Archives For lent

Maybe it is fitting that such a big word would have a big task.

Intercession. To stand in the gap. To fight for somebody when they can’t fight.

We can interceed or intervene on behalf of a person with our words and our actions. Some of us have been in an “intervention” and it saved our lives.

In this instance I am speaking about the action of intercession or intervention through prayer. This is not to bend the will of God, but instead to join in with the army of heaven in a spiritual battle over the minds, hearts, and lives of others.

For two days God put on my heart a list of people to pray for.

Some He called me to pray for them so that they might find healing in their life. Intercession is powerful.

A few He called me to pray for them so that I might find healing in my life.
Forgiveness is powerful.

I found the peace of the Lord by going to battle.

I would encourage anyone who has been reading this reflection series to take a step back, get out of your own head and intervene in another persons life THROUGH pray. Pray blessings over your enemies. Pray for peace over your loved ones.

My prayers were ones out of Ephesians.

Ephesians 1:18-20

18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.[a]

19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 3:16-19

16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

There is power in the one we PRAY TO. There is healing in the name of Jesus. There is freedom in our God and there is peace in His spirit. Take some time to delve into that.

The ancient and wise philospher, Chumbawamba, once said

“I get knocked down, But I get up again, You’re never going to keep me down”

I have been amazed at my journey so far this Lent. I don’t know what it is this year that is making things so different for me. Maybe it’s the trials and wounds of the last few years. Maybe it is because in a few months I turn 40 and it’s forcing me to take a real look at my life. Not in a “I need to buy a corvette” kind of way, but instead with an understanding that truly each moment counts. Where am I headed?

The apostle Paul said this in Phillipians 3:12-14

12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[d] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

I wonder how many moments of my life can be defined by not pressing on to posses the perfection for which Christ first possessed me. Now, I am not talking about ditching netflix or refraining from mindless things. I am talking about the recognition that this “race” set before me matters. My growth in the Lord matters.

I came across a youtube video yesterday that I had seen before, but this time the Lord spoke to me through it.

It was the story of Great Britain’s 400m runner Derek Redmond, whose hamstring snapped during his event but was determined to finish the race at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.

He never won a medal. Never made it into the finals. The footage shows him wincing in pain crippled on the ground as the runners next to him get a far distance ahead. Miraculously he stood up with an agonizing pain on his face and hobbled with one leg towards the finish line. When you watch the video it is much more heart wrenching than the written word because you can see every ounce that it took for derek to do what he did. He had made a promise to himself and his father that no matter what we would finish the race. Nothing would stop him.

He got half way and balled his eyes out… Suddenly he felt relief in his battle worn stride as his father ran on to the track, put his arm around derek and helped him finish the race.

I find it interesting that nobody remembers who won this race, but this man who lost it is etched into history.

I love that this same phenomenon happens in the backwards economy of the kingdom of God. The last shall be first.

Jesus set the race before us. This journey towards being more like him, growth, and life-change. However it is OUR choice to run.

Derek fell down… And then pressed on.
Paul fell down… And then pressed on.

Nowhere in the verses paul Writes does he say “sit still… wait”. Even waiting on the Lord requires movement. We still press on to grab hold of who Jesus designed me to be… reaching towards eternity.

Do you recognize what things make your spiritual hamstring snap? What takes you down?

I know my triggers. In my anxiety and insecurity words others say matter. I forget to trust I am who GOD says I am and instead hear the echo of others words rattling in my mind and heart. So I get stuck. I lapse into my comfort zone. I begin to believe lies and somehow convince myself that I need to jump into another persons “lane” in order to defend myself.

This has been wrecking me lately, because I am tired of having my hamstring snap and slamming to the floor. After years of getting wounded a person becomes desensitized to the stabbings instead of pressing on in order to heal or fight.

Then God showed me some things in that video of Derek I never saw before.

