christian life

Keep Looking!

keeplooking

For many of us that spend time on a regular basis immersing ourselves in the Scriptures, we can fall prey to dangerous familiarity. We begin to lose the sense of awe we once had; what was supernatural has become commonplace. Our eyes scan the same passage we have read hundreds of times and it feels as if God’s Word has been emptied of all meaning & power.

How do we prevent this?

We keep looking.

Desiring God, one of the ministries that has benefited me greatly in my walk with Christ, released this excellent video (If you are reading this in your e-mail, go to the actual page to see the video).


What did you think of the video? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Experience of Pruning…

weinberg merzhausen

I spent a few hours this past Saturday in the beautiful vineyard of Tucker’s Walk just outside of Garretson. One of the owners of Tucker’s Walk – Dave Greenlee – explained to me the process of pruning the vines for greater fruitfulness. It was memorizing as he skillfully slashed off dead branches and carefully secured the stock to the metal fence to keep it properly aligned.

Intentionally slicing these branches seemed to be a cruel process… but it is vital for the growth of the plant. Dave explained that the goal is to remove 90% of the plant’s growth from the previous season for high-quality grapes.

Ninety percent is a large portion of the vine!

Jesus spoke about this same reality in our own lives. After spending time watching a professional skillfully cut and mend the vineyard, Jesus’ words have become a greater reality to me:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2)

When we experience the tender hands of our Heavenly Father removing unhealthy patterns in our lives, it can cause excruciating pain. There are seasons that we flood our beds with tears and can only produce groans in our prayers. We scream out for comfort but it seems as if our very identity has been forcefully removed.

Take heart… Christians that bear fruit experience pruning in order to bring about greater health. It seems brutal; even unloving at times. The Master Gardener – the God who sent his Son for our salvation – prunes with great patience and love for the souls of His people.

Are you going through a season of pruning? What has God been calling you to let go of? Are you listening or has the pain blinded you to the love of the Father?

Your Life NEEDS Margin!

margins

I absolutely love to read. Books give us the possibility of entering into a conversation with people we will never meet. These authors teach us about life, marriage, faith, and the art of story-telling. Yet a badly designed book can have devastating consequences on the ability of the reader to enjoy it!

On the left, right, top, and bottom of a book is white space. This white space is known as margin. If the text in a book filled up the entire page – which seems as if it would accomplish more – the book would be a nightmare for the reader.

The same way that margin is vital for a book, it is essential for our lives.

Many of us believe that constant activity will produce extraordinary results. This simply isn’t true. Those of us who feel the need to constantly work are slowly eroding our families and destroying our marriages on the false altar of productivity. Our need to work 60-hour weeks says less about our work ethic and more about our desire to be a god. God does not sleep… He doesn’t have to. He is infinite. We are finite.

We get this confused far too often.

One of the greatest ways to build margin into your life is by practicing a regular Sabbath. I have been using Saturday as my Sabbath for the past year and it has been incredibly refreshing and healing.

I want you to pick a day of the week that you can spend time resting with your family. After you select this day you need to guard it with passion! If you do not fight for margin in your life, no one else will. There are not a bunch of legalistic rules you need to keep on your Sabbath; instead, I would encourage you to seek out activities that allow physical, emotional, and spiritual rest (I’d also encourage you to do this with your phone OFF!)

For me it means I spend a lot of time reading fiction. I love being pulled into a good story rather than being occupied with the current stress of my ministry. Fiction allows me to experience exotic places and incredible stories without leaving my home!

I also love nature. As long as it is not -30 outside, I will go for a long walk to breathe in fresh air and slowly watch birds, squirrels, rabbits, and insects enjoy the day. This reminds me that I’m really not that important. If God sustains the creatures of the earth with food and shelter, He will provide me with everything I need.

During my weekly Sabbath I commit much of the time to hanging out with my beautiful bride. Here’s the truth I live by: The Rescue Church in Garretson can have many different pastors, my wife and (soon to be) daughter only get one husband and father. I will willingly lay down formal ministry if it becomes a god which ravages my family through workaholism.

Can you say the same about your career? Or is your family being ripped apart by the incessant demands at work? Anything or anyone other than the Living God is extremely destructive to worship.

I’m afraid many of us are sacrificing self-care and the health of our families for the false gods of productivity, career, financial security, and materialism.  

Seeing the Invisible God

The Western world – Christians included – are incredibly blind to the presence of God. We have our being in the midst of a noise-polluted and emotionally chaotic world. From the constant buzzing of smart phones to the continual anxiety about material things, we have become blind to the God who reveals Himself moment-by-moment.

I want to share with you an ancient practice that will allow you to see the invisible God. He is working and revealing himself in the midst of our lives but we are too busy and distracted to notice. This means of grace is known as the Examen of Consciousness.

The Examen of Consciousness could be accurately described as a daily review. It is a time that you set apart  and ask God to show you the variety of ways He was present to you throughout your day (or week). This is a form of prayer that has much more to do with listening rather than being heard. Through regular practice of the Examen of Consciousness, you will gradually become more aware of God’s presence in the ordinariness of your life.

Here’s my challenge for you: Spend seven days practicing the Examen of Consciousness. As the warm glow of the evening sun hides behind the horizon and you prepare for sleep, spend a few moments journeying with God through the events of your day. In what ways did you see “coincidences” that reminded you of God’s love and grace? In what ways did you respond to God’s prompting to speak to a stranger or show comfort to someone who was hurting? Allow the loving Spirit of God to make known the variety of ways He was working in your life throughout the day.

In the morning, remind yourself of the beautiful truth recorded in Psalm 139:16 – “All my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.” God wants to reveal himself to you. Pray that He would awake you from your spiritual slumber and open your eyes to the reality of His presence.