Easter - 2018

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Awareness of the Presence of God

I have been in a devotional study of the Classic Christian writers of the faith. The light that beams through the contribution to spiritual development and to the work of the kingdom opens the eyes of the heart, soul, and mind. Power, grace, a humble spirit, and listening have touched me as I have studied them in depth through the classic devotions. I am closer to the six great streams of the Christian life; “the prayer-filled life,” the virtuous life,” “the spirit-empowered life,” the compassionate life,” “the word-centered life,” and the “sacramental life” because of the writings. Each of the great streams fit into the six great traditions of the church as, “contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical, and incarnation." I am a better follower because I have tasted the streams where a Christ-follower grows in faith and spiritual formation. 
God maneuvered opportunities for each of these classic writers to bring understanding to those. These dedicated and committed individuals are testimonies for purposeful character development. For example, Brother Lawrence demonstrates an ability to embrace a life of experiencing the presence of God in every facet of life. Brother Lawrence grants us the true goal to live out our daily devotions and prayers during every aspect of our existence.

In our course forum, I wrote about when I was an undergrad student at Pacific Christian College. I was given a small little 20 page booklet written by Don DeWelt titled, "Sweet Hour of Prayer." I read, meditated, journaled and prayed through that little booklet at least five times a week for a year. It was a simple guide yet making the commitment was a challenge. It was worth it. During that time I came to a new awareness of God in my life and his presence in my surroundings. I developed a new focal point to pray beyond the hour of the exercises to a place of praying short prayers throughout the day.
Brother Lawrence writes, “I have since given up all forms of devotions and set prayers except those which are suitable to this practice. I make it my business only to persevere in his holy presence wherein I keep myself by a simple attention and general fond regard to God, which I refer to as an actual presence of God.” Lawrence is stating that he has made it his life's practice to be in recognition of God's presence in every aspect of his existence. Practicing the presence of God helps me in understanding that my connection with God is truly a relationship.

For each of these classic writers, I have noticed a keen awareness of the presence of God in their lives. Their awareness of the Holy Spirit within them is not limited to a time or place, but that the Holy Spirit is sharing and working in my life. Many worship leaders will start a worship service by declaring that we are about to enter into the presence of God. Dr. Wayne Shaw of Lincoln Christian University and I had a conversation a few years ago about how believers should never leave the presence of God. In reality, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. In corporate worship we enter into a time of conscience awareness and recognition of God's presence within our lives, consequently a believer never exits the presence of God.

Another classical devotional contributor who grants insights for the believer in the awareness of God is Teresa Avila. Teresa lived a very contemplative life. She also reminds the believer that God is anxious for us to grow closer to him. She reverberates a message of hope in searching for God that is needed in every generation. She writes, “God is so anxious that we should grow close to him that he calls us unceasingly to approach him.”It is here a familiar awareness of God restores a quest within us of wanting to know and be known by God. 
Teresa also writes on how temptation separates us from God. It is our sinful nature which removes us from God's presence. She gives some solid advice on resisting temptation through a gentle approach. She states, “when you feel the beginnings of temptation, do not fight back with strenuous efforts, but rather, gently begin a time of prayer and recollection.” In other words, instead of hitting yourself with guilt for the temptation, initiate a time of clinging to God and the temptation will cease. She does not talk about how easy ti will be, but rather she addresses the relief and release that comes after the practice is implemented.

Although lacking in my own ability, the awareness of the presence of God brings order to the chaos that lives in my sinful nature. The priority of practicing God's presence restores my heart, mind, soul, and strength to a place that God intended for my creation. That I would know God as he is to be known through Christ restores my fallen life. For me, this truth is the ultimate goal of transformation.
I look forward to a new heart in heaven. I know that as Jesus transforms me from glory to glory I will experience a restored heart that is not prone to wander. I will no longer have the sinful nature. I will know sin in the past tense and the practice of God's presence will no longer be a need. I will thrive forever in God's presence. The most glorious aspect of practicing the awareness of God is that I can live the presence of God while living in my fallen flesh and experience what is to come. The experience is the opportunity to embrace the abundance of life. The abundance of life through practicing God's presence in the ordinary daily existence is but a glimpse of what is ahead in the future glory.

The prayer filled-life establishes the awareness of God in praying to him without ceasing. Julian of Norwich stated: “Just as our flesh is covered by clothing, and our blood is covered by our flesh, so are we, soul and body, covered and enclosed by the goodness of God.” The keen awareness of God also brings with it an awareness of God's goodness. His goodness reminds us that we are also to be good. The life of prayer will define a believer's action in generosity and goodness for through the gift of prayer, one is reminded how truly good our God is.

