Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fill ‘er Up

It's kind of funny. I remember hearing my parents talk about how cheap gas was when they were teenagers and young adults. I always thought if only prices were like that my tank would always be full to go wherever I want. And there was some truth in that. When gas prices went down to about $.80 while I was in my senior year in high school I probably put way too many miles on my little Celica. That tank was seemingly an endless supply of go-juice. And when the gauge did get low, I didn't even have to think about it; I just filled her back up again. Of course it also helped that my parents let me have one of their QT cards!

Today though, gas prices are a little painful. I actually cringe when my tank gets below ¼. I start looking at where I am, where I am going and think about which gas stations will likely have the cheapest price. I will even let that tank go almost dry if I know a station two exists up is a few cents a gallon cheaper. Still, the tank does get refilled no matter what the price per gallon is. When I need the refill I get a refill.

Well, my Spirit tank works much the way my car's tank works. It runs dry from time to time if I don't keep an eye on it. I didn't realize this until recently. I have always believed that once I made Christ Lord of my life, that the Holy Spirit came within me and filled me for all time. The Spirit was there whenever I needed it, my tank was ALWAYS full. I now am seeing that I must pull in for a fill up, but unlike when I was first driving I have to actually passionately want to be filled. I have to ask for that fill up of the Spirit. If I ignore the Spirit, my tank will run dry.

I have been in this empty state for the past few weeks I think. That probably explains why this is the first post in that time. I again have been on the travel gig, and I have again let myself get too busy, too important to think about where the Spirit gauge is. It is way low; the light is on for sure. So, my prayers over the last few days have been much like some of the prayers of the New Testament prayers. I am begging God to again fill me with His Spirit and to remove the things that drain my tank. Of course, I think He is doing things His way (surprise) and not really doing this the way I thought. I mean, really, wouldn't be easier just to have my company say "Mark, we have a bunch of new hires. You don't need to travel anymore." No, I hear God saying instead, "Mark, I am going to slowly show you the things that are draining my Spirit. Now you, Mark, must decide to actually make the changes to stop letting those things keep you from Me."

I am sure there is a great reason He does this, but I still don't (and never will) understand why God continues to put those types of responsibilities on me. I have failed at this far too often for Him to think I would ever be successful. Yet, He still believes in me. He still wants desperately for me to finally recognize the joy that only comes from full devotion and reliance on Him. And He will NOT force Himself on me. Otherwise, I would not experience that full joy. It must be my choice; I must constantly want His Spirit filled up in me.

Fill me up God! Fill me to overflowing so that I may be overjoyed in all things. Let me overflow so much with your Spirit that everyone around me cannot help but see your Glory and want to experience the same joy you have given to me.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I’m a Smart Guy - Sometimes

In many ways humility evades me a little too frequently. I probably need to apologize to a ton of people, and of course God for that. So, let me start with this: I know I am actually a pretty stupid guy. And I am also fairly certain those last two words, "stupid guy" are over redundant.

Now, with that said, I am actually a pretty smart person (or at least I think so). I search for logic in everything. I read almost constantly to widen my knowledge in way too many areas. I also find myself thinking about where and how I can improve things in this world. And that brings me to the stupid me in need of MUCH humility. Whenever I start to think I know how to solve a problem, make something better for people, expand God's kingdom, I then need to remember that HONESTLY, I am stupid in these things.

See, my plans and my ways are not God's ways. This simple fact is one of the most difficult things for me. I really like to run with ideas and get things moving. This type of quick, almost reactive thinking does not seem to go well with God's desires for me. As I was reading through the gospel of Mark I saw a perfect example of this, and it was more than humbling on this point. In Mark 8:31-33 I am sure Jesus himself is talking straight to me as well as Peter.

In this Mark 8 text, Peter had just finished telling Jesus, "You are the Christ." Then, almost in the next breath Peter goes off on Jesus. See, Peter didn't see the logic or benefit in Jesus telling people his death was imminent. Peter had a better plan than Jesus, and Peter was more than happy to yell at Jesus about it. Something I would never do of course (with complete sarcasm). I kind of like this being in the Bible though; it certainly allows me to better relate with the struggles those who walked physically with Jesus had. But, the statement from Jesus makes me wish I couldn't relate to this at all. Recognizing what I assume is Peter's pride and ambition getting in the way of God's will, Jesus yells back at Peter, "Get behind me Satan!" Gut shot! Low blow! Jesus clears up for me any possible confusion stating specifically that Peter only has in mind "things of men," not things of God.

