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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Sunday May 30, 2010 Sermon Recording: live it

Proverbs 2

We wrapped up our “Hearing God” series this past week with the emphasis on how important being in an active relationship with God helps us to hear him better.  The more we walk with God the more we understand him, just as it is in any relationship.  And just like any healthy relationship, hearing God is not about manipulating him to tell us what we want or to give us every answer we need.  It is about learning from God and being guided to a point to where the decisions we make have the character of Christ in them.

In our attempts to hear God we sometimes fall at the extreme.  One end we claim to want to hear God but do nothing to cultivate that hearing or do anything about what we think we hear.  On the other end we seek God to make every decision for us.  Neither constitutes a healthy relationship.  No healthy person likes to be ignored and no healthy person really wants to make every decision or have every decision made for them.  God’s desire is not that we live God’s life but to live our life with God.  This means that for us to grow to mature faith we learn how to decide things for ourselves by watching Christ.  Does this mean that we do not go to God for guidance? No.  Does it mean that God never has something particular for us to do? No.  But it does mean that we can learn how to walk with God, hear God, listen for God, with out fretting with anxiety if we are disobeying God as we live and breathe through the many decisions and moments that happen in our daily life.

I closed the sermon by sharing with you the closest thing to a formula Dallas Willard came to in his book, “Hearing God”.  Below I will share with you those points and a prayer by James Dobson.  However, there is a major disclaimer.  This is not a formula to get God to talk to you.  It is simply a practical way to help you tune into what God is already saying and what to do when you can’t hear him.

There are 7 steps mentioned

Foundational Steps:

  1. Be intentional in your walk with God.  Make a conscious effort to live as Christ. And Be committed.
  2. Seek the fullness of new life in Christ as guided by the Holy Spirit willing to follow God beyond the things that are in our control and power, and into the goodness of God. (remembering that Faith is not opposed to knowledge, only sight)

Steps to Hearing God

  1. Meditate on God’s principles for life given to us in Scripture, striving to understand their meaning and application. (small groups are a very helpful way to do this)
  2. Be alert to what is happening in our life, mind, and heart.  Here is where God’s communication identify themselves.
  3. Pray and speak to God constantly and specifically about the matters that concern us. Nothing is too insignificant or hopeless.
  4. Use a regular plan.  (see example of plan below)
  5. In those cases where God does not speak to you in a matter concerned.
  • Ask God to inform you, in whatever way he chooses, if some hindrance is within you.  Be quiet and listen in the inner forum of your mind.  Don’t endlessly pursue this, but set aside specific times to pray and believe that if a problem exists, God will reveal it.
  • Take counsel from at least two people whose relationship with God you respect (not buddies) maybe even in a group setting if your issues aren’t too intimate.
  • If you find cause, correct it.  Just do it.
  • If you cannot find cause, then act on what seems best to you after considering the itemized details of each alternative. Find Christ in your action.

Example of a plan

Dallas Willard quotes James Dobson,

  • “I get down on my knees and say, “Lord, I need to know what you want me to do, and I am listening.  Please speak to me through my friends, books, magazines I pick up and read, and through circumstances.”
  • Take time to be still before God each day and ask him to reveal himself to you.

If you do these things with the intention of getting to know God better, and yourself, you will find yourself immersed in a wonderful relationship with God.

Book Used

Dallas Willard’s “Hearing God”

Worship Music This Past Sunday

  1. First and The Last
  2. Beautiful One
  3. Mighty To Save
  4. Center

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Sunday May 23, 2010 Sermon Recording Who Said That?

Scripture: Acts 2 and John 10: 1-4

Pentecost. A day that changed the world and a day we can continue to experience.  I have heard Pentecost preached on and talked about in many different ways and generally the focus is placed on the extraordinary means of the miracle and not the miracle itself.  It is often assumed that the means of the miracle, the manifestation of multiple languages being spoken and understood by a great many people, is the miracle when in reality that is just the means.  Just like the burning bush and Moses, the amazing thing is not that there was a burning bush that was not consumed by the fire, but by the fact that God desired to speak to him in the first place.  The Moses story also puts on another perspective; Moses wasn’t chosen because of his qualifications.  And so with Pentecost, God chooses to speak to all people regardless of their background and baggage.  Peter declares, all will be saved who call upon the name of the Lord.