Ultimately the awareness of God and the keen knowledge that God is working in our lives brings us to a new understanding of how we should live in response to God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Christian Brotherhood is not an ideal with which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.” A Christian is an active servant. These great classic writers teach us to live the Christian life and remind us that faith is not a philosophy, but an active way of life. It is my goal to go out and do likewise.

As we glance out the windows that are opened through the classic devotional writers, it is God's goodness and active spirit that guide us to a better way. Therefore, we make it our goal to please him by reaching for his renewed faithfulness to us and clinging to his mercies that are new every morning. God is a good God. Thus, we go and shine as his lights to our world.

You know I love ya, Don

Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, eds., Devotional Classics. (Rev.; New York: Harper Collins, 2005).

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

He Needs to Know Jesus... as do we.

On April 15th, 2013 two young brothers left their homes with bags filled with pressure cooker bombs. They deposited the bombs on the finish line of the Boston marathon. The two bombs took three lives and maimed and injured many more. A search ensued for three days until the two brothers were isolated in a suburb of Boston. The older brother was shot and killed in the crossfire while the young brother was injured in the fight. The next day after many events and police actions, the younger brother was captured, arrested and taken to a hospital under intense police guard. These events are tragic and horrific. The victims are in my prayers, as well as in the thoughts of so many Christians. The awareness of God's goodness also sparks within the believer a desire to reach out to the surviving brother. He committed awful acts of evil. He will be held accountable for his crimes against society. The eternal perspective of a Christ-follower is that he also needs to know Jesus.

The world is filled with people who have belief that God exists. The awareness of and knowing God are different. When a person knows God, the “knowing” draws a person to a place of goodness in response to God. It is this goodness which motivates followers of Jesus to be more like Jesus. Dallas Willard defines it with: “Discipleship can be made concrete by loving our enemies, blessing those who curse us, walking the second mile with an oppressor-in general, living out the gracious inward transformations of faith, hope, and love.” Our accomplishments are not as significant as how we touched others for the cause of Christ in this world.

"Oh Lord, please bring a message that has an eternal perspective to this young man. Remind me that I am significant in your plan of reaching out to the twisted and misguided so that you might bring a renewed hope again. I love you, Lord. Amen."

You know I love ya, Don

Monday, April 22, 2013

Brother Lawrence - Embrace the Abundance

Brother Lawrence is a life that every believer should model. His ability to embrace such a life of experiencing the presence of God is truly the abundant life in every walk of life. Richard Foster states: "Brother Lawrence abandoned 'all forms of devotions and set prayers' because he wanted all his life, not simply an hour here and there, to be life in an attitude of prayer." There is a place that structure is needed to attain such a life, but the true goal is to live our daily devotions and prayers in every aspect of our lives.

When I was an undergrad student at Pacific Christian College, I was given a small little 20 page booklet written by Don DeWelt titled, "Sweet Hour of Prayer." I took a year to read, meditated, journal and pray through that little booklet at least five times a week for a year. It was a simple guide yet difficult in making the commitment. It was worth it. During that time I came to a new awareness of God in my life and God in my surroundings. It always took me to a place to pray beyond the hour of the exercises to a place of praying short prayers throughout the day.

Practicing the presence of God helps me in understanding that my relationship with God is truly a relationship. Many worship leaders will start a worship service by declaring that we are about to enter into the presence of God. Dr. Wayne Shaw of Lincoln Christian University and I had a conversation a few years ago about how believers should never leave the presence of God. In reality, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Brother Lawrence was able to grasp the reality of this truth and journey this life with the destination of transformation in mind. In corporate worship we enter into a time of conscience awareness and recognition of God's presence within our lives. This fact does not diminish the fact that God is with us always and that a believer never exits the presence of God.

Although, I am lacking in my ability, the action of practicing the presence of God brings order to the chaos. The priority of practicing God's presence restores my heart, mind, soul, and strength to a place that God intended in my creation. That I would know God has he is to be known restores my essence to find order in the harsh reality of living with a sinful heart. For me, this is the ultimate goal of transformation. When I get to heaven and Jesus transforms me from glory to glory so as to replace my sinful heart is the "thing" I most look forward to in heaven. I will no longer have the sinful nature nor will I have the desire to separate from God. I will know sin in the past tense and the practice of God's presence will no longer be a need. I will be in God's presence.

What I find most glorious is that I can practice the presence of God while living in my fallen flesh and experience what is to come. The experience is the opportunity to embrace the abundance of life. The abundance of life through practicing God's presence in the ordinary daily life is but a glimpse of what is ahead of us in the future.