Like Peter, I have my own ideas about how best to expand God's kingdom on Earth. I have grand plans for how my local church can better reach out to my community. Sadly though, I tend to think on those things not in God's view, but in my own logic. My logic is limited; God is not limited to logic. My thoughts, as huge as I may think they them are tiny compared to God's plans. When I see the ferocious rebuke of Peter by Jesus I can see just how damaging this type of prideful thinking can be for me and for God's plans. That small, 3 verse portion of Marks gospel is enough to turn a smart guy stupid for sure.

This is not an easy thing for me to get past though. I don't think it was easy for Peter either. He still kept this up even to the point of cutting off someone's ear. I think, like Peter, my difficulty may be due to not praying as I should. I think it might also be that I do not acknowledge the presence of the Spirit within me. Peter didn't seem to get a handle on this until Pentecost. We simply don't see this side of Peter again after he receives the power of the Holy Spirit. That then is my project for myself. Start praying for God to keep me stupid (not hard I am sure), to slow me down when my mind starts flying, and to let the Spirit take control of me. I wonder what kind of person I will be if I allow God to do that for me. I hope it is someone no longer limited by logical conclusions with limited results, but a person who simply works with God to bring about a transformed world.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Prayer of a Franciscan Monk

While I know I have not prayed this prayer myself, I sure feel the sentiments of this prayer in my heart. I think perhaps the Spirit has been groaning this from with me on my behalf. Maybe this prayer represents best where I am most wrestling with God today. Maybe I should be praying this prayer alongside the Spirit within me.

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.



Monday, October 4, 2010


For many people, being telling the truth isn't too tough of an issue. We are mostly taught from an early age that it is not right to lie. Whether we grow up under view of the 10 Commandments ("thou shalt not bare false witness – lie) or just generally receive guidance that telling lies gets you into trouble, most of us know it is good to tell the truth. However, telling the truth is not the same as being honest. The idea of being honest goes much deeper and further and is core to what we believe and how we interact with God. It is also more about self than it is about your interaction with other people.

In many areas of my life I have no trouble with honesty. I can freely confess to struggles with prayer due to philosophical debates I have with myself over the purpose of prayer. I can openly discuss how much of a jerk I was to my wife while completing my college education. I can even admit, and this is tough, that I excused that horrible behavior because it was what God wanted – I was getting a Biblical Studies degree after all. Still, there are many areas in my life where honesty seems to take a back seat.

The areas that are tough are those areas where I have doubts. For me this usually takes the form of logical arguments with aspects of the Bible, my belief in miracles, and thus in God at all. Fortunately, I have been able to work through these, honestly, without too much trouble. Unfortunately, some deep dilemmas still exist that either I am not honest about or just ignore the honest answers. And I would argue that by ignoring the honest answer, I am actually being dishonest.

Example: I truly, honestly believe that I live in a culture and maintain a lifestyle that is out of touch with what God calls me to live. I say I am willing and ready to change that 100% and get back to full-time, located ministry as I believe God desires that from me. However, I justify my house, my cars, my career, my clothes, dining out, and tons of other things with the thought that God wants us to be happy. And when I carry this to the extreme of my dishonesty in this matter, I tend to blame it on my family – it isn't fair for me to force them to give up the lifestyle I helped lead them into. But the honest reality in this is that God does not EVER promise me happiness. And he certainly never says to gain happiness from a materialistic lifestyle.

The abandonment of honesty in this example, and plenty others in my world, are examples of a lack of intellectual honesty. From Wikipedia: Intellectual Honesty: Facts are presented in an unbiased manner, and not twisted to give misleading impressions or to support one view over another. For me, this is almost an unpardonable sin. I basically live for logic, truth, and yet in the most core things to me, I am unable to be completely honest with myself.

When I refuse to be intellectually honest I start to get a distorted view of things. I start to modify how I view, treat, and interact with God. I start to change how I allow God to work in me. In the case of lifestyle, returning to my above example, my dishonesty with myself (and God) leads me to turn away from where I know God wants me to be. It takes me away from God. It in essence is me putting myself before God AGAIN, just as Jonah did. I just hope I get this handled before God causes people to throw me from their boat again and a fish spits me out where He wants me.