All. Everybody.  No excluions.  Pentecost is God’s willingness to pour himself out upon all who would receive.  He speaks to all who would listen.  The difficulty for most of us is not that we don’t want to hear, but that we resist doing the things that help us hear.  I was watching “My Name is Earl” on my lunch break today and he met a woman who was too vain to wear glasses so she had a Very Large Print Bible.  Here is the clip.

Now she wants to read, but she is going to miss out on a lot reading like this.  Why are we so resistant to change our lives for something we know will improve our life.  My grandmother refuses to wear a hearing aid.  We would be in discussions and she would ask me a question and because she couldn’t hear well she would just make up an answer to either satisfy herself or make her upset. She had the tools at her disposal to hear me, but wasn’t willing to change her behavior to do so.  The result was that she would often be mad at stuff I never said.  (Of course, she also laughed at things I said that were never funny to anyone else.) I would hate for us to miss out on what God has to say to us because we are unwilling to learn how to listen and unwilling to step into a deep relationship with him.

Sunday Worship Songs:

  1. Here Is Our King
  2. How Great Thou Art
  3. Glory To God Forever
  4. Take My Life

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Walmart.  Walmart is a strange place.  I have decided that there is really only one Walmart in in the US and whenever we walk through the doors of our respective Walmart, we are transported to one located on the island where the TV show Lost is located.  It appears to be the same people.  I am not casting judgement, I am there as well.  I simply find it fascinating.

I do not go often, but today I needed my weekly supply of  40 pounds of dog food (don’t judge me), a plastic pool, hot dog buns,  bread, lighter, and “opsicles” as Sydney calls them. Come one, that’s a fascinating shopping list.  Once Syd and I loaded up the dog food (I have 3 dogs ok, leave me alone) we passed the dog toy section.  Sydney, who knows the difference between dog toys and baby toys as I do (not much) camps out here for a few minutes before grabbing 2 squeaky fish and a squeaky star fish.  Armed and squeaky, we pass by the live fish tank.  Little splashes of blue, silver, red, and orange darted back in forth while Sydney laughed. An oasis of kid entertainment in the middle of a world of stuff we only think we need because it’s cheap.

We stayed there just long enough for me to actually start thinking that we needed fish.  While I was contemplating this, two little girls, probably 4, came by.  One felt the need to tell me the name of all the fish.  There was a goldfish, a beta fish, a sucker fish, Bob, a mini shark tail fish.  I was personally fascinated by the Bob fish.  It was new to me.  Another little girl came by (is this where women learn to just gather and talk) and said matter of factly, “My fish died” to which the other 4 year old replied sincerely, “aww, that’s too bad”.  It’s like a mini women’s auxiliary. The only difference is that it’s not, “hey did you hear? Maude died last week, she was 84”. And likewise, the girls went on to talk about other fish.

After the kibitzing among the 4 year olds, they turn to Syd, my 2 year old who is holding one of the squeaky fish, minding her own business and sitting in her cart.  The other girl reaches in our cart to “borrow” the fish (again, squeaky not real).  This does not bode well with Sydney, so she gathers all her toys into her arms.  The other girl (I’m wondering where her mother is at this point) looks to me and asks, “why won’t she share?”   Now, I know adults are perplexed why their kids are reluctant to share a toy.  After all, it’s only plastic and they’ll return it right?  My cousin told me once to imagine a bunch of adults who don’t know each other, sitting in a circle, then asked to place their wallets in the middle.  Now imagine everyone grabbing other peoples wallets and telling each other, you’ll get it back.  Anxiety attacks! To the child, that is what it is like.  So I don’t feel bad not encouraging my 2 year old whose reasoning skills are minimal to give a child who reached into her safety zone her toy.I told the little girl that I didn’t know.  I thought to myself, the reason is that Sydney is 2 and neither she nor I know you and seriously, where’s your mom.