Thank You Brother Lawrence. You know I love ya, Don

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring Fun!!!

Have fun...I guess I need to think about mowing the lawn....Love ya, Don

Monday, April 15, 2013

Charles Spurgeon - "Spiritual the Want..."

Charles Spurgeon wrote, "The true believer, when confronted with his or her need for revival, will long for it." This sermon confronted me on every level for revival. The text he uses is Habakkuk 3 and calls for the listener to join with the Prophet and seek the Lord to revive the work of God with in the heart of every man. It is a great sermon that is hard to believe to be written over a hundred years ago. As I read his sermon, I repeatedly wrote in the margin the words, "Wow!" and "Today!" I am amazed at how God's word is relevant in every era and culture.

Spurgeon addressed the conduct of the believer and that too many times our conduct is contrary to our professed faith. He calls for the believer to refute fraudulent practices and establish a goal of being dedicated to the calling of lifting the oppressed in faith while seeking justice in the lives in which we live.
Next, Spurgeon addresses the conversation of the believer. In my opinion he is on target in addressing believers with their speech on two levels. The first is that the believer should be talking about Jesus and the work of God in every part of their lives and at every opportunity. The second is for every believer to restrict their talk to wholesome talk and not every express slander or malice against another person. I like how his states, "I have concluded this: you will not know how to get to heaven simply by eavesdropping on the conversations of the members of church!" Our speech and talk is so vital to the work of God, yet we do not grasp how critical things are that come out of our mouths.

Spurgeon continues to call on believers to have a dedication to having a real communion with Jesus Christ. I long for this in my own life. I have found that my time with Jesus is so crucial in my daily living. I do not know how people survive without this holy fellowship. It is through this union that I am able to face the day and experience his fresh mercies and faithfulness in my daily routine.

Spurgeon then concludes the sermon with practical application. He demonstrates a truly believer will always groan for revival within their own soul. It is in the prayer and earnest supplication to God offered as, "O Lord, what I cannot, you do for me. O Lord, revive they work!", where God is able to bring a believer to a new and restored relationship of hope. This is accomplished in a strategic and intentional commitment to Godliness, clinging to sound doctrine, and fighting for the righteousness within our own lives. There is too many critical Christians that do not see the good work of God because their eyes are darkened by selfish pride.

The church is in need of the life of Christ with in the believer's heart, mind, strength, and souls. When it does the world will once again be shaken for the cause of Jesus. Let it begin with me.

You know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Where does faith take us next?

 Where do we go from here? I am not sure where God will take the church in the next decade, century or even millennium. God has been at work from the beginning and there is no sign that he is ready to stop. One thing is sure; his faithfulness is steady and his mercies are new every morning. I am confident that he will bring transformation to each and every believer who truly seeks his righteousness.

Christianity is a world religion. Christianity does not only belong to the western portion of the world. Holt states, “Christianity is by nature a global rather than a European faith." The early Jewish Christians experienced Jesus and took the message to everyone on their path. Many of those believers took the message farther and intentionally stepped out into unknown regions to announce the message to the world. The message of faith, hope, and love had transformed their lives and these transformed believers were intentional in following Jesus' command to take the message to all so that everyone might experience that transformation. 
The future is often a scary place to contemplate. God has provided a means for growth for believers who walk with in the Holy Spirit's guidance. Holt states it as: “Christian spirituality is a style of walking in the Holy Spirit. The Bible gives a series of normative principles, positive and negative examples of life experiences, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, on which all else depends." This truth of God's revelation grants the believer hope in the scary life. It is his faithfulness which grants power to overcome fear. It is his mercies that instill energy to spiritual development. It is his grace that empowers every believer to stand firm in the conviction of a loving God while seeking for a restored relationship with their creator.

The 2000 years of church history of men and women thirsting after God is a tribute to God's faithfulness and ability for quenching the thirst of those who seek after his righteousness. Too many believers think of spiritual formation as private and not to be shared, yet any study of Christ and his church demonstrates that believers are never intended to travel the road of faith alone. The refreshing flow that quenches the thirst for God is only found in relationship. Holt would describes the community of believers as a community with the following traits: “unity in diversity, evaluating the criteria, transmitting spiritualities, and learning form non-Christian movements.” I agree with these needs of community for the purpose of taking the message to a global audience, while avoiding pitfalls of cultural un-righteousness.