  1. This is NOT a footprints in the sand cute poem. It’s real life and in this race set before us God doesn’t pick us up and carry us. He doesn’t swing in an force anything on us.
    Matthew 11:28 ~ “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
    He brings rest and relief from the difficult journey. He puts his arm around us and helps us as we hobble wounded. Then He takes that natural moment of a friend helping another friend and He makes it supernatural as the “great physician” heals our wounds, stops the bleeding, and repairs our “muscles”. He does this as we press on. It is not easy, but every morning we have a choice. Am I willing to trust God and press on?
  2. In order to walk forward with Him in FREEDOM I need to leave the past behind. Typically our options for the past are ignore it or hug it. Jesus says to cast all your cares on Him. Let go what won’t let you grow. 
  3. I never saw it before but At the end of the video footage from derek’s “triumph”, official after official come up and try talking to the dad. One of them is clearly saying that he can’t be there and needs to let go of derek. The father yells at each of them, waves his hand at them and tells them to go away. I have no clue how I never saw that, but isn’t that like our God. There is NOTHING that can separate us from His presence. No weapon that is formed against us can win. The Lord is with us and in Jesus name the enemy and whose who try and convince us we can do life without Him need to leave!

Sometimes life is so hard.. But don’t quit!
There are times when nothing seems to go right and you wonder where God is in it all… He is Emanuel God with us.. He is right there with you.

Your feelings, beliefs and awareness do not determine his faithfulness.
HE JUST IS 
FAITHFUL..

So we can have an attitudee of expectation and assurance that God is who he says he is. We need an attitude that presses on and wants more, but is patient with God’s timing. This is a journey and not a sprint. We have so many things along the way to learn.
Paul wrote this section about 25 years after that day he was knocked off his horse. Notice he is still in process. Still working on his growth in Christ.
This is a lifelong goal. When we make a choice to follow Christ our life is no longer our own.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20

PRESS ON!

 


I think the only thing in life more difficult to handle than unrequited love is unfulfilled dreams. With a pinnacle birthday coming up I have spent a lot of time in the last 6 months thinking over the things in life I wanted to accomplish. I remember graduating High school, back when flannel meant something for more than just lumberjacks. I was wide eyed and full of excitement for not only the future, but very well laid out plans. I was prepared to “make it” and nothing was going to stand in my way. All the pieces were lined up to make a real go at chasing my dream of becoming a comic book artist and brooding poet. God said no. Well I wouldn’t say that the sky opened and I heard a loud voice booming like the woman in the viral fire news video. “NOT TODAY!”, but it was a no none the less. I know this because I tried everything I could to make it and nothing ever broke loose.

25 years have passed since that dream was birthed in me and it came as close as working on X-men art for a magazine, but the fullness of that dream never happened. It wasn’t just work related dreams. There were relational, physical, spiritual, emotional etc etc.  Dream after dream which once made my heart excited to tackle increasingly got added to the discard pile in the file cabinet of unfulfilled longings.

What became difficult to swallow was over the years I watched friends not only fulfilling their dreams, but some of them were even able to fulfill mine. I have had to wrestle with this so much lately. I want to rejoice with those I love but sometimes their success is a reminder of the things I never had.

In the last year I have seen 3-5 “dream jobs” come across my screen. Even this last week I saw two that just had my name all over it. I call them dream jobs because they are ones I would love to have, but require a move and dropping everything else I have going on. My wife and I have dropped everything and sold what we had and moved before, but it was always because the Lord said “go”. For the last 10 years He has said “no”. So I watch from the sidelines as my dreams are erased and replaced with just questions. The main one being – Why?

In my prayer this lent I am learning much more about my own need to recover certain things I have lost or just willingly given away. I often trade my contentment for disappointment.

Philippians 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Context means everything when we read a verse in the bible. The majority of the time we use this verse we leave out the context and apply it to our driving goals. “I want to have… I want to be… I want to see…” And we say we can and will because we can do all things through christ who gives us strength. However, lets look again at that verse for a second. You can’t separate the thought in verse 12 from verse 13. It is not speaking about life goals. The verse says that the secret to contentment, regardless of our unfulfilled dreams and broken hearts, is Jesus because it’s only by His strength that we can walk forward when we don’t get the results in life we want.

The bible is full of unfulfilled dreams. I think many of the apostles and heroes of our faith all asked the same questions as us. They asked the Why questions of God too.

There is so much of this in our lives isn’t there? We pray to no longer be single; to have children, to get a job, to write a book, to go to school, to travel the world, for healing of our bodies or minds… Prayer after prayer after prayer. For some of us these dreams will happen. For others they never will.