This got me to thinking about what we hold tightly too and why we don’t share with God.  I wonder how often we feel like Sydney when God is working in our lives.  We feel like he is taking something away from us, that he wants to diminish us in some way.  Diminished, isn’t that really why we don’t like letting things out of our control?  We feel like something is being taken from us.  Think about that times that you have known that God was asking you to do something or directing you in a direction you really didn’t want to go.  Why was their resistance?

I think one of the reasons we resist is that we do not trust the voice we hear, or we do trust but me misunderstand the motives.  In either case it means that we don’t know the God we say we believe as well as we think.  Could it be that our resistance to hear is a lack of trust in Christ?  Could it be our resistance to share our life with God is our lack of knowledge of who he is?  If I told you that the better you knew God, the easier it would be to hear, follow, and trust, would you actually take the time to get to know Him?  This weekend I will be preaching from John 10 where Jesus tells the disciples that the sheep know the shepherds voice and follow.  We will be reflecting upon how experience is a great way for us to learn to hear and trust.  This means we have to put in some kind of effort.  The Ball is now in your court, or the squeaky toy is in your cart.  What will you do?

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Sunday May 17, 2010 Sermon Recording:   Small Voice

Video used (watch this brief 2 minute video before listening to sermon)  Selective Attention Test

Scripture:  1 Kings 19

The idea of God using a “small voice” can, on the surface, seem frustrating.  This is one of those thoughts I sometimes have mid sermon and wish I had time to explore more, or at least have thought of the day before.  During the second service I began thinking of that old Seinfeld episode with the quiet talker.  It was the episode that Jerry agreed to wear one of her ‘pirate shirts’ mainly because he couldn’t hear what she was saying and didn’t feel like asking again.  I wondered how many times we just nod along with what we think God wants and never seek out confirmation.  We would rather God just speak up.

On the surface I can’t blame us for wanting God to speak up.  There are times I made poor decisions on what I thought was good information, or at least good guidance.  Yea, I know,  I sound like a politician now.  That sound is what happens when we do honest self-reflection.  We can easily turn into what Shakespeare calls “the anointed sovereign of sighs and groans” (don’t let that impress you, I do like William, but I got that off my Shakespeare coffee mug of insults.  Hey, even my pottery is sarcastic! Who knew?)  Basically, as I reflect upon my times of frustration with God, I usually, if I am honest, discover the frustration is with myself.  Sure, it begin with God, but what I come to realize is that my urgency is because I have come to God a little too late with my issues or didn’t quite listen.

I used to work for a company called BMI.  A reputable company, and one that I believe their existence is important, but made of humans and all that comes with that baggage. Just like any corporation, there are VP’s, and Directors, and Managers, and cubicle people.  Being one of the cubicle people (the only time I ever really appreciated Dilbert) I remember getting directives to drop whatever we were doing and do only what the VP’s were telling their Directors to tell their managers to tell us to do. I also remember thinking, “why is your neglect turned emergency our emergency”.  Now, I know the answer to that, I’m a cubicle person and I existed for the sake of the company.  But, that always stuck in my crawl (whatever that is).  There was a break down of communication and another persons neglect became my emergency.  There were times that we had ways to fix a problem but VP couldn’t hear us because they were in a crisis and that was all they could see.

Now flip the chain of command.  We are in a place where we suddenly need direction, help, whatever.  We seek God.  He speaks to us, but we can’t understand because we are bombarded with the noise of our anxiety.  Does God need to speak up, or do we need to quiet down.  Sydney, my daughter, is 2 years old.  There are times I marvel that someone so small can make a noise that loud.  I have worked with children enough in my life and study their behavior enough to know that reasoning does not work.  Sometimes, we just have to let her let it out.  We don’t give in, because that only feeds the behavior, but we let her have her right to cry (or scream like a banshee… whatever that is).  Once she settles down, lets the noise out, we can then communicate and learn that she wants the plastic Buzz Light Year not the stuffed Buzz Light Year  (I know, what was I thinking).  In our desire to hear God, usually our inability has more to do with the noise we are making than the volume of the speaker.  How do we reduce the noise?  It is learning how to hear his voice.  The only way to do that is to listen daily.  The noise of the world will keep coming, but if we seek out the voice of God daily in our life, we will find we can hear his whisper above all else.  As a matter of fact, the very act of trying to listen to God starts to transform how we live.

