I think I understand what John Michael Talbot meant when he penned the words, “God alone is enough, whoever has God wants for nothing at all.”

Today I would like to try to explain “solitude”, or at least what it means to me in the midst of my busy life. The dictionary defines solitude as the state or situation of being alone. For many of us in our hectic lives, being alone seems like only a dream or a wish, but how many of us can say that we are busier than Jesus was when He walked the earth? I daresay that none of us can even begin to compare our lives with the life of our Lord, yet He got alone and there He met with His Father.

If our excuse for not getting alone with God is the “demands” on our life, then maybe it’s time for us to take a good look at that which is taking priority over satisfying the One Who’s name is “Jealous”.

For some, the thought of being alone seems boring, lonely or even weird, but, the kind of “being alone” that I’m talking about is far from boring and being lonely and is certainly not weird. It is so delightful that words cannot express what I feel. You see, solitude is not really being alone at all; it’s being with Him and once we understand this kind of aloneness, we will desire it over any party or social gathering. For to be alone with God is to never be alone at all. It is, as I have said, at times, breathtaking, convicting, gentle, surprising and peaceful, but never lonely.

In his book “The Practice of the Presence of God”, Brother Lawrence wrote about solitude, “I drive away from my mind everything capable of spoiling the sense of the presence of God.... I just make it my business to persevere in His holy presence... My soul has had an habitual, silent, secret conversation with God.”

There in solitude I find Him and He is all I really need. I used to think that my greatest ambition should be to do more for God; to be a great husband, dad, preacher or a great missionary, but I am finding that anything good that comes from my life is simply a byproduct from my time alone with Him. To do anything, even in ministry, apart from “abiding in The Vine” is by all means a futile attempt to appear spiritual apart from true spirituality.

I have preached in many churches, spoke at many conferences and sat with scores of people throughout North America. There, I have found many who seem to be extremely impressed with certain well known preachers, popular books, cool programs, courageous missionaries, anointed worship bands and impressive worship centers, but very few have told me how amazing God is. NO ONE, that I can remember, has ever raved about their churches prayer meetings or how wonderful it is to get alone with God and breath in His beauty… no one.

It was Leonard Ravenhill who said, “No man - I don't care how colossal his intellect - No man is greater than his prayer life.” He also said, “The true church lives and moves and has its being in prayer

So what’s our problem? Why isn’t being alone with God enough for us? This has been part of the journey I am on. I’m trying to discover what it was that captivated our spiritual fathers and mothers, for the only thing that they seemed to rave about was God Himself. They spoke of solitude, contemplation, and simply being alone with Him. Yes, even in the midst of their busy lives they found the secret of being alone with Him and it was the very thing that marked them and set them apart in their generation. Please don’t misunderstand, they weren’t seeking to stand out, they simply wanted Him and He was found to be all they needed and wanted. He was their All and all they did was for Him and because of Him. Their greatness had little to do with them. The greatness the rest of the world witnessed through them was God Himself being spilled from a clay pot. I used to want to be like them because of what they did, but now I want to be like them because of who they were and Who they knew.

In my times of prayer (petition, solitude and contemplation) I am learning some things about myself that are a bit uncomfortable for me to share, but I will humbly do so, in hopes to make you thirsty to pray yourself. I have learned that in prayer, I talk too much, listen too little and have found that I am not near as deep as I thought I was. That’s always exciting to learn; in ministry for twenty years, with shelves filled with books, several passports filled with visas from over 60 missionary adventures and I’m just learning that I’m not very deep, or at least as deep as I thought I was? But discovering this is not at all condemning or belittling, but rather it is a hopeful and exciting revelation. Prayer is teaching me that depth is not measured in what we do or how much we know, but rather, Who we know. It’s not so much about knowing as understanding and not as much about doing as in being… being alone with Him.

Next week I would like to share with you some of the benefits I’m gaining from prayer and being alone with Him. For now I would like to share a few “tips” about finding “moments” alone with God. No matter how busy I have been, I am finding that these simple (yet not easy) exercises are helping me:

1)   Find a quiet place to be alone.

2)   After you have worshipped Him and voiced your petitions, be quiet.

3)   Do your best to drive out all the clutter and demands of you life and time.

4)   Be still.

5)   Do that for twenty to thirty minutes in the morning.

6)   Throughout the day, simply whisper his name.

7)   Spontaneously declare your love to Him.

8)   Look for a “moment” to be alone with Him. Secret places to be alone, even for a minute or two (please not the bathroom).

9)   Before you close your eyes at night, bid Him “good night”, the same way you would your family or close friends.

10)Remember He likes that, because He loves you. He is jealous for you.

These are just some ways that I am learning how to “get alone” with Him. As a person in full-time ministry, I also take all day on Tuesday (from 8am – 5pm) to be in prayer (not work). I need this time each week to be with Him and learn what He is asking of me. It has become the best day of the week for me.

I hope this has encouraged you in some small way and that it makes you hungry to be alone with God. He desires to be with you… in silence… even for a moment!

Tom Zurowski

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Over the years I have had many people ask me about what books have helped to shape me in my spiritual life. I thought it might be neat to share my "Top Ten" (not including the Bible) list with you, in case you might want to purchase these books for your family and friends for Christmas.

