Archive for the ‘Closeness to God’ Category

Stories of Hope   Leave a comment

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Do you remember testimony services? I recall services such as these but was too young a person and in the faith to really get into what was being said, let alone take away deep, impactful meaning. I remember that some of the same ol’ people would get up and tell the same ol’ stories and shed the same ol’ tears while the same ol’ people in the same ol’ crowd would nod their same ol’ heads and talk about how blessed or wonderful it was to have this same ol’ experience shared once again in the same ol’ pews.

So yeah, not so meaningful to me.

Yet I do know the powerful of a God-story. I have heard tales of the Lord’s intervention in situations what can only be described as miraculous. I have BEEN IN such stories myself. The feeling that has been overwhelming in each of these situations is so intense that it is numbing, it is as if the air is thicker than usual, as if each breath comes not from my body actively taking in and releasing as it normally does. Rather, it feels as if it is the Holy Spirit being breathed in and out instead of air!

Times such as these beg to be told to the world. God is still in the business of miracle making as well as other manifestations that real people experience in real time in their real lives. Some are not miracles, but instead are stories of God’s unexpected grace. These stories need told every bit as much as the miracle stories, otherwise we would all be hiking mountains and looking for burning bushes and skipping doctor appointments because nothing will suffice short of a manifested miracle.

We should never seek the story. We should always seek the Author.

God’s miracles do not replace our doctors, or preachers, or people who just enjoy being good and doing good things for others. They do not come on demand and, frankly, do not always come when we feel as if we deserve them. This is where many find trouble that sometimes leads to unbelief. God’s miracles are not promised, not the way some folks expect them.

This does not mean we should not ask for them. I believe God wants us to request that he intervene as it is an expression of faith. I also believe that God does not want us to simply ask—even if in strong faith—and simply sit idly waiting. The angel appeared to the disciples after Jesus ascension because they just stood there looking into the sky where he had just ascended. He said he’d be back, so their thoughts probably told them to stand there and wait because this was going to be another great story. Their timing was off. It still is.

I believe in miracles. I believe in the God of miracles. I believe those miracles make phenomenal stories that the world needs to hear. Maybe now I am ready for one of those testimony services. Better yet, I need to do a better job of telling my own God-stories while also doing a better job of listening to others for theirs. After all, these are stories of hope.

For BGAV Pastors: Gathering of Silence 2021   Leave a comment

We never anticipated a global pandemic. We never anticipated the toll it would take in lives. We also could not anticipate the emotional, physical, and spiritual toll it would take on pastors. Some have done remarkably well and adapted creatively and brilliantly while others have not. All have had to navigate an entirely new paradigm of ministry. Many are worn out!

Jesus’s words are critical for pastors today when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” Matthew 11:28029 (NIV). This may be the most important time for Baptist General Association fo Virginia pastors to exercise self-care than we have seen in a generation! The Gathering of Silence is one small resource to help them with this. For 72-hours we will gather at Crossroads Camp and Conference Center for a time of resting, refreshing, and reflecting.

Churches should seriously consider sponsoring their pastor to attend this essential retreat. It is a small price to pay to give the one they count on for spiritual leadership to have a respite and be rejuvenated with the Lord. Pastors, even if your church does not sponsor you, please consider using a portion of your convention time/funds allotted and join us for this necessary rest.

We arrive at lunchtime Monday and being a time of silence. Our meals are selent as are our daytime hours. Thematic refleciton materials will be given to participatns to use throughout their time of silence whether on the hiking trails, perched upon the mountain, or enjoying the mountain stream in our exquisite surroundings. There are off-site opportunities for golfing, fishing, or more hiking. An optional time of conversation around self-care and meditative reflections is available each evening 7-9pm. One-on-one coaching sessions are also offered to those in attendance. Our time concludes with lunch Thursday where there is often much laughter and reflection and networking.

Registration is available here: http//www.crossroadscamp.com/events/gathering-of-silence/

Paralytic Point   2 comments

A verse jumped off the page at me in Mark 2 this morning. The story of the four men bringing their crippled friend to see Jesus is one of those classic tales that is told in early discipleship teachings. Rightfully so, too, as it is a great visual for children to learn of how much Jesus loved the man and healed him. It is also an early look into how the teachers of the day would challenge Jesus because of the forgiveness of sins issue Jesus raised to their objection. There’s another hidden treasure embedded because the man got up, picked up his mat, and walked away. Carrying one’s mat on the Sabbath was also breaking the law.

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What jumped at me today was not the additional tale of the crowd size. The house was filled to the brim and even at the door (and I’m assuming windows) crowds were gathered to hear Jesus. Why? What was he doing? Did they all know about the mat and roof story that was about to happen? Nope!