I challenge you to try this exercise this week; take 5 to 10 minutes each day and pray this prayer. Lord, teach me to hear you through all of my senses and all I do, by what I see, hear, taste, touch, and even smell.  Once you pray this, be still for a few minutes.  After your time of meditation, reflect on what you heard, think you heard, or were being directed to do.  It may be to read more scripture, it may be to care for a friend, change how you treat a co-worker, it may be to be still.  It may be that you didn’t hear anything, but just keep doing this.  It might be good to keep a journal.  I would also encourage you to share some of this with a trusted friend.  Maybe even commit to you both doing it and sharing with each other what you discovered at the end of the week.  Above all, don’t despair if this is not easy or you hear nothing, God is not excluding you, seek guidance from those you trust who are mature in the faith.

I am not promising miracles, but the beginning or a renewal of a connection with God.  The saying is true, “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.

Worship Music this past week:

(for those who use this section for song ideas, we have a little retro recently, but will be adding new songs soon)

  1. Your Grace is Enough (Matt Maher)
  2. O Praise Him (David Crowder)
  3. Everlasting God (Chris Tomlin)
  4. You Are My King (Billy Foote)

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What voices are you listening for?  What voices do you listen to?  There are many different times in our life when we find ourselves listening to the voices around us and within us for direction and guidance.  Sometimes those voices steer us in the right direction and other times, not so much.  I had a “not so much” moment Thursday night.

The night started off well.  A bunch of men meeting at the ballpark to warm up for their first softball game.  As a matter of fact, it was also the first ever softball team for Fleming Island UMC.  Clayton Carter and his dad Greg helped to get us signed up.  We even have great shirts and a team name.  We are the Falcons.  We all do a little batting practice and throw the ball around and then the game begins.  The FIUMC Falcons are first at bat.  Batters one and two make the first two outs and up to the plate is yours truly.  That’s right! I’m not just a pretty face, I can also do stuff.  The first pitch comes in and, bang, I hit it somewhere.  The crowd (or small gathering… ok the group of 6 in the bleachers) cheer my name, yelling at me to run and go and maybe even expressing a little shock that I can play sports.  I put my all into that first run.  I make a mental check that my legs feel a little wobbly.  The next batter comes up and he gets a single but the fielder makes an error and I turn from second base and aim toward third.  I’m all in.  I hear the yells, so I put more in.  Now, let’s slow this down.  There are two voices going on in my head, one is the very competitive part debating if I am going to need to slide or pick up the pace.  It’s the voice that says “run Forrest,run!” It’s the voice that still sounds like a 21 year old and thinks its owner is the same.  The other voice is in the corner of my head saying, “danger Will Robinson, DANGER.  Your hammy is about to explode”.  Yea, I don’t always listen to that voice.  The external cheers and the internal over caffeinated coach in my head one the battle of advice, but the still small voice in my head got to say, “you should have listened to me”.

Today, as I was alternating between the stinging sensation of an ice pack and the lovely smell of “bengay”, I began thinking of how often in my walk with God I over rule the logic, love, and wisdom of God in favor of the shouts of the masses and my own pride.  In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is looking for a word from God.  Many big things come before him, a fire, a whirlwind, and earthquake, yet God was not in them.  God turned out to be in the stillness of the wind.

I believe most people would like to do what they do well.  I think many Christians would like direction from God.  In our hopes to do both we often seek out big signs and busy ourselves with “muchness”, and the fantastical, to find God’s voice, when in reality God sometimes speaks to us very plainly.  We can begin to think that with all the clatter and clutter in our lives, that God needs to speak louder when the truth of the matter is we need to be quieter.  When we still ourselves, become honest with ourselves, then we can begin to hear those words that God is speaking to us.