1) "Tortured For Christ" - Richard Wurmbrand (any of his books)
2) "Foxe's Box of Martyrs" John Foxe
3) "The Knowledge of The Holy" - A.W. Tozer (any of his books)
4) "Why Revival Tarries" - Leonard Ravenhill (any of his books)
5) "The Doulos Principle" - James Garrett
6) "Humility" - Andrew Murray
7) " The Practice of The Presence of God" - Brother Lawrence
8) "Surviving The Anointing" - David Ravenhill
9) "Through Gates of Splendor" - Elisabeth Elliot
10) "The Way of The Heart" - Henri Nouwen

There are so many more that I could share, but if a person obtained, read and lived what these books promote, I'm sure they would be well on their way to living the normal Christian life. What a great gift this would make for someone you love! (Disclaimer- Just because I mentioned the titles of these particular books, does not mean that I agree with everything pertaining to the author.)

Tom Zurowski

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Alone With God... Part 1

For approximately the past year I have been on amazing journey of exploration and discovery. It has been exhilarating, mysterious, surprising, frustrating, uplifting, convicting, at times breathtaking and always leaves me wanting more.  As I consider sharing my thoughts, I feel somewhat overwhelmed. For I know at best, my attempts to explain my journey will be feeble.

The thoughts I would like to share with you are more like journal entries from a trip as opposed to an analysis from an expert. My thoughts are simple, yet to me, very deep. To be honest, I want to talk about something I'm not exactly sure how to talk about.

Andrew Murray explained it like this, "It is as natural and joyous as breathing. It is the true spiritual life. It is the inhaling of the true spiritual atmosphere." It is something that all of my spiritual heroes knew, loved and that which set them apart. That which I am talking about is prayer.

Augustine said, “What can be more excellent than prayer; what is more profitable to our life; what sweeter to our souls; what more sublime, in the course of our whole life, than the practice of prayer?”  

If I asked you today, "What is your prayer life like?" What would you say? You might say good or bad, depending on how much time you spend in prayer, or based on how you feel emotionally when you are done praying or based on what you gained from your time in prayer. This is the way I would have responded too, but that is changing.

Over a year ago I gathered my family and told them what I wanted written on my tombstone. I know what you're thinking, "Your tombstone??? Are you planning on dying or something?!" Well, quite honestly, the answer is... yes. Now don't misunderstand me, I don't mean that I'm planning on dying anytime soon, but I am very aware of the fact dying is a part of living and we are all headed in that direction. Like my friend says, "I don't know about you, but death runs in my family!"

I told my wife Elli and my kids that if and only if it were true, that I would like my epitaph to simply read, "He walked with God". I meant it, yet when I said it, I knew what I was saying was my desire, but not necessarily my current reality. Either way, it seems that God took me seriously and I began an amazing journey with the Holy Spirit that led me to where I am today. An amazing journey, that is, after twenty years of full time Christian service.

You might be thinking, "Are you telling me that after twenty years of ministry you are just now starting to pray?" No, but I THINK I am finding out the difference between what it means to be religious and what it means to know God. You see, since my conversion, I have been passionately in love with all that I knew about God. I loved His sacrificial death on the cross, His miracles, His mercy, His forgiveness, His grace, His word and His resurrection. You see, in twenty years of ministry you learn a lot about God and as a result, you know a lot about God and can even give fiery speeches about God, but that is not the same as knowing God.

The only way I know how to describe what I am going through is with a picture. Imagine with me that I am walking carefree on what appears to be an icy frozen tundra. I am not cold or uncomfortable. On the contrary, I like where I am. As I walk though, I become thirsty. I have no water, so I begin looking. Soon, my search for something to drink becomes somewhat frantic. And then I find it... a small crack in the ice and in the crack I see water coming up. I put my finger in the crack and pry the ice loose, only to discover that beneath the ice I am standing on is the ocean... the ocean of God Himself.

This is a picture of my prayer life with God over the past twenty five years (I became a Christian 25 years ago. What a wonderful encounter). I traveled happily just knowing about God, doing missionary work, living off past spiritual experiences (walking on the frozen tundra) and hearing the whisper of the Holy Spirit from time to time (the water in the crack in the ice). Little did I know that I was only scratching the surface of the enormity of God Himself. Now I know that drinking from the ocean is not good, but drinking from the ocean of God is wonderful. Please let me try to explain.

My prayer life has consisted primarily of my words. I would pray until I ran out of words and then my prayer time would be over. If I had a lot to tell God, then my prayer time would be longer than the times when I had little to say. You see, my time with God was based on what I had to say. You know, like a one way conversation. But is that really all there is to prayer? Isn't prayer supposed to be intimate communion with God? Isn't it supposed to be a two way conversation?

You might be saying, "Tom, how's it all work?" Well, I'm not sure that I have the answer, but I may be able to point you in a good direction. Start by following the example of our Lord. Mark 1:35 simply states, "Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed." This was a common practice of Jesus (I encourage you to do your own study on this). Let's observe.

First, we see that Jesus rose early. Notice that Jesus' view of restoring His strength was not sleeping in late, but rising early. Second, He found a place to be alone (solitude) and third He met with His Father and He prayed. If Jesus, being God, needed to get away to a quiet place and pray, what makes us think that we can effectively serve Him without doing to same? Jesus Himself stated in John 5:30, "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me."

Just take a moment and ponder some things today: What defines your prayer life? Do we really think we need Him, or do we just say that we do? Can we get along without Him? Is our prayer life just a one way conversation? Does your prayer time end when you run out of words to say? Is that all there is to communion with God?

More to come.