How I Got Saved Last Year – Part 1

It all started with a blanket and pillow.

Yup. That simple.

But here, I’ll give you more background. Every year my Bible school holds a Bible Reading Marathon. For three days straight we read the Bible out loud. It’s great.

Well, last year I left work after midnight and threw on my favorite sweater to join the night watch portion of the Bible reading. I had done the math and I knew if I spent 4 hours during the night watch I could go home and sleep and actually get MORE hours of rest before school than if I just went home from work and got up for my 6am. (It helps to be me sometimes.)

Anyway, there I was, just me and my sweater, roughing it out in the night hours. Most students who do this bring air mattresses, blankets, pillows, sleeping bags – the works – they go all out. There’s coffee for those who drink, but since I don’t its kinda irrelevant. I started out in a chair, but around 2am I was curled up in a corner in the back, using my backpack and coat as a pillow.

Somehow I fell asleep. I’m not sure how long. You know the I-just-crashed-on-a-hard-floor feeling? Yeah, I felt it. So I sat up and behold– there was a blanket and pillow sitting next to me. Just sitting there. Like it had been placed by a little pillow fairy or something. [Random fact: I think the blanket had scooby-doo on it].

Now, most people at this point would have been rejoicing. There would have been shouts of praise and maybe a few hallelujahs. This was a gift from the Lord (and whoever put it there for me) after all.

But no. No. I was mad. Absolutely angry. Fuming. I know, it sounds terrible right? But, I was mad because of one thing:

I looked weak.

I looked like I needed something. I looked unprepared. Someone had walked by and seen me and pitied me.

So I just sat there, blanket and pillow sitting next to me on the floor. In my pride I refused to touch them. Then, in that quiet, poking way that He does so well, the Holy Spirit asked me, “how many other gifts are you refusing to receive from me out of your stubborn pride?”

Dang. He sure got me.

It’s my pride that doesn’t want to look weak. It’s my pride that doesn’t want to need help from anyone. Ever. Just a heads up, self-sufficiency is a killer to your relationship with God. He always meant for us to need Him. Its the connection, the conversation that He’s after. When we think we can do it without Him, or pretend we can by trying to, we step out of the conversation. Our salvation is built on one thing: His mercy. We are utterly dependent, in-need, hopeless people, with nothing to offer, and nothing to bring to the table. We need Him.

As God was trying to show me, I was holding something that He wanted to give me at arms length, refusing to receive it. Just like the blanket and pillow sitting next to me, I was not accepting something that He wanted me to have because it made me look weak.

To wrap up the story, I begrudgingly pulled the blanket over me and put the pillow behind my back, and as I did (though I was still grumpy) I said in my heart, “Okay, God. I’ll receive what you’re trying to give me”.

   [Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out what happened next]

 

Winning a Heart — (a story about Jesus)

I love how the Lord gives me revelation when I’m sitting on the floor with 8 and 9 year olds. Today we were learning about Jesus being fully man. As Paul says, great is this mystery of godliness, that God was manifest in the flesh. The lead teacher was helping the kids get the idea that Jesus was a little boy once, that He probably fell and scraped His knee, that He had siblings. As I sat there thinking about what it might have been like to have a the son of God for a perfect brother, a little picture came to me. I almost started crying at the beauty of it and the way it reveals Jesus’ heart.

We know that Jesus had brother’s and sisters, but we don’t know anything about their lives growing up.We are called to love God with all of our minds, which includes our imaginations, so I want to use mine for a bit a tell a story. I do not presume to have special revelation, this is not based on some crazy theology, nor do I think this actually happened, but I think the story I want to tell reflects Jesus’ heart the way we see it in the rest of the gospels.

Imagine Jesus as a 9 year old. He’s got younger brothers and sisters. They play together all the time and He is the perfect brother. He always helps mom when she asks. He studies the Torah with diligence. He never says anything mean to the neighbor kids. One day His sister, let’s call her Rebekah, makes a mistake.

“Hurry,” Rebekah thought. “If I just get the chores done I’ll be able to go see Merriam.”  She ran about the house, sweeping up messes and putting away the things from breakfast. Mom had just left for the market and had put her in charge of the cleaning. All Rebekah could think about was how these extra chores were stopping her from playing with her friend.