If I had taken the time to listen to my body before and after the game, reflected on previous times I had torn my hamstring, I could have heard that voice a little better and not been grunting as much to day.  As we prepare for worship on Sunday, perhaps it is a good time for us to begin to remove some clutter that keeps us from hearing God.  If you are not sure what that clutter is, begin asking God… or if you are real brave ask a friend who knows you well, I’m sure God would be glad to speak to and through them as well.  Also, as usual pray for one another and those leading your worship services this weekend that God might move through us all and we may all become the people we’ve been called to be.

oh, we did not win, but we looked good and had fun losing.

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To hear this past weeks sermon click the following link.

It Is It Isn’t Sermon

Working through this series on “Hearing God”, it doesn’t take long to realize that a great deal of scripture wrestles with this very topic.  Isn’t that what each story seems to share, God speaking to people and how people respond to that word?  As a matter of fact hearing God is so central to the message of God that God deemed it vital to embody his word.  Sometimes people wonder why “the Word become flesh” is important.  I think about it like this; people I really want to get to know, I want to talk to them in person.  Conversations that are very important, I want to have them in person.  God’s desire is relationship, for only through his relationship are we truly whole. When we talk about “hearing God”, we are essentially talking about a healthy relationship with God.

This past week we explored the fear many people have of being alone and briefly on some of the ways we attempt to make up for that deficiency.  We heard the good news in Romans 8, that in Christ, we are never alone.  Dallas Willard, essentially, was the outline for this past weeks sermon and he in his book “Hearing God” drives this point home, that we are made for relationship with God and it is his nature to draw us to him.  There were also a couple of really great points he made.  One point he makes is that if we look at scripture such as Romans 8:35, Psalm 16, and Psalm 23, the promises made are not that bad things will never happen to us, but that no matter what comes at us we are still beyond genuine harm because God is present with us.

That begs the question of what “general harm” is.  I shared the example Sunday that when a home is broken into the most upsetting thing that happens to the home owner is not the loss of their stuff, but the loss of their security.  Essentially, the soul has been violated.  Some thing with abusive language, manipulated feelings, disrespect for another person, etc.  What scripture is saying, what God is saying, is that let me guide you in your value and I can heal you from all violations.

So what does all of this have to do with hearing God?  Well, the only way to receive the benefits of a relationship (with anyone) is to actually participate in the relationship.  The only way for us to discover this peace is to find ourselves with the peace maker (I don’t mean Smith and Wesson).  We are called by God to be in a conversational relationship with him.  Exodus 19:6 and Rev. 1: 5-6, both say that we are called to be a priesthood to the nations.  Let me “de-religion” that for you.  We are called to be co-workers with God.  Living a life of lifting up, creating, caring, loving, healing, making whole, building relationships.  The Gospel of John says that Jesus calls us friends.    So we are called to be friends and called to work along side God.  This means we are called to be engaged in the business of God.

The funny thing about that last sentence is that so many people interpret that as meaning we are all called to be pastors.  Why is that funny?  Because, really, yes the job of a pastor is about God’s work but only a portion of it.  As a matter of fact, the job of the pastor is to get you to work along side God in whatever it is that you do.  I think we get confused about hearing God and discerning his will because we limit our understanding of God’s desires.  Our actions indicate that the pinnacle of our week is Sunday Worship, that we are working for that day.  We act like we are doing God a favor by going to to church.  This is a lot like telling a friend that you are going to do him a favor by eating the food in his fridge.  You are helping him clean the fridge out and helping him not waste food.

The reality is that worship on Sunday’s is the beginning of the week and it here we remind ourselves that we want to be about the business of God because that is where life is.  Then both you and I go into the rest of the week and we work with God.  Ahh, but what work is that?  This is where we drop the ball.  Some o us wonder what God’s will is for every second of the day and we become immobilized.  Others of us just ignore it because we think it is impossible to hear God.  The big problem is that the best way to hear God is to work with him, but many are saying how can I work with him if I can’t hear him.