Our time is filled with the same tests that have challenged the church throughout the ages. There are new twists to the challenges such as global communication, technological advances for communication, and video capturing of events with the touch of a phone. These challenges are enhanced by the small world in which we live. The current world is already a global economy while societies are moving to a global society with the merging of cultures. The downfalls realized in this new reality is a reduced passion and dedication. These downfalls are mediocrity, personal pride, and a laziness toward living the hard work of spiritual formation. These failures are not new to the kingdom and will need a direct call for a renewed faith and dedication.

The pendulum swings in cultures to and fro in the faith. How does the church proceed to restore that which has been lost? The answer is in living a personal walk with Jesus in a public way. This action requires courage. Holt states it as, “we need much more courageous leadership in the churches to teach and practice the spiritual life.” The courage of men and women throughout the ages testifies to the truth of God and his ability to quench the thirsting of our souls. The current cultures must do the same and live like Jesus did. The believer must seek to be relevant to every culture while not compromising the Bible as foundational for all rebuke and encouragement, and for bringing people to a saving relationship with God.

The church of God is not a place for judgment. It is a place where the foundational principles for abundant living are practiced and implemented. Thus, a great need is required for the practice of spiritual disciplines and the implementation of grace. Holt states: “God's passion is love. All of this is grounded not in our worthy intentions, but in God's forgiveness, God's empowerment, God's creation. It is through these great gifts that all believers might become a great testimony of faith. The courage to stand strong is not in the removal of fear, but within the faith of certainty and assurance granted through the recognition of God's faithfulness and mercy.

We are created to have a natural thirst for God much as we are created to have a thirst for water. The thirst for water is satisfied by drinking water. The thirst for God is quenched by drinking the soothing relationship that comes through knowing him. The great members of the faith in our past are cheering us on as we seek to discover this relationship. It is good to review and hear their legacy of courage, discipline, and hope so that we might follow in their footsteps and declare the message of Jesus to go and preach the gospel to all.

You know I love ya, Don

Bradley P. Holt. Thirsty for God. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2005). 204.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Experiencing the depths of the abundant life : Madam Jeanie Guyon

Madame Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717) is becoming a favorite of the classic writers for Spiritual Formation. A product of French high society, Jeanne was raised in convents from the age of two and a half. At ten years old, she found a Bible left in her room and began earnestly to study and memorize it. From then on, she pursued an exclusive devotion to God.

She married at 16 to an older man who left her a widow with three young children at the age of 28. With the wealth her husband had left her, she devoted the remaining 40 years of her life to serving God through personal evangelism, writing, and helping the poor. She founded hospitals and gave away much of her wealth anonymously.

She traveled throughout France and Switzerland teaching people how to pray and challenging them to live holy lives. She mainly met with people privately and avoided "preaching." All the while, she sought an ever-deeper union with God to the point that she felt God possessed her, speaking and acting through her.

So what was the problem? Well, the Roman Catholic Church at that time opposed her Quietism, which teaches that spiritual perfection can be attained when self is lost in the contemplation of God. The authorities also warned her that it was the business of priests to pray, not women, and certainly not in the way she prayed -- with intimacy, from her heart. Unmoved by intimidation and popular among all levels of society, she fearlessly used every chance to share her spiritual ideas with everyone she encountered.

Finally, the church had her arrested and sent to prison for seven years, the last two in solitary confinement in the Bastille. She continued to write, having produced a 20-volume commentary on the Bible, an autobiography, and many short works,  "The Way to
God" and "A Short and Very Easy Method of Prayer."

She shared a 25-year spiritual friendship with Archbishop Francois de Fenelon, the most celebrated churchman of that day. Their letters, over 100, have been called "one of the most precious documents for the study of mystic thought transmitted to us from the past."

After King Louis XIV released her from prison, Madame Guyon lived another 15 years, suffering patiently and glorifying God in her illnesses, until she died at age 69.

"If Madame Guyon could come to our home for a cup of coffee and conversation what one question would you most want ask her?" I know I would not be able to contain my time with her to one question. First, where does the hope in suffering grant a believer the ability to "Plunge into the very depths of the words you read until revelation, like sweet aroma, break out upon you." Where was she when she wrote these words? Did the scriptures bring a sweet aroma, because the confinement was in a place that was filled with such horrible smells?

Second, I would want to know what passages spoke to her in hardest times and in her greatest triumphs. I would want to know why? During her confinement was she allowed to have a bible with her, or did she have the words memorized. If her writings emerged from when she was confined, how did she get them out?