In some circles we are told it’s because of the lack of our faith or even the lack of our determination. I can promise you that besides my dream of being fit (I lack in that one), I was never lacking in faith or determination. Some times the Lord has a different plan.

Over and over I have heard the verse in Psalm 37:4 as people quote it “god will give you the desires of your heart” and miss the first part where it says “delight yourself in the lord”.

I have found that my desires over the years have changed to match the Lords desires when I have delighted myself in the Lord… When I have walked in honest relationship with God my heart has become in tune with His and I find myself wanting different things. Do I still wrestle with everything I have ever wanted to do and be? Of course!, but at the same time I can walk forward because Christ gives me strength.

Paul while in prison wrote this:

 Ephesians 3:20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

I find myself, much like when I started this reflection, comparing myself to others who get what I wanted. The friends who achieve things I never had the chance to and even my enemies who seem to somehow walk out of the destruction they cause, unscathed and even more prosperous. I like to say that comparison is a dream killer and it is in the instances of dreams that God would have you fulfill. In the instances where He says “no”, comparison is a bitterness breeder.

At least that is how it normally is, but I am prayerfully aware today it doesn’t have to be. Maybe I have just been comparing myself to the wrong people. If I compare myself to Paul then I would walk in the truth that even if I was chained up in prison, beaten, and left to die I can still sing and shout with thanksgiving and praise.

Paul says the Lord will accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think which is a reminder that He is powerful and loves us beyond our thought capacity.

As I look over what my life looks like I realize it might not look the same way a year from now, but I can be thankful for what it has. I’m not sure what the answers are to my unfulfilled dreams, but I can say I have a grateful heart TODAY for the dreams God has fulfilled in my life, my family, and my church that I never even knew I had.

Today I just want to know God more and more. I will press onward with my dreams with determination, but I will also trust that the God who breathed stars into existence might have a better plan than I ever could.

So today for lent I will surrender or fast my dreams so that I can give God glory for the great things He has done and will do in my life without the bitterness and worry that I won’t get what I want.

Take my dreams and let them be consecrated Lord to thee.

I release my kingdom To HIS Kingdom and swear fealty to the Lord because I can trust his provision, power, and promises.

While a grateful heart doesn’t get formed in an instant, it does begin with a choice followed by daily ones.

Sweet dreams are made from surrender and gratitude. 


DAY 1: ASH WEDNESDAY – I had an interesting church up bringing. I can safely say it was not a typical journey, but it gave me an exposure to pretty much every variety of church there is. In one sense the variety of sources I had in my life that gave me my taste of christian culture made it so I wasn’t stuck in one stream. However it also forced me to think about things, dissect my faith, and seek Jesus outside the confines of wrote devotion.

My introduction to the practices of the Christian church started when I was little because my parents were both ministers. I remember one of the earlier churches my dad was an assistant pastor at sometime in the early 80’s. It was a messianic church which gave me a great backbone and context for the jewish culture in the Bible. I remember the times of dancing and singing the traditional oom-pah oom-pah tempo songs to celebrate purim and passover. There always seemed to be a festival for something, but it was later in the episcopal church that I would start to get my feet wet in the value of contemplation and lament.

Over the next 20 years, from my liturgical church in NY to the baptist church in PA; messianic temple in VA; The vineyard church in VA; The assembly of God church in PA; the evangelical church in MO; the independent church in OR… etc etc; I found myself steeped in what only could be called a baskin robins theology. 51 flavors and so hard to pick my favorites.

I’m not going to memory lane here in order to bore my readers. I’m doing it because as I look back on where I have come from I can see the hand of God in how he has refined my understanding of Him, rewritten the things I was dogmatic about, and restored my faith when often times religious duty tried to destroy it.

This brings me to lent. I’m writing DAY 1 here because today starts lent with Ash wednesday. I’d like to think I have the mental stamina to write every day a reflection for the next 39, but in case I don’t I’d like to demystify the journey to holy week… Because that is exactly what lent is. It’s a personal and community journey towards towards the Lord and away from… me.

Sure you could go google it, but you will get a sterile wikipedia definition and I would like to share my definition born out of the rubble of my triumphs and failures, my victories and my defeats.