Between describing the crowd and the introduction of the crippled man and his companions, the text simply says this, Jesus was preaching the word to them (Mark 2:2). That’s it. He wasn’t healing the lame or the blind or the deaf. He wasn’t performing other miracles of any kind or even magic tricks. He wasn’t glowing in the dark and telling people to pray to him. He wasn’t turning water into wine (I’d follow him around for that-just kidding). He was preaching the word to them.

Overlooked a lot in the teachings about Jesus today is how much he preached. The stories and healings and miracles and dialogues are rich with messages to share, and they should be shared. But we see more than a time or two in Scripture that when he is out and about he is teaching and preaching, “as one with authority.” His preaching was powerful, penetrating, unique, bold, and obviously engaging to have so many come from all over the place to hear him.

Maybe I should ditch my scrolls of questions about how things are done when I get to heaven and just do the Mary thing – sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to him teach. Perhaps that’s the point.

Lonely, or Perfect?   Leave a comment

Mark’s first chapter indicates a couple of times that Jesus went to lonely or secluded places.

The first reference is that Jesus got up early and went to the wilderness, arid, a lonely place where he could pray. Morning quiet time is what works best for me. What about you? Any other time of day is far too difficult because my mind has already hit overdrive later and is challenging at best to bring to a crawl for a sound, fulfilling time alone with God. It isn’t impossible, just hard to achieve for me.

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The other reference is when Jesus was simply trapped in place by large crowds. Of course he had the compassion to heal them all and cast out all of their evil spirits, so he would do so (and I’d say) with great joy. But this was overwhelming for his human capacity, so for any kind of rest or opportunity to spend time in prayer, he had to go to secluded places. Seclusion is an intentional separation where you are either running from something or being forced somewhere not of your own will.

Seclusion has negative connotations. Loneliness can be similar, but in this case, it is an intentional choice. For me it would be to say that each morning when I get up and around and have my cup of coffee that I have my quiet time because it is mandated, a command, an order. If it is something I have to do, my motivation is decreased greatly. If it is something that I want to do, desire comes easily.

Where I go for my quiet time is in the peaceful setting of my home office. I say peaceful simply because early in the morning it is very quiet. I’m literally surrounded by work opportunities but ignore them for this sacred moment. I’m up long before my wife and can read and meditate, using candles to set the mood if I like or low lighting. I’ll read Scripture and poetry and then open my laptop and write in this journal. Often, my prayer itself comes through these moments without the traditional-formal closing of the eyes and bowing of the head. In here, in this time, I am in the arms of God, sipping coffee and enjoying the presence.

It is a lonely place, but I’m anything but alone. That makes it perfect!

Overflow Leadership   Leave a comment

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I grew up at the end of the age of full-service service stations. My Dad and his brother co-owned one and I could not wait to be old enough to work there. When I turned 13, I was finally given my opportunity. With training on the cash register and gas pumps, checking tires and oil levels, I was placed in charge of the gas customers. There was one rule I had to live by in front of all others–when the bell rang to indicate a vehicle had pulled in to get gas I was never to walk to provide their services.

Principle: Whenever you serve others, RUN!

That principle guided much of my work life for several years, especially whenever customer service was involved. Anyone who had a need was served as quickly as possible because they were the most highly valued person on earth at that moment. While that is a wonderful principle for service, the methodology needs some tweaking for those serving in ministry.

Much of the service of a ministerial leader is built upon the spiritual health of the leader. The better their connection with the Divine, the more authentic the service they provide. This is true for more than professional clergy; it applies to all those who serve others in God’s name and is easily applied to all who serve in caring capacities.

The key to offering relevant service is in how we serve, not necessarily how fast. Pastors can tell you that if they “run” every time someone in their congregation needs some form of pastoral care, they will burn out sooner than later. Yes, there are times when running is appropriate, but to do so as a regular practice often comes from an unhealthy sense of duty, as if you are being graded by your speed. When this occurs, it’s as if you are serving God because of a debt.

You do not owe God anything.

The best way to serve one another is not to see how quickly you can react, but how authentically you can respond. If leaders are to be true vessels for the Lord, then we must do what it takes to ensure we are being filled. Cars don’t get far on empty tanks (or batteries, tipping the cap to electric tech here). Leaders do not serve effectively when drained.

Lead from your strong connection with God. Do everything it takes to tap into the strength God gives you because of how you relate with God. Your connection is uniquely yours, so do whatever practices work best for you, be it meditation, prayer, Scripture/Lectio, silence, etc. Whatever it is that best fills you with the Presence, allow God’s love to flow through you. This is done with great joy because you know that what you are sharing is God’s gift of love for everyone in your path.

The best service you can offer to others comes from overflow and not obligation.