Third, I would ask her to talk to me about how the Holy Spirit transformed her in seeking an "inward approach" to God. Explain to me how God revealed to her the truth as she wrote to us, "You should always remember that you are not doing this to gain some understanding of what you have read; rather, you are reading in order to turn your mind from outward things to the deep parts of your being." The deep parts of my being have a tendency to groan and long for heaven and home. How does transformation in time of persecution enhance these longings.

The fourth question is that there is comfort in the name of the Lord for those that are oppressed. There is also great pressure for those under confinement and persecution to grow in their faith because it is often the only thing to hold on to. My question is, "What comfort is there in not being confined or oppressed?" It seems that I am not confined nor am I oppressed, I live in a mediocrity driven religious world that wants to coexist. What advice does she have for a person like me?

The fifth question is simply to ask her to pray for me. I would love to just sit and listen to her pray. I want to experience how she relates to God and how God relates to her. I would love to just sit and listen to her words pray over me and allow the Holy Spirit to immerse the moment. 

You know I love ya, Don

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

God loves me...and you, too!

I was sitting in a meeting with several people and it was a good meeting. Yet, I had a sense that I was only their because it was expected for me to go through the motions. There was positive praise and a great deal of productivity that came from from our gathering, so I know it was only the enemy playing on my emotions. Later in the day the Holy Spirit used this as an opportunity to teach and remind me that I am eternally loved.

Sometimes we can't help but wonder: Does God really love me? Even when I feel unloved and unlovable? Even when I really mess up? Here are devotions written by students who've had similar questions—and who've looked to God's Word for life-changing answers.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
My mom works with a group that goes to local prisons to share about God. One time I got to go with them. While I was there, I heard one of the prisoners say he thought of himself as "someone God no longer wanted." Then a member of my mom's group read him 1 Timothy 1:15-16, sharing God's mercy to "the worst of sinners." The prisoner accepted Jesus that day.
No matter how much or how badly people have sinned, God's love can still reach them. Even drug dealers. Even murderers. The worst person you can imagine can receive God's forgiveness by humbly asking for it.

There's no such thing as a person God no longer wants. There are only people who haven't accepted his love. —Brian
But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine." (Isaiah 43:1)
This is a verse I'd like to share with my friends. It would show them how much they matter to God. God's not just some mighty ruler who looks down at earth and sees a bunch of nameless people running around. He knows each one of us by name.

God knows our troubles and our happiness. He made each one of us special, and he wants to have a personal relationship with each of us. When I think of God that way, I realize that he loves me and will never leave me. And best of all, I have God's promise that he called me to come to him so I can have eternal life. —Katy

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither life nor death, neither angels nor demons, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)
I recently went through a month when I got really depressed. Even when I was with my friends, I felt like no one cared about me. I could barely get out of bed in the morning. Somehow I had forgotten the truth of these verses. I needed someone to remind me, "Don't think that no one cares about you, because God does!" God still loved me, and nothing was going to change that.

God must really care for us if there isn't anything that can separate us from his love. Knowing I can always turn to him keeps me going during hard situations. He is even there when things in my life are fun and easy. He is there with me through the worst of times and the best of times. —Sarah 

There is a great deal of wisdom in these young people's words...I am reminded that I am loved...and you are too! You know I love ya, Don

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Easter Monday!!!

Different cultures observe Easter Monday very differently. For some, Easter Monday is a solemn remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection marked by an outdoor procession. For others, there are Easter egg rolling competitions. For still others, siblings and/or spouses wake each other up by pouring buckets of water on each other (hence the name “Wet Monday”). And others celebrate with a large gathering and a polka festival (Dingus Day).

Some of these observances have more Christian symbolism in them than others, but none of them are explicitly biblical. The Bible does not say anything about what happened on Easter Monday, the day after Jesus’ resurrection. The Bible does not instruct followers of Jesus Christ to observe Easter Monday, so there is no obligation to celebrate it. As with many holidays, there is nothing wrong with observing some cultural traditions, but it is important to not allow traditions to detract from the message of the gospel.

Easter Monday, also known as Bright Monday, Renewal Monday, Wet Monday, and Dingus Day, is the Monday immediately after Easter Sunday. It is observed by many Christian groups, but primarily by the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions. It marks the beginning of Easter Week (Roman Catholic) / Bright Week (Eastern Orthodox).

The good news is that through Easter, everyday is a brighter day. It is very clear that Karen would not be happy if I dump a bucket of cold water over her head. I don't think I would enjoy it either. The fun and celebration is not a bad idea. The truth is that everyone we meet should be able to recognize that we have been with Jesus. So, have a little fun and have a happy Easter Monday!

You know I love ya, Don