Suddenly, Jesus her older brother came in. He was the last person she wanted to see, he was always doing things right and no matter how hard Rebekah tried she couldn’t measure up. She sighed heavily, hoping he knew he wasn’t welcome. He scanned the room and then without a word set to work helping.

“Oh just stop it”, Rebekah said in frustration. He was too good. “Why don’t you go somewhere else, I’ve got this.” As she said this Jesus was carrying the two water jars that had been on the table to the door. She knew just what would happen. Mom would come home and exclaim how proud she was of Jesus for helping without being asked, doting on him like he was something special. And of course the fact that she had obeyed and stayed behind to clean would be overlooked.

Rebekah crossed the room and went to snatch the jars from her brother. “Let me help you!” He said, but it was too late. In her rush she had wrenched them from his arms but not gotten a tight enough grip herself. The water jars shattered on the floor with a horrific crash.

Pale and hardly able to breathe, Rebekah jumped away from the broken clay on the ground. “Oh no! What have I done?” she thought. “Now mother will be angry for sure!” And before she could stop herself she glared at Jesus and yelled, “You always do this! You’re only making things worse. I would have been fine but now I’ve broken the water jars. Just go away!”

Jesus looked down. “Can I…can I help you clean it up?” He asked timidly.

“No. Let me do it.” Rebekah snarled. Jesus turned and left, a small tear running down his cheek. For the rest of the morning Rebekah did not see him. He had ran down the road, out to his favorite tree. There he sat, talking. What Rebekah didn’t know was that He was talking to his Father and that together they were forming a plan.

Later that afternoon Mary returned to find the family water jars broken into pieces. She called the children into the house with a very disappointed look on her face. “Can one of you tell me how this happened?” she asked sternly. Rebekah stood there squirming, knowing there would be punishment for sure. Before she could work up her courage to say anything, Jesus stepped forward.

“Well mother, it’s my fault. My sister dropped the jars, but if I hadn’t had been holding them it wouldn’t have happened. Don’t punish her, punish me.” He said.

Mary looked at Jesus, then at Rebekah. “Very well then,” she said, “Jesus, first of all, you will miss supper because of your carelessness. Also, you will have to do extra chores around town to help get enough money to buy new jars.” Jesus nodded knowing that meant losing all of his free time and probably walking several miles each day. Rebekah kept her head down, not willing to look at Jesus.

That night, Jesus sat at the table with no food at his place. Joseph had come home and found the whole story out and was very displeased. With every bite Rebekah was drowning in shame.

Later Rebekah found Jesus outside, checking the goat pen. As she walked up she heard his stomach growl. He looked at her and smiled.

“Why did you do that?” she choked out, tears running down her face. “I should have been the one with no supper, and now you’re going to have to work extra hard all week.”

“I don’t mind.” Jesus said, putting his arm around his sister.

“But I should have been punished! Not you!” She argued.

Jesus looked her in the eye and said, “I know it was your fault. But I’m happy to take the punishment for you.”

“Why?” Rebekah asked.

“Because I love you. You’re my sister. And…I wanted to win your heart.”

Rebekah wrapped her arms around him in a tight hug. Tears were still streaming down her face and she was getting Jesus’ cloak wet, but he didn’t seem to mind. “Okay,” she sobbed, “I’ll let you win. You’re so kind and I don’t deserve it, and really, you don’t deserve me as a sister, but have it your way.”

Jesus smiled as he hugged her. Looking up he whispered, “Thanks Dad. I knew we could win her.”

Doing Crazy Things

This last weekend I had to opportunity to go visit a house of prayer in Dallas, TX. There we were, a few friends and I, sitting in what is probably the 4th largest house of prayer in the nation, one that goes 18 hours a day 7 days a week, and there were only two other people in the room. While there, looking around the quaint little sanctuary with orange pews and a interesting display at the front, I realized how weak this really is. Suddenly I became thankful that God doesn’t measure success the way we do. For Him it’s not by the size of the building, the number of people or the amount of anointing. By the American standard of ‘bigger is always better’, this 4th largest prayer room isn’t doing so well. They’re in a rented church with orange pews. Often there’s only two or three people in the room at a time, the worship leader and section leader included. All the externals would seem to say that this really isn’t taking off. It’s not working.