I have the solution.  Ok, I have a way to practice listening to God by what you are doing.  Can you tell the difference between good and bad?  Someone does something that really annoys you… got it in your head… now bad would be to say what you were really thinking out loud.  Good would be to say nothing…. well, that’s a start.  Really good would be when you started to think that thought, you pray for them, yourself and the situation (probably a prayer in your head, they may freak out if you put a hand on their shoulder and…) Another example are the potential acts of goodness all around and you know what they are.  It doesn’t have to have scripture attached to it to be holy.  These are starting places and as you do them, try to see Christ.  This combined with reading scripture and daily asking God to reveal himself to you will be fruitful in your walk with God.  You will begin to learn to hear him.  Then when you learn to hear him in the little things, discerning prayer for the big moves in your life will make more sense.

Later, I will share some of Dallas Willard’s thoughts on some of the mistakes we make in listening to God, but in the mean time, seek him out in scripture, community, and learning how to see with the eyes of Christ.

Last Sunday’s Music and Video Clips

  1. Awesome Is The Lord Most High
  2. Jesus Messiah
  3. Revelation Song
  4. I Will Rise

Mother’s Day clips

  1. I’m Sorry Mom
  2. You’re the Reason

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Sermon Recording: Relating To God

Ok, so I changed my mind on what I was preaching about this past Sunday.  As I was working on the sermon I realized that I needed to say something else before I could say what I was going to say… “say what?”  Well, I’m just saying.  So what did I say?  If you weren’t there I invite you to take a listen to the sermon link highlighted above.  If you were there, here are some of the highlights.

We say we want to hear from God, but I wonder if we really understand what we are asking.  Have you ever had someone ask you a question and as you start to answer they tune you out.  They don’t really want the answer, they want appeasement, justification, anything but to hear the truth of the matter or to enter into any kind of dialogue.  Perhaps my question itself reveals some of the problem of our “hearing” from God too.  You may notice that the question implies that we only want to hear from God because we are seeking an answer.  Is that the case with most of your dialoguing with God?  What is it we are looking for?  Why do you want to hear from God?  Why do God’s words matter to you?

I think the heart of the matter boils down to the word relationship.  How we communicate with one another has a lot to do with the kind of relationship we have with one another.  I have met people in my life who have only wanted to know me for what I could offer and not for the person I am.  I have also met people that I only wanted to know them for what they had to offer.  We have all done this.  It is not always wrong nor is it always right.  The point is that essentially those relationships are boiled down to commerce.  Think of a vending machine and the relationship you have with it.  If it has what you want, you like it.  If it does not, it means nothing to you or frustrates you.  If it takes your money and gives you something in return, best of buds.  If it keeps returning only your old wrinkly dollar, it is a dumb machine that deserves a good kicking.  How often do we turn our relationship with God into this very kind?

Think for a moment about a good relationship.  Hardly anyone gets involved with someone with the hope that they will only do what I want to do or vice versa.  Never once have I entered into a relationship where I was hoping that I lost all sense of identity.  Boy, wouldn’t it be great if I never had to think for myself again!  If we do not want that kind of relationship with people, why do we think that it is that way with God?

We can admit that we want to hear from God, but so few of us are ready to be in the kind of relationship where we can respect the God we desire to hear from.  We have established in the past that God does desire to speak with us, but we must be in a position where we know his voice.  1 John 4 says that we are to love one another as God loves us, that we are to abide with God.  In other words we are called to make our home with God and he with us.  For us to hear God well we must be in intimate relationship with him.

When I first came to the church I am now serving, I would joke with some of the people on our worship team telling them to never try to guess what I am thinking.  Mainly because they did not know me that well and I do not think like most people think. (I am non linear).  My wife, on the other hand, knows me well and I am amazed at how well she “gets” me.  It is because we are in a healthy relationship with one another.  How can we hear God if we are not in a healthy relationship with God?

I go into further detail in the sermon, but I would leave you with this; what are the ways you foster a healthy relationship with God?  Feel free to share some of those ways as well.

Music for this Past week:  We went a little retro.

  1. Not To Us
  2. Did You Fell the Mountains Tremble
  3. I Bow Down
  4. Here Is Love

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