I think honesty with self is perhaps one of the most important things in strengthening our faith, in deepening our relationship with God. Dishonesty is the fastest, moist direct way we lead ourselves away from God for sure. In whatever form it takes, whether justification, ignoring the honest answer, or flat out lies, dishonesty keeps us from seeing God or His plans for us clearly. I leave you with a quote from an old preacher (and I mean old), "God's guidance is plain. when we are true" - F.W. Robertson.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Bringing Jesus’ Return

Several days ago I talked about how most people (when truly, deeply honest) don't believe Jesus is going to return today, tomorrow, or even in their own lifetime. That, as I said is a very sad state in which we find the church and me today. Something I didn't really talk about in that post though is why He hasn't come already. Why am I even here on the earth to even contemplate these questions?

Jesus even said in Mark 13 "I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened" referring to the end times. Of course, "generation" is a somewhat ambiguous term in Greek. It could mean that specific generation, their descendants, or an entire race. However, it would seem Jesus was trying to show the importance of "being on our guard" (verse 33) in the context of chapter 13 in Mark. So, I tend to lean toward the expectation it would be very soon. Also, other writers including Paul seem to expect Christ to return during their lifetime. And this belief carries into much of the writings of the church fathers. Trust me on this, or better yet, go read for yourself!

So again, if Jesus expected himself to return quickly, then why the hold up? And is this an untruth from Jesus himself? Well, let's look to the same chapter to see what Jesus himself says about this. In verse 10 He says, "the gospel must first be preached to all nations." He also says in verse 32 "no one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Take these two statements of Jesus together and I think what He is doing is putting the timing of His return on us. It is in our hands as to when He will return. Sound a little nuts? I thought so too. No way God leaves it up to us stupid humans who already spat in his face to determine when He completes His plan for creation. But, then again the whole idea that "the gospel must be preached to all nations" is still hanging around yelling out at us.

If you are anything like me, and I honestly hope you aren't for your sake, then it is likely you have never really heard much about that statement of Jesus. And if you have heard it or read it, you didn't really put too much thought around it. I don't think the apostles or disciples in His day did either. I think they just kind of let it sit there as we do today. I am fairly certain I never once heard a sermon in any of the MANY weeks in several different churches on Mark 13:10. Don't get me wrong, preachers taught on evangelism, missions, and the second coming of Christ. But it seems they stayed away from that verse.

The only reason I can think we avoid it is that it puts way too much responsibility on us. I am just fine with a lot of what it takes to be a Christian. I am somewhat OK with what it takes to be a Christ Follower (if you want a good video on the difference in those two things, go here: But, I am either ill-equipped, scared, or selfish (pretty sure that's the one) to take this statement personally. See, if I do take it personally, then I MUST go and preach the gospel. I am compelled to do so. If this one verse isn't enough, Jesus gives us the Great Commission in Matthew 28. Twice, at least, Christ himself tells us to preach to all nations. It isn't something for just a few us; it is for ME, You and anyone who claims Jesus as savior.

Like I said, I think for me it is all about selfishness that keeps me from going out and boldly preaching the gospel to all nations (and don't just think foreign missions, this is local nations too). I don't want to give up my status with my "friends" or decrease my lifestyle in order to freely be able to share the gospel with EVERYBODY, EVERYWHERE. After all, what would my co-workers think? What would my friends think? They would think I was nuts, which is basically what Jesus says also in Mark 13.

So, what comes from me being selfish like this? What comes from all of us not being fully committed to EACH share the gospel to ALL NATIONS no matter what the cost to us personally? The delay of Jesus' return to claim us into eternity with Him! Isn't that enough? 2 Peter 3:9 says God is "patient…wanting none to perish." For whatever reason, God has enlisted me and you to be his messengers to this dark world. He is patiently waiting on us. I want to be done with being slave to this world, this earthly existence and see Him face to face! If that is the way I feel, then I can help to speed His return. It just means letting go of this world and its concerns and taking the mission Jesus gave to us. We have stalled it for over 2000 years. Maybe NOW is the time for us all to hasten His return! Oh, and sorry for the book on this post. Got a little heated on this one. ;-)