I came with one intention. To ask as many people as I could the question “why”. Why are they doing this? Why are they sitting in a little room singing songs to Jesus that no one else is hearing? Why are they waking up at 4am to be at 5am prayer meetings 7 days a week? Why are they believing for the increase (numbers, buildings, people), when everything around them would seem to say that it’s never going to happen?

It’s easy to sit in an incredibly anointed prayer room in Kansas City and say “Yes! This is worth doing! I want to do this for the rest of my life!” It’s great when you’ve got talented singers and musicians who have been leading for over 10 years. It’s compelling when the banner of night and day prayer has been strung for 15 years, when the nations are coming and filling the rows, when the resources are flowing in, but who in their right mind goes into the little prayer room that I was in and says, “this is worth doing for the rest of my life”?

Let me tell you about those people…

They believe Jesus.

They are taking Him at His word when He said, “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations,” (Mt. 21:13) and that “God will bring about justice for the elect who cry out to Him day and night” (Lk. 18:7-8).

They are choosing to be obedient.

They have been given a commission and a mandate, and they’re choosing to do what Jesus asks of them. Of course it’s hard! Of course it means a lot of sacrifice. But at the end of the day they are obeying the Lord and this brings honor to Jesus.

They have a right understanding of how God’s government works.

They know that their prayers matter, that the words they speak, though heard by few on earth, are rising before the throne of God. And even though it appears weak and futile, they have faith that God is indeed working on their behalf and answering their prayers. With eyes of faith they are able to see that God is doing something that no one else sees.

They are embracing humility even when it hurts.

Even after seasons of pruning, when all the good things they had going have been shut down and as they are experiencing pressure in every area, they’re still saying yes. This is humility. They’re choosing to trust God instead of their own opinions.

They’re weak, but they’re persevering.

By the grace of God they’re holding on and not giving up. It looks weak, and they feel weak, but as evident as their weakness is, so the grace of God is even more evident.

These are the kinds of people I want to surround myself with.

They really get what’s going on here. They have set their minds on things above, the things unseen. They don’t care what’s said about them. They lay down their plans and dreams for ones that are greater in God’s eyes, though it be seen as foolishness to the world.

The unseen hero’s of the prayer movement are the ones right now all across the nation and the world that are doing it.

They are believing God and doing crazy things: sitting in prayer rooms.

An Everyday Kind of Love

Abiding in love means being present.

Sometimes it feels like I run a million miles an hour a million different directions. There’s lots on my mind, lots to plan for, lots to think ahead about (and if I’m honest, worry about). I have lists of lists of things I need to get done.

In the midst of it all the question becomes, am I able to stop, put all of that on pause and just thank Him for His love? It’s what brings me into the present, to ‘right now’ and ‘this moment’ where His love is real. I know the command of John 15 well (it’s my favorite chapter in the whole Bible) but that doesn’t mean I always know what abiding is. It’s been a journey of discovery, one which I will continue to be on for a long time. A friend of mine expressed that often she feels like it’s impossible, that it’s something really big and difficult that she won’t ever be able to attain.

I want to encourage her, and you, today. Abiding is simply reaching up and taking the reality of His love, its realness, and applying to your everyday living and breathing. It’s thanking and remembering and recognizing that “Oh yeah, God loves me right now”.

I have found that I naturally tend to live in the future. Part of it is my personality; I like to think ahead, dream, plan and work out the details before they happen. But what I’ve noticed is that sometimes I spend so much time in my head, in the future, I hardly enjoy the present. Sometimes I am so caught up in the things to do and the places and go that I don’t even remember to talk to my Father. I just keep running around without even thinking about God. Those times then, when I slow down, close my eyes (often that’s necessary for me) and say “I remember your love right now” make all the difference.

I think I finally get what Paul was talking about when he prayed that we’d be “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17). The more we talk to Him, the more we remember His love and apply it to our hectic lives, the more rooted and grounded we are.