Every year we would go to ash wednesday service, listen to a sermon on the fact we came from dust and to dust we will return and then proceed to the front to have the sign of the cross smeared on our foreheads. As a kid I felt so cool. I was part of the crew and just like my parents. We would go out for dinner afterwards at some cheap diner on long island and be proud to stand out in the crowd of ash-less people. 20 min. later I forgot the mark was even there because my bagel tasted so good. We would go home, I’d wash it off and then head to bed. The next morning I would wake up and it’s like ash wednesday never happened.

This was our pattern. I went through the motions and when I got old enough to understand why we did it, I still went through the motions. It’s not that I didn’t believe in Jesus. I DID, but I became desensitized to His truth.

Fast forward to this last year. It’s a year that has come out of a long season of trials, pain, joy, and miracles. I guess it can be best described as a roller coaster ride that I’m not sure I even remember getting on. Getting wounded by life teaches you how much the presence of God matters. As I get closer to Him looking for healing, I have learned so much about how addicted I have become… to me.

I have always loved the liturgy of the church. I love being connected to the ancient church in practice, but maybe it’s because I see myself in the disciples. They were such misfits. Dirtbags who seemed to be worthless and yet Jesus would look them in the eye and say how much He loved them.

He would tell the lepers, the doubters, the prostitutes, the prideful, the low and the high, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

…And I found myself this last week being met with the coming of Lent and ash wednesday once again, but with almost a new lens on it because I’m hearing jesus say “If you want to be with me then deny yourself… make your life about me and not you.”

Yes I know He also said “I will never leave you or forsake you”, but I think when He says “if you want to be with me…” He is asking us if we are willing to push through all of the debris of our life in order to just get a hand on his robe… Or do we value His presence less than we value our pride?

Today begins with ashes on the head. Ashes that were created from the palms of last years palm sunday. Because Yesterday’s triumphs pave the way for today’s humility. I find myself unashamed to be marked by Christ…although this year I’m less concerned about the mark on my forehead as I am the marks on my heart.

Luke 6:45 says “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

Have you noticed the garbage that we spew each day out of our mouths? We have to ask ourselves what is in our hearts then.

I have learned that my heart has been wounded, cut, and infected and so when I speak often times it is out of the abscess of my heart. This is what Lent is all about though. It’s a self-cleaning cycle. It’s a re-alignment to Jesus. It’s 40 days of deliberately laying down my will and letting go of my heart so that the only mark left on it is the imprint of God’s spirit.

There is a song by Daniel Bashta that encapsulates this well. He says

“Strip everything away till all I have is You
Undo the veils till all I see is You.
I will pursue You, I will pursue Your presence”

For me it’s not a matter of what thing I am going to give up this year in order to self-deny.
It’s more of a prayer to Jesus asking Him to reveal the things in life that I am not willing to give up. 

I want to head into holy week as I walk with Jesus over palm branches in the streets of Jerusalem, hike up Golgotha to where he was crucified, stand in the garden with mary with my mouth wide open as I see the “gardener”, watch as Thomas puts his hands into the resurrected Jesus’ hands, and sit on the beach with Peter and Jesus having breakfast as He restores the misfit who He said He would build His church on… with a fresh spirit and more thankful heart.

This is an opportunity to encounter God in fresh and new ways, ways that will challenge us, encourage us, and humble us. It’s a season of listening and inhaling the new mercy of God daily. A time of moving past sobriety and into recovery. A time to encourage each other, be Christ to each other and see the Christ-likeness in each other. To be the real us, where we can seek help and forgiveness, through repentance be made whole by God our healer, and let go of our orphan mentality by accepting we have been made to be heirs of the kingdom of heaven and Children of the Most High God.

I recognize all of that was painted with a broad brush, but I hope to share what God speaks to me periodically in the next few weeks in order to bring in more detail and color to the blank canvas that is Lent.

If His mercy is new every morning then receive it because today is a clean slate then let this first day of Lent be a step forward towards Jesus.

God doesn’t want our pious or petty denials of self (be it food or creature comforts or whatever), he wants our hearts! Lent is not about fasting or self-denial; it’s about serious participation—here and now—in God’s divine forgiveness with all his people. It doesn’t change God, it changes us. It changes our hearts.
-One of my favorite priests Fr Ken Tanner

A quote on Lent