This love is an everyday kind of love. It’s not just for Sundays and it’s not just for quiet times in the morning. It’s an all day, every day, constant thing that we can touch, feel and bring into every situation.

So here’s your assignment for today. Regardless of what you’ve got going on right now, turn on this song (“This Love” by Housefires: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEL4Oqfcgn8), take 9 minutes and close your eyes, and thank Him for His love.

Cherished

We live and we die ruled by one question — “Do I matter to anyone?**” The bum on the streets is asking it. The successful business man is asking it. The stay at home mom is asking it. I am. You are.

What you long for more than anything is to be cherished. When you are cherished you know in the intricate depths of who you are that you are important to someone. It is to know that in the deepest most intimate place of your heart that someone delights in you; that every intricacy matters and brings joy to the one who knows you most. Who is the one who knows us most and yet still loves us best? It is none other than Jesus.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” (Timothy Keller)

Without first being cherished by God, growing in confidence that He truly loves you to the core of you, it is impossible to truly cherish others. Ones who have been loved well are able to love well, no matter the cost. This is the role of the church. This is why beholding the love of God is the single most important aspect of our christian lives.

Thus, my favorite verse in all of the Bible is John 15:9. Jesus says “I have loved you as the Father loves me”. We skip right over it so easily, but it’s such a dramatic statement. It means that God loves you in the same intensity that God loves the infinite God (His son). It’s crazy. When I talk to Jesus I like to ask Him, “How much does the Father love you? Because in the same way He loves you, you love me.” It’s a beautiful thing to behold.

You really do matter to someone. You’re not overlooked or forgotten. He sees you right where you are. He enjoys every bit of you.

Let God cherish your heart today.

**The content from this post is partially out of response to a book I just finished reading, “The Life of the Beloved” by Henri Nouwen. Therefore, not all of these ideas are mine and I do not want to make it seem as if they are. Henri Nouwen is a very inspiring author and I encourage you to read his books.

Celebrating 15 Years of Night and Day Prayer

On September 19th, 1999 a prayer meeting began that never stopped. Today we celebrate 15 years of day and night, unceasing and unending, worship and prayer. I write this from the Night Watch at 3 in the morning as Jesus is being worshiped and lifted high over our city.

I am in awe of the work of God, mostly because after 3 years I am well aware of how weak and broken these people here are. They’re not super heroes, the ones who began 15 years ago, but they certainly have the grace of God on their lives. This is something He has done. Without the hand of God in this, it would have never begun and it would have never remained as it has.

As I look back over the last three years and the journey that I’ve been on, I am so thankful. I fondly remember that 18 hour day which profoundly impacted my heart. I spent 18 hours straight in the prayer room and wasn’t “all prayed out”. I think I was made for this. I was made for prayer. I was made to talk to God.

I think back to the days when I was just starting out. I would sit in the prayer room in the early morning and cry because God’s presence was so sweet. I loved those hours. Last January I looked out across the room, so encouraged by the people I get to do this with. I wrote about it in a post, appreciating 24/7 worship,

“The room is filled with people of every age and from every nationality and background singing about the beauty and worth of knowing Jesus. Everyday these people come. Day after day after day they just keep coming back to seek Jesus. You could come to the prayer room at any hour and you’ll find something like this. They’re not here just because they have to be, they’re here because they want to be. They really love Him.”

This is an amazing community to be in. It’s normal to walk past deep conversations about the Bible. It’s normal to see people praying for people in the hallways. It’s normal to have classes on intercession, the prophetic, and building houses of prayer. I am edified and blessed everyday by my peers, classmates, and teachers.

If I have learned anything so far, I hope it is that Jesus is worthy of 24/7 prayer and worship. He has been given the name above every other name. Our praise is powerful. Where Jesus is glorified, He builds His throne. Not only is He worthy of my individual praise, but He is worthy of the worship of the nations. It’s happening, just as His word says, “From the rising of the sun even to it’s going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles. In every place incense will be offered to my name, a pure offering, for My name shall be great among the nations,” (Malachi 1:11).